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Ryan Ross On September - 23 - 2010

Benitez Struggles To Get Inter Firing?

So it’s early days for Rafa Benitez’s side and yet his critics are already out to make life difficult for him. Internazionale have endured a mixed start to the season; they dominated Roma in the Italian Super Cup; lost to Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup with an abject performance. Life in Serie A hasn’t been easy either, a goalless draw away to Bologna, was a precursor to 2-1 wins over Udinese and Palermo. Despite these wins, the Champions struggled to a 2-2 draw away to FC Twente in Europe. But are these results the fault of Benitez? Are the critics right?

It’s true that Benitez is set in his ways, he likes to use zonal-marking, he likes to sacrifice some player’s strengths for the good of the team and he sure does enjoy employing a good rotation policy; is Diego Milito a victim of this? However, why should he change methods which have proved so successful before?

The zonal-marking policy is something which the Inter defence appear to be struggling to get to grips with. The big powerful centre-backs, Lucio and Walter Samuel, have looked perplexed as opposition players’ coast past them and the ball ends up in their net. I do agree they were suited to a man-marking system last year, but I also believe that they should be able to learn. Sure they are both brutes, yet even these guys can learn to understand such a basic system.

At Liverpool Benitez adopted a hybrid system for defending set-pieces; a mix of the zonal and man-to-man systems; yet the media didn’t seem to accept this and continued to label it zonal. At the moment the defence may continue to concede from set-pieces, but it will do so only because the players are still adjusting, not because the system does not work. Let’s look at the statistics in 3 months time and I predict that Inter will not be so vulnerable to conceding these goals. As for Benitez playing player’s out of position and resting others, there is a convincing argument for doing so. It was important for the Spaniard not to make drastic changes to this treble-winning team; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But he did need to put across his ideas whilst improving certain aspects of the side; an ability to retain possession and use the ball efficiently being one of them.

Rafa has been forced into changing things with Wesley Sneijder picking up an injury; Goran Pandev has been starting regularly in his place. Yet the real difference is the continuous early-subbing of Diego Milito; something which hasn’t gone down well with the player or his agent. This is not detracting from the team as a whole though, as Samuel Eto’o has started to freely score again. Eto’o was sacrificed last season, operating on the wing tracking back to help defend and significantly reducing his goal tally. This year Milito is being sacrificed and if he doesn’t want to do it then maybe he should look to play elsewhere.

So yes it may be early days for Rafa Benitez and Internazionale, but give the manager some time. He has a lot to contend with; moody players, a fantastic predecessor and a tough media who are all too ready to criticise. The future looks good for this club; bring on the challenge from rivals AC Milan their fans will be thinking.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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