Sunday 10 December 2017

Whelan urges tactical rethink as midfield pair take 'hammering'

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GLENN Whelan has made a strong plea to Giovanni Trapattoni to move with the times and change his tactics as Ireland pick up the pieces from their devastating Euro 2012 lesson.

The Stoke midfielder owes his international career to Trapattoni and respects that the Italian's chosen system was reasonably effective in qualifying.

But he's had enough of being outnumbered in midfield, and feels that, in tandem with engine room partner Keith Andrews, he has suffered criticism that is more to do with the failings of a 4-4-2 rather than their individual contribution.

"I think so," replied Whelan, when asked on Saturday if Ireland needed to adopt different tactics going forward.

"Me and Keith have taken a hammering from all over, but I don't think we have played against a 4-4-2 since I've been in the team, so that hasn't been easy.

"The manager has gone with a system that has got us here and whatever he thinks is best for the team, then he will do it, and you have to get on with it, but if it's been me and Keith as the two in there, it has been difficult."

"I can't remember the last international team we have faced that played 4-4-2. A lot of teams nowadays are playing the five in midfield or three up top."

Nevertheless, the Dubliner acknowledged that Ireland have proved more adept at coping with the disadvantage in the past.

"It's how we deal with it," he continued. "And we haven't done that in the last two games. It's easy to say that now as an excuse, that it's system, but it is the one that got us here."

Whelan is keen to end the competition on a high in tonight's match with Italy. He insists that he has enjoyed the major tournament experience despite the crushing reverses against Croatia and Spain. Not surprisingly, it's the encouragement of the supporters that has made it more bearable.

"After two defeats, you more or less wish you would get a few boos because you know that's what you should be getting," he said, honestly.

"But they haven't been like that at all. They have been the best fans you could ever ask for, and hopefully we can give them something to shout about."

Naturally, it's the Croatia game that really hurts Whelan upon reflection. He says there is no disgrace in getting thrashed by Spain. Still, he accepts that unacceptable mistakes have been made. "Since I've been here, we've always been hard to beat," he said, "And the last two games, we've been easy to beat, by giving goals after three minutes.

"It's just sloppiness. He (Trapattoni) has done great for us to get here, as we all know how long it's been. But it's a case now of 'yeah, great, we got here, but we have to do better when we get to the big tournaments and make sure it's not going to take us 24 years or 10 years to get to another'.

"We've come here with high expectations and haven't delivered. That is the big thing for the group of lads that will be around, to make it a regular thing. If we qualify for Brazil, we'll have the experience of what happened here."

Will Ireland have the experience of Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne? That is another question, and Whelan feels they must be given space to make a decision. But the show will go on either way.

"We know how great they've been for the country," he stated. "There are lads waiting and hanging around and trying their hearts out to get on. If it's a case of these lads moving on, then so be it. The Ireland team will move on, and other players will come through. But you can never knock what these lads have done for their country."

Irish Independent

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