When Andrea Ranocchia arrived as a fully-fledged first team player at Pinetina in January, it was said that the youngster was on his way to becoming a defensive lynchpin for both Inter and Italy for some years to come. With excellent statistics for both Bari and Genoa in his previous Serie A assignments, many overlooked the lack of raw materials which has been highlighted since he broke into Leonardo’s first team plans.
A product of the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi, he developed an excellent partnership with Leonardo Bonucci during his time on loan with the Biancorossi and went on to share in a solid start defensively for Genoa at the start of the current campaign.
But a closer look at his performances belied the stats. With a tendency to give the ball away too readily, he had also earned a reputation for being good in the air despite issues with the timing of his jump. To add to that, there had been reason to question his positioning when being run at with any pace, exposing his own lack of speed.
|ANDREA RANOCCHIA | His last six games
|Jekyll and Hyde to say the least||Failed to cope with the movement of Milan||Wasn't the worst defender, but only because Chivu was sent off||A poor piece of play in the first half let Moscardelli through||Where he was running to when Raul scored is anybody’s guess||One of his worst performances for the Nerazzurri|
While there may well be the opportunity to address these issues out of the spotlight when playing for a mid-table side, at the top of the game there is no hiding place, which Ranocchia has found out to his great cost since the European champions bought his full rights in the winter. Following a shaky first month or so, he seemed to be finding his feet with a string of good showings after being moved from the right side of central defence to the left. The switch had no real logic about it in terms of fixing the problems which had dogged the 23-year-old, but it had seen an upturn nonetheless.
However, his last six games have seen a marked regression once more, with mistakes of varying forms having cost Inter in all but one of the half-dozen outings. His nadir undoubtedly came in the shameful 5-2 home defeat to Schalke, but the return leg wasn’t much better for him – especially when running away from Raul’s run as the striker scored with ease – and Saturday’s performance against Parma was so bad that after being outdone regularly by Sebastian Giovinco, he ran off chasing the ball and allowed Amauri the time and space to score. Yes, that Amauri.
|RANOCCHIA IN 2011
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While Bonucci and Davide Astori – among others – have shown some occasional promise, this is no golden era for the country’s back-line. The likes of Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Giuseppe Bergomi and Gaetano Scirea do not look set to be trumped any time soon as defensive icons. So as much as there are problems for Italy in their long search for a new No.10, there are similar worries over their next great No.6. Has it really gotten so bad that a player such as Ranocchia can have so many basic difficulties about his game and yet be near-canonised in some quarters?
Since Fabio Cannavaro started to slip towards retirement and Alessandro Nesta decided to take the jump early, Italy’s national side has been eagerly searching for an answer at the back, but in the Ranocchia they have only more questions. When Leonardo is inevitably replaced on the San Siro bench in the summer his replacement will want the club to refresh an underperforming defence, and the Inter centre-back may well need to spend a long time ironing out his imperfections to save his future with the club. And if he struggles to maintain a place at Inter, then the future of Italian defending will not lie in Ranocchia.
- There has been a welcome break from the recent trend of widely predicted results over the past week. After suspicion had been raised over games including Atalanta-Piacenza, Atalanta-Padova, Brescia-Bologna and Chievo-Sampdoria, last Monday’s Modena-Atalanta Serie B clash had been tipped for a draw but was won 2-1 at the death by the Bergamo side’s Sasa Bjelanovic. And yesterday Chievo beat Bologna 2-0 in another game expected to finish level, continuing a refreshingly unpredictable run.
- Udinese last night proved they have more than just Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez to be proud of as they turned in a classic away day performance to take all three points from title-chasing Napoli. One moment of note though came when Gokhan Inler refused to celebrate his opening goal, a decision which comes at a time when he has been heavily linked with the Campania club and Zebrette president Giampaolo Pozzo has admitted his midfielder could be set to leave. His restraint last night suggests that if the player himself has anything to do with it he will be wearing the famous azzurro shirt next season.
- The Friuli club's win means they are still hot on the heels of Lazio, who themselves secured an excellent 4-1 away victory in Catania. Fortress Massimino was breached with some ease as the Roman club made hay up front, with three of their four starting attackers finding the scoresheet. It's a result which should make everyone sit up and take notice as the Biancocelesti look to overcome a tricky run-in to earn the prized fourth spot, while for the Sicilian club it may be little more than a sign that they expect to be able to coast their way through the final five games.
- Lecce scored twice late on to grab an unlikely 3-3 draw at home to Cagliari after a Robert Acquafresca double had looked set to punish the Salentini. The Giallorossi's comeback showed that the team still have more than enough fighting spirit to continue their decent run of results until the end of the season. Their convincing 2-0 victory over Juventus was the highlight of their recent run but, while Sampdoria continue their freefall, the southern side have not rested on their laurels and now have a great chance to secure a second season in Serie A.
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