It took Massimo Moratti five competitive games into the new season to see another manager feel the full wrath of his forceful hand. Gian Piero Gasperini took over the vacant space left by Leonardo, who left for Paris St. Germain over the summer, and was a somewhat surprising choice for the trigger happy chairman. Having previously plied his trade with Crotone and Genoa, it was understandably going to be a whole other ball game when Inter came calling for the 53-year-old.
Gasperini’s downfall can be laid to claim by his persistence with a formation that fared well with his previous employers but with the Nerazzuri, his 3-4-3 was considered too mobile for an immobile side. The 3-4-3 requires players that excel in tenacity, possesses dynamic players in abundance while pace and fitness are two requirements for such a system. The three defenders all need to acquire the attributes of a modern-day defender such as the qualities of Rio Ferdinand or David Luiz. Instead, with the likes of Lucio, Walter Samuel and Christian Chivu to name but three, the capability to rely on a trio of centre-backs to ‘wooden’ for such a system hinders the former European champions significantly.
Relying heavily on wing-backs in the midfield quartet, Maicon and Yuto Nagatomo should, in theory, be perfectly suited for such a role. However, Maicon’s fitness levels have left a lot to be desired and since the double-header against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last year, the Brazilian’s capabilities as little more than a full-back has somewhat diminished. Nagatomo, on the other hand, has the ability to take full advantage of the role and, following his summer move from Cesena, has proven a vital member of the Inter starting XI in recent months.
Moving into the centre, this is where another problem arises. The Italian giants possess a fine arsenal of midfielders in Wesley Sneijder, Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic and Thiago Motta. While the 3-4-3 would be better suited for the combative duo of Cambiasso and Motta, and to an extent, Stankovic as well, it does its best to alienate Inter’s main attacking threat; Sneijder. When the Dutchman left Real Madrid for Inter back in 2009, then head coach Jose Mourinho made it his absolute mission to fully utilise the ability of Sneijder to full use. Often playing a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 depending on the upcoming opponents, the Portuguese tactician reverted to a 4-3-1-2 to full accommodate the 27-year-old in the ‘Trequartista’ role.
It worked to full effect as Inter stormed to the treble in Mourinho’s last season with the club before taking the reins at Madrid. The way Gasperini utilised him completely nullified his input thus limiting his impact on the pitch leaving Inter without a means to feed the attacking trio which, unless they are incredibly disciplined and work extremely hard to collect the ball from deep, would be non-existent anyway. The acquisition of Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate will help increase the competition for starting spots following the exits of Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o but with Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini more effective around the 18-year-box, Zarate often going missing in matches and Forlan approaching the wrong side of 30, an injection of youth and players with a hard-work ethic were what was essentially needed for the 3-4-3 to work in the attacking third.
Yet, it wasn’t the players that let down Gasperini but rather the man himself. When Mourinho took over in 2008, Inter were already a well established side and the former Chelsea manager, essentially, took them to the next level from great team to the best. Rafa Benitez tried to change too much too quickly when he arrived and was shown the door before the new year due to his methods. Leonardo came in and settled a sinking ship before opting for a sporting director role with PSG. With the squad settled, Gasperini completely altered the equilibrium once more ala Benitez style.
It is no surprise that his sacking came so early into the season. The club are currently languishing in the bottom three of Serie A and lost, what should of been a routine win, at home to Turkish side Trabzonspor in their opening Champions’ League group stage encounter. But, will the appointment of Claudio Ranieri be the man to shake Inter out of this rut? Famous for being known as the ‘Tinkerman’ there is a daunting prospect that the former Chelsea manager will again, like his predecessors, attempt to change too much in short period of time.
Patience is a virtue for the incoming Italian, much like Mourinho’s was in 2008 and if Ranieri is to enjoy a similar level of success during his time at the San Siro, he must adopt a similar system to that of his former counter-part. Reverting back to the 4-3-1-2 that the players know best if the best way to buck the un-familiar trend that the club currently find themselves in. The formation will also help bring out the best in Sneijder especially if he is playing the Trequartista role rather than as the Regista that Gasperini had him playing. For Ranieri’s sake, he has to begin playing the familiar names in the role that have begun accustomed to, otherwise he could be feeling the full wrath of Moratti sooner than he may be expecting. For the chairman, however, he can’t expect results instantaneously and, like Mourinho’s approach to changing the way Inter played, he has to do the same with Ranieri before he is firing his fourth coach since Mourinho left the San Siro for the Bernabeu.