Having dipped his toe in some tactical experimentation in Belgrade, it will hardly come as the shock of the new season to learn that Giovanni Trapattoni will be reverting to first principles for Ireland’s opening World Cup qualifier in Kazakhstan next month.
In short, Wednesday night’s flirtation with 4-5-1/4-3-3 will be parked for the competitive challenge four weeks tomorrow, to be replaced by an altogether more familiar formation.
“The game against Serbia was very, very useful for us in reviewing our tactics,” the manager said yesterday. “The players had difficulty adapting to the system so I had to put them back in their normal positions. James McClean in the centre, for example. It was not his position and it didn’t work. So we went back to 4-4-2. Maybe for the friendly against Oman inn London (after the game in Kazakhstan) we can try again. But absolutely not in qualifying. The players need time, weeks, months, to learn this system. When I was a manager in Germany, Portugal and Italy, we needed a month of training to learn this system.
“But our 4-4-2 is a flexible system. And with the players we have we can change the situation a little bit — with two strikers, one can drop off, like when I said before, many months ago, that Robbie Keane could be like Totti, playing behind Kevin Doyle. We have that possibility with the players we have. Against Kazakhstan, we need two up front, because we need to score, not try out a system. We are looking to win there because it is important to start with a victory.”
Mention of Robbie Keane prompted questions about whether Trapattoni was any clearer about the striker’s intentions with regard to his international future. Repeating that he had failed in his most recent attempt to contact his skipper, the manager acknowledged that “now we have to speak to him again”.
And Trapattoni certainly left his listeners in no doubt that he hopes Keane answers in the affirmative.
“His experience is very important for us,” he said. “It’s important that he makes himself available. He said before, ‘I will always be ready for my country’. Also (Damien) Duff. They are men. They have to be ready also. In Belgrade, for example, Marco (Tardelli) said to me on the bench when the players came together for the huddle that they were missing this leadership, the mentality, the voice. Robbie’s voice. It brings people together. Gives trust. Obviously, from McClean and McCarthy — I don’t expect it from them.”
And perhaps more than any other of his seniors, it’s Richard Dunne who Trapattoni hopes will be back for the bigger tests to come.
“I pray, I hope, I’m sure he will be back for Germany. He will be very, very important. I spoke with him. Richard is Richard, an experienced international. And Germany is a tough game.”
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