Trapattoni focuses on rejuvenation once again
With the defeat by Greece set to leave the Republic of Ireland team languishing back very much where they were in the world rankings when he took over in May 2008, Giovanni Trapattoni is unlikely to be bragging about the wonders he has worked on that front for a while.
Instead, he was focused yesterday on the rate at which he is rejuvenating a team that had run so badly out of steam when it came up against better opposition in Poland. The Italian insisted, however, he had no regrets about his failure to make changes earlier, claiming players like Séamus Coleman and James McCarthy needed more experience at club level before taking their place on the international stage.
“Coleman was not ready for that group,” said the manager when asked whether he wishes now he had taken the Donegal man to Euro 2012. “We followed his progress closely but up until then he had been playing as a right-sided forward, only since then has he played regularly for his club as a defender. Now,” the manager added, “it works well for us because he is a defender who can run forward 100 metres.”
That ability and willingness to get forward marked the 24-year-old out as the major success story of Wednesday’s game and Trapattoni anticipates the Everton player will retain his place in the spring, thereby raising question marks over John O’Shea’s role in a reshuffled back four.
Much will depend on whether Richard Dunne and Marc Wilson overcome serious injury problems in time to feature in the crucially important qualifying games against Sweden and Austria.
Dunne, who is scheduled to resume training over the next week or so, could be back for the friendly against Poland in February, although, clearly, nothing can be taken for granted. Wilson’s broken leg in the recent league game against Sunderland is expected to keep him out for around three months.
That makes the timing tight and makes it more likely Trapattoni will have to look to either Stephen Ward or O’Shea to play at left back.
The latter would be expected to win out at this stage unless Dunne is still absent. The more interesting question would be whether O’Shea would be used in the centre ahead of Seán St Ledger in the event of Dunne being actually available but the manager provided no pointers on that front yesterday.
Trapattoni has suggested McCarthy will now be a regular starter in central midfield and as to whether Robbie Brady or James McClean is used out wide (Aiden McGeady can expect to reclaim his place if he is fit for the qualifiers in the new year) will come down to the quality of the opposition.
Overall, he says he will stick with his preferred 4-4-2 formation and retain most of his regulars although there will be some interest too in who he chooses to partner Robbie Keane, whose place remains safe it seems, up front.
His finishing on Wednesday might have left something to be desired but Simon Cox can perhaps take some encouragement from the fact Trapattoni listed his goal against Wigan Athletic a couple of months ago as one of the best he has seen.
The Italian was initially visibly shocked when asked whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s overhead effort against England was the best he had ever seen because, it quickly transpired, he thought it related to the Greek strike against Ireland.
He then, however, included the Swede’s goal in a shortlist that also included strikes by the likes of Pele, Maradona and, of course, Cox.
Ibrahmovic, he acknowledged, will be a major threat if he plays against Ireland in March but, the Italian suggested, injuries could play a bit part for both teams, after which Ireland’s defenders might simply have to cope with the challenge of containing the PSG star.
“I played against the likes of Pele, Eusebio and Cruyff when they were great players and I was less than that; I could have been afraid but I wasn’t, I played without fear and won. Ibrahimovic is a great player but that is what we must do.”