A year of awkward evolution for Trap's methods
Manager has been forced to take stock ahead of Sweden tie, writes Dion Fanning
At the beginning of 2012, many in Ireland were expecting a fantastic year. In January, those who anticipated three crushing losses in the European Championships and a record home defeat in September existed but they were in a minority. If they had been told that the management would reflect on those events and used the word "fantastic" to describe it, they would have assumed that it was part of some hard-nosed negotiation for a pay-off.
Instead Giovanni Trapattoni (below) and Marco Tardelli remain in position while insisting that they were merely the victims of circumstance.
They may have retreated a bit from Tardelli's claim that it had been a "fantastic" year but in his final media engagement of the week, Trapattoni was still highlighting all they had done, pointing to the victory in the Carling Nations Cup as one of their successes.
At times they insist that their methods are still the best even when they are now doing something else, like attending matches for example.
Trapattoni wasn't at a game in England this weekend but last week he explained how he had noticed things in Shane Long's game when he attended Wigan-West Brom. In the past, Trapattoni was influenced most by what his players did when they joined up with the Irish squad, which explains the rise of Paul Green and Simon Cox. He may not change but now at least by attending games, he can see every aspect of a player's performance.
Trapattoni spent the week defending his failure to bring Seamus Coleman to the European Championships. He can point to Coleman's good form for Everton this season but this is undermined by Trapattoni's selection of other players when they weren't playing for their clubs.
Coleman dominated the friendly against Greece from right-back on Wednesday and the options he brings to his side by getting forward can have a dramatic impact on the way Ireland play.
Trapattoni has hinted that he will return to 4-4-2 in the spring which would be a mistake but if he continues to encourage Coleman to play his natural game then he will give Ireland some hope. Others like James McCarthy and Shane Long must be encouraged too. Wes Hoolahan demonstrated for club and country that he can bring imagination to any side.
Ireland have talent but Trapattoni insists: "We must take account of reality."
For him, this means he can explain away any defeat. Coleman has the ability to play regularly in the Champions League, whether with Everton or elsewhere, but Trapattoni will point to the position of other players at mid-table clubs as a reason for Ireland's failure.
He recalled playing against Irish players who had strong personalities and played for big clubs like Celtic and, er, Rangers.
Trapattoni stresses that the players don't play for the big clubs like Rangers anymore but he says his winter will be spent watching DVDs and looking for weaknesses in a Swedish side which is able to score goals.
"We study how it's possible to win. We'll be studying very carefully how to attack and where to attack without just going out with our chests wide open ready to be shot at," he said.
Trapattoni is less persuasive when talking about defensive solidity since his side started conceding goals at will.
He is still able to talk up the merits of the underdog, stressing that Sweden, like Ireland, have only "two lungs and one heart". Last week, when he could be understood which wasn't very often, he spoke of how anything could be achieved if his side believed. Yet the problem of 2012 was the management made a persuasive case to the media but when it came to competing in matches, it was the manager, not the players, who appeared to lack belief.
Sunday Indo Sport