Don't expect overnight change from Trapattoni's Ireland in Serbia friendly

There will be a host of fresh faces in the Ireland squad for tonight's friendly against Serbia but Trap will favour evolution of his team and not revolution
By Ronan Murphy

A poor European Championship has led many Irish fans to write off their side's chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup before a ball has even been kicked in anger. Some have already written Giovanni Trapattoni's managerial obituary, claiming that his system and tactics are destined to fail against the likes of Germany, Sweden and Austria. The demand for wholesale change is greater than it has been in any time since Steve Staunton was manager. However, as anyone who has paid attention to Trap's tenure as Ireland boss knows, change will come gradually.

Tonight's Serbia game offers a chance for a new beginning for Ireland, a chance to move on from a disastrous Euro 2012, and believe it or not, that's exactly what Giovanni Trapattoni is trying to do. His initial squad announcement had all the indications of a new era. The five most senior players were left out in favour of less experienced players. Nine of the 23 players initially selected had 10 caps or fewer, and withdrawals forced Trapattoni to call upon another three from that category.

Yet the fans still weren't happy, and never will be when each fan has their own list of overlooked players that are being ignored by Trapattoni. Attempts to call up injured Norwich duo Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington were not enough. Where was Stephen Ireland, David Meyler, Alex Pearce, Marc Tierney, and so on and so on.

The announcement of the starting XI v Serbia hinted at yet more change. Marc Wilson probably would have started had he not pulled out through injury, but even still, Trapattoni is trying Stephen Kelly at left back. Midfield looks to be a perfect blend of experience and youth with Aiden McGeady and Glenn Whelan holding 94 caps between them, while James McCarthy and James McClean are both set to win cap number four. In fact, tonight's match will be both players' second start for Ireland.

James McClean
James McCarthy
Keiren Westwood

Change under Trapattoni is gradual. Players get the chance to prove themselves in friendlies and then can force their way into the first team. Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan and Simon Cox all showed that hard work under Trapattoni and good performances in friendlies can guarantee you competitive international football. It just takes time to oust your predecessor.

Similarly, Trapattoni was never going to make a sea change tactics-wise after Euro 2012. His rigid 4-4-2 system was never going to be abandoned in favour of a new formation with so many absentees. There would be little point in getting players used to a 4-3-3 when only four or five of the players may take to the pitch against Kazakhstan and Germany. Trapattoni has played 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 with his teams in the past, but only when he had the right players for the job. A five man midfield with the players available to him against Serbia would be destined to fail, and with only three fit strikers remaining, a 4-3-3 also had to be ruled out.

Perhaps the friendly against Oman in London will be a better example of how Trapattoni can change the system. He should have most of his key players match-sharp after taking on Kazakhstan four days previously, and may be able to prepare them for October's crunch tie with Germany. As for now though, fans should not expect sudden change. There may be a few new faces in the team and on the bench, but this is the same Ireland that we've had since 2008. Don't be surprised if Trap sticks with it for another two years.