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Inter 0-0 Juventus: More Tactical Progress

So the week from hell, in which I expected us to lose at least one if not both games, turned out pretty well. Our team seems to go through phases, in which we have 2-3 similar performances, then the "Bad Brother of Juventus" shows up, and we lose to Palermo and concede 3 to a Polish squad. I feel like we could get the ball rolling right now, but unfortunately the international break has come and we have to wait to see if we can restart the league in the same form.

I command you to keep a clean sheet...

The take-home point for me against Inter was pretty similar to that against Manchester City, although it was a bit more open of a match. We're clearly seeing Delneri's skill at tactics, and I think he certainly out-tacticed "the master tactician" Rafa Benitez on Sunday, certainly a 0-0 draw at the San Siro is a positive result for us, given our defensive fragility and Inter's dominance.

The team moved together as a unit, and the most interesting tactical choice from Delneri was to play Marchisio on the left-wing, to contain Maicon. With Quagliarella dropping back a bit, Marchisio played somewhere in between a left winger and a central midfielder, which managed to give Aquilani a little more time on the ball with Felipe Melo and Marchisio playing the primary defensive roles in midfield. Of course, it also contained Maicon very well, who's incursions were very limited. Marchisio was a tactical sacrifice out there, and as Adam said in our podcast (out later tonight) essentially reduced it to a 10v10 match, but Inter losing Maicon is a lot worse than us missing Marchisio. A very smart tactical move from Delneri.

The other thing I read from this decision was a big display in faith to Aquilani. He's only had a few starts thus far this season, yet Delneri gave him the keys to central midfield and chose Marchisio over Pepe. In a big game like that, it shows outstanding confidence from the manager and will surely have pleased Aquilani a bit. We're seeing Delneri's skill at man-management, where he vastly differs from Fabio Capello, the man he is so often compared to as a Friulian tactician.

The differences can be plainly seen in their dealings with Cassano. Both fell out with him at Roma, and Capello did so again at Real Madrid. Delneri showed the difference with Cassano in his second time at Sampdoria, this winter, Cassano was very close to leaving for Fiorentina. Delneri worked with him, converted him from a lazy drifting winger to a clinical penalty box striker and Cassano re-emerged in the 2nd half of the season.


Delneri's attention to personal man management was on display on Sunday. Since this summer, he has been coddling Felipe Melo, talking him up as a champion, a leader, and it's working. As Dunga said, Felipe Melo is a player that needs to feel important. There's no doubt Delneri has been working to do so, and in turn, Felipe Melo is putting in some very strong performances. Choosing to play Aquilani in such a critical match was also a tactical choice that will surely boost Aquilani's confidence. And then there's the fullbacks- Motta and De Ceglie have come into a fair amount of criticism for some silly mistakes they have made.

Delneri has a pretty good record with playing youth, and he's made them his special project. From day one, Motta and De Ceglie have spoken of the personal attention that Delneri has given them, and De Ceglie echoed this after the Palermo game when Delneri was drilling defense and tactics. It's too early to make a final judgement now, but the duo have certainly improved, De Ceglie in particular put in two very impressive performances against Manchester City and Inter, looking confident and making great tackles. I've been a big fan and I see strong potential in his future, and he's starting to realize it. For me, it's all about the playing time. De Ceglie has not really had any lengthy run-outs in his two years at Juventus, I think it is invaluable for a young player like him. Serious credit should go to Delneri here- it would have been very easy to pick a more experienced, "reliable" option like Fabio Grosso, but he has made a serious decision to invest time into De Ceglie and Motta which is admirable.

The resemblance is still uncanny.


Storari: 7- Was not too busy for most of the game, but came up with a massive save on Maicon's cross. A good stop, but hard to keep control of, had he not, Lucio would have tapped it in. He ended up kicking Storari, provoking a Melo-Lucio feud.

Grygera: 6.5- Eto'o is in tremendous form, and Grygera was up against him several times. Once or twice Eto'o roasted him, but he probably would have done it to anyone. Grygera played another impressive game in defense and his confidence is really building, we are seeing the reliable player he can be. Real improvement this past month, and he's showing why he deserved to stay, when other fullbacks were being pushed out.
Chiellini: 7- Eto'o troubled him at times, but otherwise a magnificent performance from Keyser Giorgio, who typically puts in epic performances against Inter. Grew into the game and in the 2nd half, frustrated Diego Milito, who is looking more and more irritated as the days go on.
Bonucci: 6.5- Again, he's cut out a lot of the tricks and risky moves he likes to do, and in a game like the Derby d'Italia, that's very important. His partnership with Chiellini again looked solid, and after an early avoidable yellow against his old club his influence could have been limited, but he played an impressive part in keeping a clean sheet.
De Ceglie: 6.5- Extremely pleased with PDC's performance, who looks like he's maturing a great deal. Not only did he contain Biabiany and Maicon well, in general he read Inter's moves like a young Paolo Maldini. (Okay, that might be a bit much. But I'm excited about this kid) Got forward when he could, and was withdrawn at the break after suffering a muscle problem that has been plaguing him recently.

Stay classy, Inter fans

Krasic: 7- We thought Krasic would tear Chivu apart, and he certainly put him in great difficulty. Another example of the "Krasic Effect" as someone here mentioned, where Milos gets his man taken off because they cannot handle him! Happened with Zabaleta mid-week (was withdrawn with a muscle complaint, but I think his woeful performance containing Krasic was a factor) and again this week. Santon played better against him and his influence waned as the game went on, but another great performance from the Furia Serba.
Felipe Melo: 7- A powerful performance, one that looks like the "Good Brother Melo" that we signed from Fiorentina last summer for 25million euros. Played simple and smart, winning the ball back and distributing intelligently. Kept Sneidjer quiet for almost the whole game.
Aquilani: 6.5- There were a lot of rumors years ago that Aquilani would be heading to Inter, I'm very glad to see him with us. A very classy performance from Alberto, who offers more of a passing dimension than Marchisio. Played confidently and did excellent as our regista/playmaker in midfield.
Marchisio: 6.5- Played out of position on the left-wing to contain Maicon, and his professionalism and sacrifice in doing so get an extra .5 from me. Patrolled the flank, helped out in center midfield, and slid in a clever pass for Quagliarella to put him 1v1 on goal in the 2nd half.

Quagliarella: 5- Our defense and midfield played well, but the same cannot be said about our attack. Quagliarella brings a certain X-factor, but he's very inconsistent and didn't trouble Inter enough. Put 1v1 with Julio Cesar by Marchisio, he failed to lift the ball over the keepers body. Another relatively quiet night for the ex (?) Napoli man.
Iaquinta: 5- Clearly was tired from the Manchester game, he ran a lot but never really got into dangerous positions. Rightfully had a goal chalked off for being offside, and aside from that did not really have opportunities on Inter's goal.

Delneri: 7- Getting the team organized very tactically, the defense has tightened up, and our fullbacks are massively improving their game. Cannot criticize him for the only two poor performers, Quagliarella and Iaquinta, as they were the only real players fit to start.
Motta: 5.5- Had quite a few problems containing Eto'o, but otherwise a competent performance.
Del Piero: 6- Held onto the ball, had a few chances here and there.

Things I Think I Think:
#1- The referee was very fair: Unlike the Manchester City game, in which I griped about the terrible referees performance, I thought the derby was very fairly refereed with no particular advantage to either side. In general, the game was played with a very sporting spirit, all the bad blood and Calciopoli news were seemingly checked at the door.




#2- Speaking of the Manchester City referee: He's an odd man. From ADP's official website-

It's better to stay away from a red card as far as possible , but not always...

I'll explain better. This time I really want to tell it to you: nothing like that has ever happened to me before. Mancester Stadium, a match against City just finished, we shook hands in the center of the pitch, one by one, the atmosphere of great fair play and correctness, we went next to our supporters stadium sector to thank them for the support they gave us, and at the same time City team did the same for their fans.

As soon as I came back to the changing room Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, Spanish referee, whom I had already greeted on the pitch after the end of the game, stopped me. I greeted him again. He smiled and said:"Compliments, you are a fair player, great game, great free kicks. I want to give you a present.". That very moment he pulled out a red card - to tell you the truth, I think, it looks more orange than red, look at the picture...- he showed it to me like he wanted to send me off (fortunately he didn't do it on the pitch!) and then, handed it to me. I was surprised by this gesture, but nicely surprised. So I said: "Thank you, but it isn't enough for me. I want you to sign it".

And here I am with my red card: " Para Alex, grande". Thank you Mr. Gonzales!

Our players keep getting nice autographed cards from the referee. Good, as long as they aren't when the game is going on.

#3- Benitez surprised me in several ways: First, his decision to play relatively central. With Sneidjer maybe that's obligatory, especially when Milito came on for the injured Biabiany, but I'd have targeted our fullbacks and particularly the gaps between our fullbacks and center-backs. Inter didn't really do that. The second thing that surprised me was his decision to play Coutinho and Biabiany, very young unproven players in such a big game. Rafa isn't really known for having a good record with youth, but he's given them a fair amount of faith.

Italy Soccer Serie A
What, I'm supposed to manage the locker room too?

#4- Benitez is not surprising me, and it's causing Inter to crack: Rafa doesn't like conflict, and his player selections and inability to control the locker room contributed to a lot of dissent at Liverpool. Several players after leaving complained that he never spoke to them, or explained his decisions. His ego isn't big enough to manage some of the players at Inter, and it's causing issues. Chivu already yelled at him very publicly during the Roma game, Muntari stormed off after being dropped from the squad list this weekend, and Maicon was seen yelling at Benitez to take off Biabiany for playing a poor game. Milito isn't happy, Sneidjer doesn't seem very enthusiastic, there are some real problems over there. Several things, like Milito and Maicon's mediocre form is certainly related to the exhausting Treble-WC year they had, but Rafa hasn't exactly helped there.

#5- Andrea Agnelli, UNO DI NOI! Andrea has reportedly given his A-OK to Trezeguet getting a farewell match, responding to a letter from the head of a fan group. One hopes Camoranesi gets the same thing.

"But they usually give me a penalty for that!!"

#6- DZEKO SIGNS FOR JUVENTUS: Next summer. Except he didn't. Corriere dello Sport this morning claimed that a deal had been done to bring Dzeko to Juve. Basically, they put 2+2 together- we sold Diego for cheap to Wolfsburg, they want Sissoko, Dzeko wants out to whatever big club can afford him, yadayadayada, we get him next summer essentially for Diego+Sissoko+15mil. Or something like that. It sounds great and all, but here's my problem with it. Today is Tuesday, of the international break. Yesterday, the papers could publish their match reviews of Sunday's games, particularly the Derby d'Italia. Today? No one cares about this weekends games, and the Azzurri are still several days before doing anything interesting. So voila, the rumor. Any transfer story that comes out during the international break is suspicious. This one was easy to assemble.

I'm not saying it's not going to happen, Agnelli and Marotta are well-known admirers, but I definitely don't think everything has been wrapped up as they're claiming.

#7- Moggi's lawyer claims out-of-the-park homerun: And he's right.

#8- JuveSiena taking charge in Serie B: Antonio Conte's side is 4 points clear at the top, tied with the best offense and the 2nd best defense. Immobile is back from suspension, and two weeks ago Luca Marrone got his first start. Good luck boys.


#9- Krasic=Shaggy: Chiellini stated the other day that the team nickname for Krasic is Shaggy, from Scooby Doo.

#10- In case you missed it: Entire game narrated by Claudio Zuliani available on his fan's Youtube.

#11- Where has Lanzafame disappeared to? I was all excited. He was our best winger in pre-season, I've watched him since he was at Bari (the first time) and he has real talent. But with Krasic's arrival, his playing time has dropped to zero. Very disappointing, and it seems he may be sent on loan this January. Such a shame, because he is a very promising winger.