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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 29, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    Could Trapattoni’s contract have waited?

    Carl O'Malley

    No Croke Park deal for Giovanni, then.

    The Ireland manager will be leading the Republic of Ireland in their quest to qualify for Brazil 2014, regardless of what happens in Poland and Ukraine next summer, and he will be doing so for less money.
    The Italian’s two-year extension was confirmed this morning, though there was never really anything to suggest it was in jeopardy.

    Trapattoni was clear in his intentions that he wished to stay after leading Ireland to Euro 2012 and, afterall, he has fulfilled his brief.

    The question was just how much Denis O’Brien was going to stump up. Enough, is the answer, thanks largely to Trapattoni’s acceptance, yet again, that things are tight.

    His pay is directly linked to his success, but not in the conventional sense. The better he does, the less he gets. He is, therefore, the perfect employee. He delivers more and demands less. Why wouldn’t he be retained? Afterall,the FAI aren’t even picking up the whole tab.

    If you are FAI chief executive John Delaney, there’s no reason not to keep the Italian.

    Statistics like two defeats in two qualifying campaigns, one of which came in the 2010 play-offs against France (Ireland were unbeaten in the group), read pretty well in black and white.

    A major campaign will boost the coffers, as will a lucrative warm-up against England, if we are not drawn against them on Friday. Delaney’s all about the bottom line and the bottom line looks good – certainly a lot better than it did two years ago.

    The manager sees it as a results business and the players, those involved at least, have given very little indication that there is anything other than warmth and respect for the man who has honed them into such a consistent outfit.

    Here again, there’s a sort of contra-flow occurring in the Trapattoni reign. Rarely has a manager so consistently bemoaned the lack of quality available to him but retained the faith of those whose ability he has lamented, leaving some to argue they are better than he gives them credit for, rather than the other way round.

    He did it again this morning on Newstalk radio, when he ruled out the prospect of changing from his rigid 4-4-2.

    “The system is important. When you have the players you can change the system. If you have your (Ireland’s) quality, I couldn’t change your quality with the other systems.

    “I think that this system gave us the best opportunity to qualify.”

    Whether you agree with the second part of that statement or not, it is difficult to argue with, given the fact he achieved qualification, but it is hard to contemplate anything but brutal exposure of that system unless Ireland get the luckiest of group draws on Friday evening.

    Trapattoni has admitted he has had his fair share of luck, most notably in Moscow when, had the planets not aligned and Jupiter not been in the shadow of Uranus, Ireland would have lost by at least three.

    France manager Laurent Blanc recently put his team’s unconvincing performance against the USA down to his experimentation with a new system. It was a system his players were not familiar with, he said, and they needed time to adapt. What were these outlandish tactics?

    Explains Blanc: “When you have four forwards, it’s hard to find space and there is no one to make the pass. That’s the whole problem with a 4-4-2. You need one of the strikers to slip back to get and give the ball to the other.”

    The fact a football man such as Blanc could refer to a 4-4-2 in such a manner, illustrates just how far removed the traditional formation is from modern thinking. None of the pacesetters in club or international football use it as a default, let alone rely on it exclusively.

    Even emerging nations, Armenia, for example, another team Ireland enjoyed a massive slice of good fortune against in the qualifiers, are shunning such a rigid system. In their case, they have proved themselves ready to mount an assault on a World Cup qualifying group that contains Italy, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Second is most certainly up for grabs there.

    Of course, we have to remember where we have come from, but we also have to bear in mind where we are going. Ireland are heading to a first European Championships in 24 years, with no Plan B, and judging by the managers comments, he has no intention of instilling one anytime soon.

    Under Plan A, Ireland have only managed to beat Georgia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Armenia, Andorra and Estonia in the last two campaigns.

    Trapattoni says the players dictate the system and he plays to their strengths, yet it is he who picks the players and there are options in his squad, let alone outside of it, that would have allowed him to develop different plans of attack and less frantic forms of defence.

    Is this really too much to ask of man who has been paid between €2 million and €1.7 million a year until now?

    The Italian has had a fantastic career, and Ireland have undeniably benefitted from his time in charge, but given his loyalty to a system that relies all too regularly on the heroics of the usual suspects, even against the poor sides, would it not have been better to wait until after Euro 2012 to see the true measure of how far he had taken Ireland in four years?

    His current contract allowed for it. So, why not?

    • Gareth says:

      What an absolutely tiresome, pointless article? Incidentally, I’ll tell you one team who do use 4-4-2 on occasion: Germany

    • It has to be very annoying for Trappatoni and his people to read stuff like this.
      It seems that the Celtic Tiger in addition to bankrupting the small island has managed to produce a myriad of expert soccer writers.
      No plan B?

    • Ireland are lucky to have Trappatoni’s services, very very lucky indeed.

    • IrishRI says:

      800 years of fighting the English for economic freedom and now our football team is stuck under the tactical oppression of Trapattoni for what will be at the very least a total of six years. For every argument to keep him there are more counter arguments to let him go. What people fail to realize is that he’s basically only been an improvement on Steve Staunton and only helped to undo the damage caused by Staunton’s appointment. We are not even back to the level we were at under Mick McCarthy in terms of performance or indeed results. Under McCarthy when we played the big teams like Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Spain we never lost a game (not counting penalties) actually won one of them but more importantly gave as good as we got over the course of the match playing decent football even outplaying the opposition in several of those games. We were never under any manager as far back as I can remember played off the park the way we were twice against Russia who are nowhere near the best team we’ve played over past few campaigns. We are actually played off the park by most teams except the minnows we come up against nowadays. If we go to the Euros with this manager and tactics we probably won’t get hammered in any games but we will get dominated and beaten. We will bow out in the first round being lucky to pick up a point or two but worst of all we will be the laughing stock of the Europe and the World.

    • Peter says:

      Yawn. Some people are never happy are they? What do you want? To play James McCarthy in a magically modified christmas tree with seamus coleman as the tinsel cascading about the place reaching parts of the pitch the standard ‘baubles’ can’t? Can you think of a manager with a better pedigree than trap (with international experience to boot ) who would work with an admittedly limited set of players for the paltry money (compared to other jobs) he’s getting?

      Trap got a new contract because he has done more than his predecessors (Kerr and Staunton) i.e. made us consistently dependable. So dependable that we QUALIFIED. That was the aim. That was the stipulation for the previous two as well and they failed. Trap didn’t fail. He attained be goal set by his employers. Hence the contract.

      Greece have shown that self-belief and consistency can lead to success. If might not happen again but our boys have the spirit to give it a go. Maybe our media might serve them better by giving the players and management the encouragement and respect they deserve in the run up to the finals.

      We can get though this competition with our dignity intact and maybe more wih trap. The perfect prep for a tough world cup campaign. It’s a stepping stone not a swansong!

    • Peter says:

      Irish RI: what’s the alternative? Not giving trap a job is only half the battle. Give us names of better managers who would be paid so little. Also McCarthy had better players e.g. Staunton and keane who were two of the best in the world in their positions and mick still blew it in Japan. We could have won the group if we had more belief to actually go out and beat a mediocre Cameroon team(African teams are always beatable but he wanted a draw), win the group and get onto the easy side of the draw. Then it wouldve been onto the final. Simples. He also got annihilated by a worse Swiss team in landowne. First time I ever heard an Irish team booed off by our own fans. That’s when the collapse truly took place.

    • Samuel Pepys says:

      Laughing stock of the WHOLE world doesn’t sound so bad. What other team can claim such a distinction? The world needs laughs now more than ever. When all our other stocks are close to junk status, why not go with our laughing stock… all the way to the bank?

    • IrishRI says:

      I’m sick of hearing that we don’t have the players. Ireland has 30 players playing regularly in the world’s best league, the Premier League which is second only to England so we should be qualifying for tournaments regularly. Martin O’Neill would be a good alternative. There are plenty of players that should be in the side that aren’t. The formation should depend on the opposition. Right now our tactics remind me of the Gallipoli Campaign. The second game in Russia was Roy Keane’s definition of stupidity. Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. This guy is taking Ireland back to the dark ages and is going against everything the underage teams are trying to achieve.

    • John Clarke says:

      It must have been a slow news day . What a completely boring article. This type of article could only have ticked more popullist Liveline listner boxes if you had suggested that the FAI appoint Roy Keane as manager and donate Traps salary to the HSE to pay for more hospital beds.

      Next time try to find a slightly more original subject that requires a bit of effort to write. Leave the moaning to Joe Duffy’s brigade and just let us enloy the Euros as participants and not spectators

    • Joe Lapira says:

      I|f I got a call up, things would be different :(

    • Gareth says:

      Martin O’Neill doesn’t want the Ireland job. But yes, let’s trade a manager who has won seven scudettos, a European Cup, two UEFA cups, a Cup Winners Cup, the German league, the Portugese league and the Austrian league for a manager who has won three SPL medals and a Football Conference medal.

    • Just to clarify, if Trapattoni’s contract was up in April, as he had indicated it was, I would be all for giving him a renewal. I am not for one minute suggesting we should get rid of him now, and I can’t see where I said that.

      However, it was made clear yesterday that the contract automatically rolled until after the Euros if he succeeded in qualifying. That being the case, I see no reason not to wait to renegotiate that contract. If we do well, he might not agree to a pay cut, but if we do well, who will care?

      As it stands, the FAI are tied into a contract prior to acid test of Trapattoni’s team. If, like in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, it all goes horribly wrong, what then?

      And for those claiming he is on “paltry” money, he earns nearly as much (and used to earn more than) Vicente Del Bosque, manager of world champions Spain, €300k more than Italy manager Cesare Prandelli and nearly three times as much as Scotland manager Craig Levein.

      This wasn’t a ‘Trap out’ article. If, at the end of his contract the FAI are pleased, renew it. Just wait until it’s finished.

      Thanks for the feedback.

    • Darragh says:

      On top of those qualifying victories that you mention we also beat France over 90 mins in Paris, had a good few chances to score against them in Dublin (whilst their goal came via lucky deflection) and were a whisker away from beating Italy at home. In this campaign we were the only side to emerge victorious in Armenia and qualified for the European Championship for the first time in 24 years.

      Okay, the style of football might not set the pulse racing but you cannot deny the success it has brought. Trap fully deserves his new contract. Good on him I say.

    • Gareth says:

      It’s really a question of how you present, or daresay manipulate, information. Exhibit A: “Under Plan A, Ireland have only managed to beat Georgia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Armenia, Andorra and Estonia in the last two campaigns.”
      Let’s put it another way, ‘under Plan A, Ireland were beaten only by Russia, drew home and away to the world champions, were undefeated home and away in both campaigns by the seeds above us (Slovakia and Bulgaria) and beat everybody below us bar Montenegro (two draws – probably cos the buggers play 4-4-2!).
      We beat and lost to France too by the way, but you’ve conveniently left out the play-offs.
      Russia sure did take us to the cleaners but Italy and France didn’t.
      I’m as confident that the team can raise their game on the big occision as you are that they’ll get shown up.
      You also haven;t even had the gumption to propose what your ‘plan B’ might entail.

      Bottom line, Trap achived what he was mandated to achieve, qualification, and is the best placed to do it again.
      This is a totally bogus article.

    • Peter says:

      If we do well and he’s not tied down to a contract there’d be too much chance he’d go somewhere else for more money. It had to be done now.

    • The point about not beating anyone of note is relevant because now we will most likely have to do it if we are to have a successful campaign in Poland/Ukraine. I don’t regard a last minute, albeit exciting, draw with an Italy team shown up to be terrible in the World Cup and down to 10 men for most of the game as a particularly notable achievement. Nor do I buy into this ‘we beat France stuff’. We didn’t. If the game ended at 1-0, fine, but there was half an hour to go. Granted it was rough how it happened, but then I imagine the Georgians felt pretty aggrieved at the phantom penalty given against them in the 2010 WC qualifiers.

      We played excellent that night against France and it remains the anomaly of Trap’s reign, I think. Again, it came against a side that made a laughing stock out of themselves in the World Cup. They were pathetic on and off the pitch in South Africa.

      I am as happy as anyone that Trapattoni has succeeded in getting Ireland to a major championships, but I just think he should have evolved his squad into a more versatile unit by now and his contract should be allowed to run it’s course.

      As for the formation suggestion, I am saying he needs a Plan B, I did not say he should abandon Plan A. I don’t think it’s out of order to suggest his side need a better way of tackling more technically adept opposition, especially considering they are likely to meet at least one team a lot better than Russia in June. The most obvious tactic for this would be to put five in midfield and drop a frontman. There are a few ways of doing that and I simply think one of them should have been worked into the plans by now.

    • I’m not sure there would be. Trap loves this job and any team seeking his services would have to match a fairly healhy salary that, in most cases, would be beyond them. Not even Laurent Blanc or Cesare Prandelli get what Trap is getting.

    • Gareth says:

      ‘The point about not beating anyone of note is relevant because now we will most likely have to do it if we are to have a successful campaign in Poland/Ukraine.’
      What, like in 1990, when we got the quarter finals on four draws? We’ve only beaten two teams of note at the highest level, both times very much using the good old Plan A. Who else has Ireland (and better Ireland teams at that) beaten a team ‘of note’ in a competitive game the last say 25 years expect Holland, Spain and Portugal at home? Comparatively, in campaigns and in projecting for the finals, your assessment is misleading.

      “We played excellent that night against France and it remains the anomaly of Trap’s reign, I think.”
      I thought we played well against and deserved to beat Italy at home as well, bar a momentary lapse from the Trap system back to the old days of succeeding at the last minute. I think I could live without going back to those days so we can have your imaginary players pretend they’re Liam Brady.

      “Again, it came against a side that made a laughing stock out of themselves in the World Cup. They were pathetic on and off the pitch in South Africa.”
      France’e behaviour in the World Cup is irrelevant to judging them against Ireland, given that it happened 7 months later.

      As it happens, I think 4-4-2 has major limitations, but it’s no cause for holding back on his contract. However, it’s also no way to go about winning games against quality opposition. You complain about not winning games of note and then propose the option of replacing a striker for an additional central midfielder (who, by the way? McCarthy for Long maybe? That’s funny!). That, my friend, is how you play for a draw against Holland, not a win against Greece!

      Our problem is that we haven’t yet got two quality performing central midfielders, and no formation is going to change that. The rest of this formation talk is pure guff.

    • We could go back and forth with this all day. It’s about opinions, I actually don’t think we disagree on that much, but the bits we do disagree on, I’ll agree to disagree (If you know what I mean).

      The crux of my argument was to ask; why renew a contract when it has yet to expire and with a major tournament on the horizon? The formations point was merely to illustrate where I think it could go wrong in the summer if there isn’t an alternative.

      I never named players because that discussion has been done to death. I am not calling for people like Hoolahan or Pilkington for the sake of it, I would just like to see – or hear talk of from the manager – a plan for not getting completely overrun in the summer and relying on more blood and guts defending.

      I was aware of the 1990 example when I typed that, but then, as I believe is the case now, we had players shackled by one system. A bit of versatality in our play might not have gone astray then either. That was a travesty because that squad was actually very good and I believe this squad is better than it gets credit for as well.

    • Darragh says:

      The point of renewing his contract now is to prevent Trap exploring other options in the interim and then maybe losing him after a good performance this summer. Fact is Dennis O’Brien is covering half of the salary so the money is in or around the same as what Kerr was supposedly on. For a manager of Trap’s experience, and given the progress made with the national team to date, the sensible approach was to give him the new contract that he both wants and, in my opinion, deserves.

    • Ronan says:

      I’m glad to see so many people see through these tiresome articles about Trappatoni’s systems. I see the writer has slightly backtracked about his comments on personnel changes and new formations to argue that his main point is the renewal of contract.
      I personally don’t see any way you couldnt offer Trap a new contract now no matter what happens in June. Let’s say we get out of group, eased past the next round in a shootout and lose in a blaze of glory to Spain in semi’s-how many countries with alot more resources than us would suddenly be after Trap’s services?
      Even if we do fail to get out of group I still believe he’s out best man to qualify us for Brazil. His mandate was to get us to a big tournament-we’re in bonus territory now. Imagine Spain had sacked Aragone’s after their second-round loss in 2006 to France. Who knows, Spain might not have succeeded in euro 2008 with a different manager.
      There has to be a reality check to our abilities and like a few other readers have said journalists would be better off getting behind this team and especially Robbie Keane who amazingly is still somewhat maligned in this country. His goal-scoring record for us will never be matched in our lifetime.

    • Gareth says:

      I appreciate very much that you engaged me in discussion – a credit to you. So, on the simple question of why extend a contract that has not expired, I agree with Darragh above. You extend a contract before it expires if the manager has fulfilled the goals of the first contract, which he has done already, and you sign him up to do the same (which the FAI rightfully thinks he can do again) to minimise the risk of him going elsewhere.

      Yours may seem like a legitimate question, but inevitably it does come off as more naysaying because it’s an unreasonable expectation for the FAI to hold out. Many of us I guess are tired of the naysayers, especially in the press, as they’re mostly talking out of their backsides on the flimsiest of pretexts and knowledge of the game.

      I also think you’re actually writing Trap off too soon on the whole Plan B thing, by the way!!

      But listen, agree to disagree as you say. Fair play

    • Richie says:

      It’s easy to shift the goalposts now. At the start of the campaign if you polled the fans I’d say 90% would say that qualification for our first tournament in a decade would be enough to justify giving the manager another campaign as reward. I have issues with the way Trap sets the team up and some would say he’s been lucky but the ends justify the means. We may not make it out of the group at the Euros, but as the only 3rd seeds to qualify we’ve already overachieved by getting there. I would say the majority of neutral observers will pick Ireland as the weakest side at the tournament (possibly excepting the host nations, but they will have home advantage) and the bookies have us at joint longest odds to win it. Trapattoni’s task was to get us to a finals and he’s done that. You have to ask if the possible alternatives would do a better job, and I don’t see us emerging from the lottery of an FAI headhunt with somebody better. We wouldn’t get anybody who currently has a chance of a Premier League job and will probably be making do without Denis O’Brien ponying up half the wages next time. Remember who the alternative candidates were last time, the likes of Tel Venables and Paul Jewell. Faraway hills are greener, as they say. Whether or not we storm the Euros, Trap has been a success by the yardstick that was set out for him at the beginning.

    • Glen MaLure says:

      who would work with an admittedly limited set of players for the paltry money (compared to other jobs) he’s getting?” “Paltry money” Peter!!!!!!!!!! What planet do you inhabit my friend ?Have a look at the list below and bear in mind that Del Bosque won the World Cup and Otto Rehhagel the European Championship
      Vicente Del Bosque (Spain) €1.5m

      Laurent Blanc (France) €1.2m

      Otto Rehhagel (Greece) €800,000

      Craig Levein (Scotland) €500,000

      Morten Olsen (Denmark) €450,000

      Manager of Northern Ireland (TBC) €450,000 approx

      Vladimir Weiss (Slovakia) €250,000

    • Glen MaLure says:

      “African teams are always beatable” Oh dear it’s you again Peter – any empirical evidence for this assertion Pete my friend??

    • @Ronan of course the contract was the main point of the article. It’s the headline, it’s the intro and it’s the question posed at the end.

      On Robbie Keane, I can’t think of one Irish journalist who thinks Robbie Keane shouldn’t be in the team. The grief he gets is mostly from fans in my experience. I wrote about this a while back.

      @Gareth I hope you’re right on the Plan B thing!

    • Bobby says:

      Really agree with Carl here. And as regards Trap’s contract, yes he fulfilled his remit last time out but does anyone really think he’ll do so again next time out? That we’ll have such luck as we did?

      “Under Plan A, Ireland have only managed to beat Georgia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Armenia, Andorra and Estonia in the last two campaigns.”

      This is the key thing. And, scarily enough, Germany are even better than Russia. Unless he makes changes we won’t get through. Simple as. What I don’t get is that he introduced this system with a fully fit Steven Reid (we were great against Georgia and Montenegro) yet continued with it when he got injured despite his replacement being WAY worse than he was.

    • Propagandhi says:

      Ah sure what are people complaining about?

      We beat Estonia, Andorra and Armenia. These are world class teams.

      There are exceptions of course. Twice we threw away winning positions against Bulgaria in the ’10 campaign, making Stilian Petrov look like Zinedine Zidane and Radostin Kishishev look like Cafu. The affable Kevin Kilbane the catalyst for those dropped 4 points.

      Funny how as soon as we discarded Kev and brought in Stephen Ward, we promptly conceded 1 goal in 8 games!

      Then there were the Russia games where we got demolished in our own backyard and by way of miracle, got a point in Russia after ceding 90% possession.

      There is also the fact that Wes Hoolahan can’t get a look in despite impressing against Liverpool and Arsenal, while Trapattoni is threatening to bring Paul Green to Poland and Ukraine, despite singlehandedly trying to lose us the game in Yerevan and being the main culprit in our hammering in Dublin against Russia.

      Also, he never does any scouting, which may explain Paddy McCarthy, Chris McCann, Wes Hoolahan, Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy’s absences BUT who needs them when you have the dependable Paul McShane, Glenn Whelan, Paul Green, Andy Keogh and Jon Walters?

      Nothing to worry about folks. We beat an Estonia team with 9 men!

      We’re going to hammer all these advanced teams with their silly 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-3-2 formations in Poland and Ukraine.


    • Connor says:

      Loads of teams the world over play a 4-4-2 formation! the worst thing about this article is there is no alternative offered, terrible. What else is there 3-5-1, 4-3-3? pros and cons to them all, too much is made of systems

    • Matthew PB says:

      About 442: we have a number of very good strikers, who can we afford to leave out? Keane or Doyle? With Long and Walters, not to mention Best and Cox (who has played well for us), knocking on the door you’d have to say deviating from a 2-striker formation would not be a good way of getting the best from what we have.

    • RD says:

      The comments here are a good summary of the pro/anti Trap debate. For my part, I agree with those that have said that, in any field of business, if you give someone a contract and set them a clear agreed set of objectives (in this case qualification) then if they achieve that it is perfectly reasonable to renew or extend that contract. If they fail narrowly and with what seems to be acceptable reason, then you might also renew/extend (this is what happened after Paris). I understand, Carl, that you agree with this but argue over the timing of the new contract being offered. However, if the agreed objectives have been achieved early and the employer feels they justify renewal, there is no reason to wait until the last day of the current contract, creating a limbo of uncertainty for both parties. To do so would be just playing silly buggers and, frankly, is bad manners. Your argument that we should wait and see how Trap performs in Poland is to retrospectively redefine the agreed objectives (qualification, remember?) and alter the terms of the contract. None of us would accept such behaviour from our own employer.

      I think there are two different strands at the heart of this (pro/anti Trap) debate. The first (which hasn’t really being broached here) is about whether you believe football to be all about results – the achievement, by whatever means, of certain goals over the short (90 mins) and long (campaign) terms – or whether you believe it to be a form of artistic expression, and attempt to create something sublime and beautiful more closely related to ballet than business. Even if you tend towards the latter, it should be remembered that Trap is not being employed as a footballer, but as a manager, and the purpose of all management is to manage available resources to achieve certain outcomes. I am not aware of any courses in The Art Of Management in NCAD.

      Which brings us to the second strand, which is “Is Trap managing the available resources in the best way possible?”. You’ve said, Carl, that you didn’t want to name players; but that is the very crux of the matter here. At the heart of IrishRI’s problem with Trap is his statement that “Ireland has 30 players playing regularly in the world’s best league”. Any discussion of whether 4-4-2 is the best option, whether Trap’s Plan A is the right one or whether a Plan B exists, can only be done with a detailed analysis of the materials available to him.

      So can I ask Irish RI:

      “Ireland has 30 players playing regularly in the world’s best league, the Premier League . . .”

      Name them.

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