Trap's Summer wish-list
Published 04/03/2010 | 05:00
THE conservative approach to team selection adopted by Giovanni Trapattoni for Tuesday's Brazilian lesson at the Emirates Stadium meant that, rather than learning about the players present, he learned more about what he is missing.
By and large, the Italian stuck with the tried and trusted from the World Cup qualifying campaign in terms of his starting line-up and substitutes with the exception of James McCarthy who enjoyed a 20-minute cameo in difficult circumstances.
The avoidance of reshuffle was always the plan. Given the two-day build-up, Trapattoni reckoned there wasn't enough time to implement widespread changes and indoctrinate newcomers into his system.
Indeed, as the game progressed, he reasoned it would be unfair to throw defenders Marc Wilson and Greg Cunningham in for international debuts at a time when the Brazilians were growing in confidence and swagger. Such experiences can sometimes leave a mark.
Instead, it will be summertime when Trapattoni gets around to the business of trying out hopefuls although it would be stretching it to suggest that he will dramatically alter his personnel for the friendlies with Paraguay and Algeria.
Prior to that, however the Irish boss hopes to a stage a warm-weather training camp similar to the trip to the Algarve which kick-started his regime and launched the international career of Glenn Whelan in particular; on the flip side, Andy Reid's absence from that trip set the Sunderland midfield schemer on the slippery road to exile.
As yet, the FAI have been unable to arrange a similar sojourn for Trapattoni who mentioned Corsica and Sardinia as possible venues before conceding that is standard practice to be invited rather than to make the running independently.
Oceanico laid on the welcome two years ago, but they no longer have a relationship with Abbotstown authorities who will need to find a solution to appease their manager who has placed great emphasis on a training camp with respect to plotting the way towards the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
While Brazil offered a test far above what the Irish will encounter in their European Championship qualifying group, the exercise at the Emirates delivered Trapattoni a reminder of the resources at his disposal, with the unavailability of key figures like Richard Dunne and John O'Shea shining particular light on the quality of the back-up.
If a May soiree is to shape the second half of Trapattoni's reign, then there are certain areas which need to be addressed in terms of dishing out the invitations.
The faith which Trapattoni has in Paul McShane is remarkable given the Hull man's error-prone nature. Sean St Ledger, who has endured a rough stint at club level since Paris, looked considerably less assured without the calming presence of Dunne alongside.
Stephen Kelly did an adequate job at right full, while Kevin Kilbane continues to persevere in trying circumstances on the other side.
In short, it's the area of the park where the Italian has the most problems. The likes of Alex Bruce and Damien Delaney have been in or around the squad but clearly fall short of his standards while Darren O'Dea has stalled at Celtic although he is worth bringing along in May.
Trapattoni needs to identify other possibilities. Cunningham and Wilson will be given a chance, while Wolves' Stephen Ward should be summoned as a battle-hardened left-back alternative.
The promotion of Shane Duffy is worthwhile with a view to the long term as well, with natural centre-halves in short supply; Wilson may play there currently at Portsmouth, yet he believes that his best position is a holding midfield role. Duffy's club colleague, ex-Sligo right-back Seamus Coleman, is another in the frame.
It's a topical issue with the recruitment of Duffy and discussions over the courting of Jamie O'Hara. How far should Trapattoni go? His viewpoint is clear enough.
"That is the law of the market," he says. "It's not easy, because it is controversial. But if we need another player... it is normal economics. We need as many players as possible."
In short, Trapattoni is in no mood to consider the moral dilemma arising from going in search of the best players possible, even though he previously acknowledged that individuals with the right character must be recruited rather than those who could potentially unsettle the dressing-room if their commitment appears to be dubious.
O'Hara is clearly on the agenda, a talented left-footed central midfielder who offers a certain amount of versatility and is proficient in dead-ball situations. It makes sense to introduce new faces at the beginning of a journey so they can bed into the set-up. That said, the 70-year-old needs to give Keith Fahey an opportunity to impress.
The manager has spoken about it often enough, so now he needs to really put it into practice. From the baby steps in the training games in Portugal up to and including Tuesday night, the formation has barely deviated from his chosen 4-4-2 with two deep-lying midfielders. For a portion of the Paraguay or Algeria matches, it would be appropriate to tinker around and operate an alternative line-up although he has consistently pointed out that the capabilities of his players determine the system.
In that respect, the emergence of James McCarthy has offered a window for change, with Trapattoni acknowledging that the 19-year-old was faced with a tough task on Tuesday, replacing Liam Lawrence on the right side of midfield in a role that arguably is unsuited to his ability.
"I am sure this is not his position but at this moment, he is maybe too young for the midfield role, he's not mature enough yet," said Trapattoni.
With precious little to gain from being cautious in May, the end of season period is the perfect opportunity to accelerate his education, unless there is someone else who could step in as a game-changing option from the bench for the time-being. Which brings us nicely onto...
Trapattoni can finish the Reid debate either way by inviting the Dubliner along to whatever training camp takes place and finding out if he really can be accommodated -- personal issues notwithstanding.
The Italian has consistently argued that he wanted Reid in the Algarve in 2008 so he could try out a 4-5-1 formation with the 27-year-old floating behind a lone striker. Alas, Reid didn't make it and the road to conflict was paved.
Now, at the early stages of planning towards another campaign, Trapattoni can offer many people's cause celebre a lifeline. Will it happen? When Reid was mentioned yesterday, the reflex reaction from Il Capo was to brush off the topic and bring up Stephen Ireland in the same breath. The difference is that the latter topic is out of the manager's hands. If Reid isn't awarded a place in an expanded party, then the door is shut once Trapattoni remains in situ.
Ireland were torn apart in the final half hour on Tuesday, with a split debate on whether the withdrawal of Glenn Whelan and an ineffective outing by his replacement Darron Gibson was a factor, or if it was just simply a case of the Brazilians moving up the gears regardless of the Irish personnel.
Considering he mixes with football royalty on a daily basis, and is reputedly part of Alex Ferguson's long-term plans, then it would be premature to deliver a final verdict on Gibson. He may not be the finished product, but he still promises to be a very important player in Ireland's future. All the same, Trapattoni was starved of other holding midfield options on Tuesday.
With Martin Rowlands sidelined, Liam Miller left out of this squad and Steven Reid forever surrounded by question marks, there is an opening there for somebody else to nip in and make a lasting impression in that role. Rowlands and Whelan adapted to Trapattoni's methods in the Algarve and booked their place in his affections.
Can the Italian spread the net to find other surprise packages this time?
As mentioned earlier, Wilson wishes to audition in that department, while Fahey, Owen Garvan and Chris McCann are other uncapped midfielders with aspirations even though, realistically, they do not fit Trapattoni's vision for a central option. Nevertheless, with nothing to lose, there's only one way to definitively find out.