Monday, 15 November 2010

AC Top Table While Benitez Struggles

In the world of bad analogies between football and music Manchester City would be Miley Cyrus. Doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it to make it better the product is still crap. Barcelona would be Michael Jackson. Brilliantly successful, everything is perfectly choreographed but you feel just a little nervous about their obsession with kids. And AC Milan would be the Rolling Stones. Fantastic pedigree but exactly how the hell are they still alive? Each year you think this must be their final tour/season but somehow Pippo “Mick Jagger” Inzaghi et al have managed get to the top of Serie A tonight with a 1-0 win over Inter.

Since Calciopoli Inter have won the title every season, often by huge margins. Not this season. Under Benitez the treble-winners are already six points behind their city rivals. In Europe they are facing the problematic prospect of finishing behind Spurs in the group and having to face a group winner such as Madrid, Barcelona or Chelsea. On the one hand, it must be said that Rafa has an unenviable job. Even if he were to win the treble again he is merely treading water with another man’s team (and Jose would make that point fairly clear) but failure to win everything shows that he just isn’t the manager Mourinho is. However already this season Benitez has come up short tactically. He failed to double up on Bale and Inter were unable to fashion one clear chance against Milan even with a man advantage for the last half hour. Given his phenomenal lack of man management skills, if he isn’t getting it right tactically exactly what is the point of Rafa Benitez?

Serie A has been the sick man of Europe since 2006 and it would benefit the entire country to have anyone other than Inter winning the title. Lazio have started very strongly and could mount a credible title challenge for the first time since Eriksson was manager and as said, AC currently are on top. But as refreshing as it would be to see another name on the trophy, the question is just what does Rafa think he is doing at Inter? They have managed a meagre five goals in their last eight league games and even the liberation of Samuel Eto’o has come at the cost of limiting Diego Milito.

There are several mitigating factors in Inter’s decline. Injuries to big players such as Cambiasso, Balotelli’s departure and Wesley Sneijder’s lack of form have taken their toll. Furthermore Mourinho seems to have this magical hold over all his former players. Maicon expressly stated before the transfer window closed that he wanted to join his former manager at Madrid and others grumbled more circumspectly. Benitez has to contend with the same sullen “you’re not Jose” factor that ended Avram Grant’s unfairly maligned reign at Chelsea. But at the end of the day Inter have gone from dull, machine-like efficiency to merely dull. Seeing them end the season trophyless would hardly be surprising, stymied by the fact that their Spaniard seems determined to be more Italian than the Italians.

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