Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018

Soccer: Inter in strife after embarrassments


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, March 12 - Until a few weeks ago Andrea
Stramaccioni's place on the Inter Milan bench had looked safe.
The Serie A giants were not having a scintillating season,
but Chairman Massimo Moratti looked willing to be patient with
his 37-year-old coach.
Stramaccioni had no experience of playing top-level soccer,
never mind coaching a Serie A club, when he was promoted from
his role as head of Inter's academy side after Claudio Ranieri
was sacked a year ago.
His job was to give a young squad of players a new sense of
identity and playing style after Inter gradually offloaded many
of the veterans of the 2010 Champions League-Serie A-Italian Cup
treble-winning team.
And in the first half of the season, the team seemed to be
showing progress under the young boss, notching league wins over
city rivals Milan, champions Juventus and title-chasers Napoli.
But Inter have lost their way in the new year and suffered
several embarrassing defeats.
Last week's 3-0 drubbing at Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa
League last 16 means they already have one foot out of the
competition before Thursday's return at the San Siro.
Recent results in Serie A include a 3-1 loss at
relegation-threatened Siena, a 4-1 drubbing at Fiorentina and
last week's 0-1 home defeat to Bologna.
Inter's defence is weak, as shown by the 58 goals they have
conceded in all competitions this season - compared to 73 in
favour - with centre backs Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia
frequently looking clumsy and out of position.
Their only real creative thrust at the moment comes from
30-year-old Antonio Cassano, who soon runs out of steam.
Moratti is not a happy man and Stramaccioni, who in his
defence has had lots of injuries to contend with, is not the
only one in the firing line.
The failure of some new arrivals to shine, such as
18-year-old Crotian midfielder Mateo Kovacic, Inter's big
signing of the January transfer window, has also put pressure on
sporting director Marco Branca.
Indeed, Moratti has suggested that both could exit if the
results do not improve, in a knock-back to Branca, who had said
he was confident both he and Stramaccioni would still be at
Inter next season.
"I heard that (what Branca said), then he said it would be
up to the chairman to decide. I agree with him on that.
"I'd be happy if things were to stay as they are, only with
different results".
Italian media say Stramaccioni should be given until the
end of the season to see if he can turn things around and secure
third place to qualify for next season's Champions League.
If he fails and Inter miss out on Europe's premier club
competition for the second consecutive season, he is virtually
certain to be dismissed.
But he could be ejected even earlier if there are any more
embarrassments, with a tandem team of Luis Figo, who has an
ambassador role for the club, and assistant coach Beppe Baresi,
seen as a possible caretaker solution.
Stramaccioni believes it will not come to that.
"I and the team share Moratti's bitterness," the coach
"But the second-half performances show me that the team is
still with me.
"Nothing is lost. There are 10 games to go (in the league)
and lots can change. It's been a strange championship.
"We have to regain confidence and some (injured) men".

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