Unfortunate Inter Milan tactician Claudio Ranieri has constantly fallen under the curse of working under club owners who expect miraculously optimistic, even hopeful, results that exceed the means of the team he has been handed the reins to.
His struggles with Inter Milan are well documented. Despite leading his side to seven straight consecutive Serie A victories after first succeeding incumbent Gian Piero Gasperini, Ranieri is now a victim of his own success as he stares at the possibility of the sack after losing 2-0 away to Juventus in the Derby d’Italia.
His early record with the Nerazzuri cumulated in false hopes formed without basis amongst the fans and media that Inter could mount a insurmountable surprise push for the final UEFA Champions league berth with the resources he had. Since December, the damning statistic that Ranieri has won only 1 out of 10 Serie A matches has led to his side’s performances coming under close scrutiny, but the majority of burden should not just fall on the 60-year old, who has been handed the unenviable task of reconstructing an ailing team whose winning cycle has long expired.
The loss to Juventus characterized many of Inter’s struggles this season, as they consistently tested ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal before succumbing to a quick succession of sucker punches, as Martin Caceres and Alessandro Del Piero saw out the Bianconeri’s victory.
The tactical nightmare that Ranieri has been handed is undoing his best efforts to instill a sense of balance and stability in his chosen formations. Never being able to play a consistent line-up that delivers is taking its toll on the team’s results, as their coach is left pondering how to fit the likes of misfits Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan into the team, when they are fit to play that is.
A lack of width available to a manager who has utilized a 4-4-2 throughout his career depicts just how badly this Inter has been constructed for his reign to be successful, rendering him incapable of being able to count on a level of tactical flexibility necessary to adapt to different opponents and their respective styles of play. After looking the side more likely to secure a result in the first half, a tactical shift by Juventus in the second half left Ranieri unable to cope with or respond to wave after wave of attack.
7 out of the 10 outfield players who started against Juventus were in their 30’s. Consensus lies with the fact Inter need a renewal within their squad if they are to make anything of the seasons that are to come. Recent history however has gone on to show that Inter’s coaches, following Jose Mourinho’s departure in 2010, have held little real power in having a say over who comes and who goes.
The abrupt departures of key players Samuel Eto’o and Thiago Motta in the summer and winter transfer windows respectively has not just crippled the team’s level of flair and technical quality, their last-minute nature has left little time for the gaping hole in the squad to be replugged. Not exactly the recipe to success incoming team managers would be imagining.
Owner Moratti’s and board member Branca’s absolute control of transfer activity ask questions on who actually controls Inter, and the level of autonomy of choices available to the coach in attempting to take the club back to the pinnacle of not just Italian football, but Europe as well, a spot occupied just two seasons ago.
The strong voices of the powers that be, particularly that of the South American contingent, in the dressing room also needs to be addressed. Benitez reportedly did not gain the support of the Inter squad, as was testified by Dejan Stankovic following his departure, while the afore-mentioned Forlan’s refusal to ‘come on to an unfavoured tactical role as a substitute’ at the behest of Ranieri suggest the need for the disbandment of such groups who potentially undermine the coach’s authority.
The alarming plummet of the situation of Inter does not conjure good omens for Italy’s representatives in the Champions League over the following seasons. The predicament exists as a double-edged sword – If Inter qualify for either European competition and fail to perform, then the state of Italy’s dwindling league coefficients stand to suffer in accordance. Failure to qualify for either competition, particularly the Champions League, spells doom for Inter however, who need to raise their profile and the significant funds that come as a result to a club struggling to balance its books in accordance with the imminence of Financial Fair Play.
Make no mistake – a change in Inter’s fortunes is paramount, and fast. However, sacking Claudio Ranieri is not going to achieve anything if the authority that is accorded to the coaching role is not redefined to match what is required in a major rebuilding phase. If talk of Barcelona coach Guardiola arriving at Inter materializes, the pit its board has dug the club into is unlikely to shallow itself if he is not handed the powers of control to decide who he really wants, and what he really wants, from his team. Its time drastic changes take place at Inter’s board level and in their management philosophy to ensure the club can continue doing justice to their illustrious sporting history. Anything less will be deemed a failure.