After schooling by Slovakia, Trap’s depleted squad rolls into Moscow ripe for picking.
DO we need another two years of Giovanni Trapattoni? That's a serious question for anyone who thought that hiring a legend was fastest route down the yellow brick road and, like everyone else, has watched Ireland disappear up a tactical cul de sac.
There was a good deal of shuffling in seats among the worthy members of the FAI on the flight to Moscow. At one point, Trapattoni sauntered down the aisle grinning genially and chewed the fat, fully aware that these lads want to rehire him but at half the price.
The revelation yesterday, so far unchallenged by anyone in Abbotstown, that Trap is still the object of the FAI's desires but that they want to hack 50pc off his wages, was greeted by Marco Tardelli with typically Italian insouciance.
“I spoke with John Delaney two or three days ago, he never told me about this. For me, it's speculation. Also, two years ago, we took a cut in our contracts,” he said.
They want to cut you by 50pc Marco.
“Not that much,” he said with a grin. “I don't understand well in English. But John Delaney didn't talk to me about that.
“Many times we speak with John and the board to decide to continue or not. For us, you know our idea, we want to stay on.”
And must Ireland reach a play-off, at least, for that to happen?.
“We don't have any such targets. If the board want me and Giovanni to stay here, it okay. But there is nothing to be discussed at the moment.”
Indeed. All such thoughts must take second place to the urgency of the job at hand in Moscow, although most Ireland fans are gloomy and downbeat about prospects after the performance and result against Slovakia on Friday evening at the Aviva.
Whether Trapattoni is still the Ireland manager in two or three months |rests totally on events in Russia. The mathematicians among us have worked the numbers in Group B and the formula is very simple. Win everything from this point forward and that's it. Top of the group and on the way to the Euro 2012 finals.
Drop points or lose and the gig is up. Sure, there will be long hours spent adding and subtracting and trying to get to grips with the finer points of UEFA's complicated qualification rules – but when the time has come for that, hope is ebbing fast.
Whether Trapattoni can survive such a scenario is difficult to predict.
Nobody outside his inner circle knows what is in Dennis O'Brien's
mind and, let's face it, without him even a 50pc reduction in salary |would not be enough to make him affordable.
Trapattoni comes with knobs on. Tardelli earns more than a half million and the salaries mount up behind him from Fausto the fitness guru through the masseurs and |all the way to England and the |extended scouting network there.
So rehiring him involves much more than a bit of a haggle over the cash, particularly when there is now a very large question mark hovering over his team and the direction he has forged for it.
Everyone can see the problem. |It's not as if you need a degree in professional football earned in the kind of environment John Giles, Ronnie Whelan or Eamon Dunphy grew up in.
There is a big hole in Trapattoni's |system which was ruthlessly exploited by Russia a year ago at the Aviva and to a lesser degree by Slovakia a few nights back.
Everyone sees it and if Ireland supporters can, opposing managers don't have to watch many dvds to gather the same knowledge.
When the players are right, |when they are fit and motivated, the system provides a good framework but nothing more.
On it's own, it has been proven to be inadequate in the face of top ranked teams in crucial qualification games.
It should be acknowledged that Trapattoni put out a team against Slovakia which contained about a half dozen who were not really fit |but that was a call which was questionable, to say the least.
Particularly when Aiden McGeady announced after the game that he felt he was thrown in at the deep end after a two-month absence through injury.
This statement drove a cart |and horses through Trapattoni's assertion that he only wanted fully-fit
men to play against Slovakia and that he is now very happy with the balance of the squad and the back-up he has.
Both Trapattoni and Tardelli have spoken much about this in the last few weeks and about how much how they trust all of the players in the squad to observe the rules of the system.
“The players changed but the system stays the same,” said Trap when he extolled the virtues of lads like Stephen Ward, Darren O'Dea, Simon Cox and Kevin Foley.
But Trapattoni didn't follow his own script against Slovakia. It was obvious that John O'Shea was less than himself on Friday night and no surprise at all that he is now back in England. He wasn't right from the start.
As McGeady indicated himself, he was not anywhere near match-fit and using Trap's logic, Stephen Hunt would have started.
Kevin Doyle wasn't physically up to the job but still Tardelli insists that there is a some psychological issue which is preventing the Wexford man from shaking off the aftermath of his serious knee injury.
“He has a problem because he was out for many months,” claimed Tardelli.
“It's about whether he's mentally fit. But that can change in a day and he worked well in in training.”
This is the background to Moscow. Add in Sean St Ledger's suspension and Shane Long's withdrawal because of a tear in his calf muscle and you have a gloomy picture indeed.