Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Spring in Trap step

Buzzing Irish boss plays down Gibson hopes of making starting line-up for Andorra clash

THE trip to Armenia and back might have been a long one for a man recovering from a stomach operation, but Giovanni Trapattoni was in no mood for sitting down and relaxing this weekend.

For the Italian, football is the best tonic. So, a matter of hours after his return from Yerevan, the Irish manager was springing from his seat and pacing around the press conference room in Malahide's Grand Hotel demonstrating where his team went wrong with set-pieces in their opening Euro 2012 qualifying win.

The enthusiasm is infectious. Some reckoned that the 71-year-old wasn't looking his best when he first met with his players last Monday to begin preparations for this double-header. However, there was no doubting his energy during the reflections on a precious win in the Armenian capital.

The significance of the victory cannot be underestimated, with the achievement enhanced by the reflections of players who detailed just how draining the heat was. Lungs were burning within 15 minutes and a young Armenian side tested the battery levels further.

To regroup and score a late success with a team packed with individuals short of match fitness makes it one of the more notable successes of the Trapattoni era.

Unlike some of the other triumphs, it has been well received, with the addition of Liam Brady to the RTE panel bringing considerable perspective, when, in the last campaign, similar displays were met with a deluge of criticism.

In fact, it is Trapattoni himself who has provided more criticism than most, stating in the aftermath that a draw might have been the fair result.

"There were negatives," he said. "We didn't play well like we did against Algeria, the second half of Argentina, or against France and Italy.

"The reason is simple, because players in the team have not played many games and there isn't balance in the team. Two or three do not have fitness," he added.

"We made silly mistakes," he said, before launching into the tutorial on why his team needed to be more aware when it came to set-pieces. He felt they needed to take them quicker and show a bit more invention and movement, similar to the last campaign where they proved to be a useful source of goals.


So, now to Andorra. Realistically, a penalty-kick, and the entire camp are aware of it. Complacency is the real opponent.

Aside from the three points, another target is the avoidance of silly yellow cards. Andorra have a record of indiscipline and a physical approach that can provoke.

Glenn Whelan was the only Irishman to pick up a caution in Yerevan and assistant Marco Tardelli admitted yesterday it's possible the Stoke City star could be rested, although he didn't seem too strong on it. Another yellow would rule him out of the crucial showdown with Russia next month.

Barring late injuries, midfield appears to be the most likely area where the team might change. Don't bet on it, though.

Given that Ireland will likely be on the offensive throughout, Trapattoni was asked if there would be temptation to bring in Darron Gibson, considering his prowess in the goalscoring department.

Alas, Il Capo wants to educate Paul Green further, believing he will benefit in the long run from a difficult first half in Armenia.

Indeed, Gibson looks to be in a tight spot, with Trapattoni reckoning that the Derry lad lacks that little bit of bite for his midfield role.

Furthermore, his conviction is that the 22-year-old will find it difficult to hone that side of his game at Manchester United, a team who spend the majority of their games in the ascendancy.

From his own past, Trapattoni drew a comparison. He was picked for the Italian national team ahead of a talented footballer named Romano Fogli because he was a grafter and offered better protection to the back four.

"He chose me because I had this quality," reflected Trapattoni. "I even asked myself why Fogli didn't play. I like Gibson. He plays beautiful football. But with United, when they play the other teams, I think they (the opposition) are afraid. It would be important for him to go to another team, to get hunger."

Andorra might offer an opportunity for Gibson, but it's apparent that he will be on the bench for the crunch October qualifiers with Russia and Slovakia unless there is an influx to the treatment table.

"I think getting many goals will not be easy," continued the manager, assessing the Andorra challenge. "But I think the beautiful stadium deserves a good show."

After missing the opening night meeting with Argentina, there's nowhere else that the old man would rather be.

Irish Independent

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