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Time for Trap to take the handbrake off

Trapattoni needs to adopt a style that encourages the type of football Ireland displayed in Paris two years ago if they are to gain favour in the eyes of the Irish public.

Trapattoni has managed Ireland for the past three years.
Trapattoni has managed Ireland for the past three years.

GLENN WHELAN MADE a telling assertion recently.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, the combative midfielder spoke of Giovanni Trapattoni’s insistence on instilling a defensive mindset in his side.

Whelan claimed that every player in the side would prefer to play a more attractive brand of football, but outlined the reason for their negative approach as follows:

“You go out and you’re told by the manager what to do and if you don’t do that, there are other players waiting to come in.

“I think every player would like to get a little more forward and adventurous but if the manager wants you to do a role then you have to do it.”

There was more than a hint of reluctance in Whelan’s analysis of the ultra-pragmatic style that Trapattoni appears determined to impose on the Irish set-up.

While it is ironic that the player who is arguably most suited to this system seems somewhat nonplussed by its restrictions, his less-than-glowing assessment of Trap’s methods is echoed by a significant portion of the Irish public.

And the system he employs is as divisive as the man himself.

There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to judging the Ireland boss.

  • His supporters rightly point out that he has resurrected Ireland from the doldrums of the Staunton era and introduced a level of discipline and professionalism into the side – a professionalism that was inconspicuous even in the peak years of the Charlton era, which were characterised by a work-hard-play-hard ethos.
  • However, Trapattoni’s detractors, while acknowledging the improvements he has made to the side, suggest flaws exist in his obstinate management style.

Despite his high wages, he rarely attends Premier League games – a factor exacerbated by his often eccentric team selections, in which a player’s form outside the Ireland set-up sometimes appears almost irrelevant.

Moreover, the Italian seems to actively discourage an excess of forward movement from anyone other than his wingers and strikers, in addition to promoting a philosophy in which possession is significantly less than nine-tenths of the law.

Fans who subscribe to Trap’s footballing worldview will claim Ireland aren’t good enough to play with a more positive attitude. However, the evidence of the Paris play-off – easily Ireland’s most positive and best performance under Trapattoni – contradicts such arguments.

There was a suggestion that, on this occasion, players bravely ignored Trapattoni, refusing for once to act on his instructions and instead adopting a more expansive style, without sacrificing the Italian’s core principles of discipline and organisation.

However, since then, Ireland have arguably receded and conformed to a playing style in which fear of the ball is the prevailing characteristic.

The Irish team will most likely adhere to this system against Estonia and could conceivably still qualify regardless.

Last month, they beat Armenia – who are arguably superior to Estonia – despite at times being out-passed by their opponents, as well as enjoying a large dose of luck during the game.

But even if Ireland qualify, they will face sides far superior to Estonia and Armenia next summer – sides with the ability to expose Trap’s rigid system as effortlessly as Russia did on two occasions during this qualifying campaign.

Consequently, Ireland’s prospective Euro 2012 qualification would likely prove to be a damp squib, more akin to the lows that the Irish rugby team’s 2007 World Cup performance prompted, rather than the highs of Italia 90.

Therefore, unless a radical alteration in style is imminently initiated, Trapattoni’s Ireland tenure is likely to end in an underwhelming fashion, remembered mainly for a few hollow victories against teams without the necessary skills to expose our frailties.

Oh well, we’ll always have Paris.

Read: Shay Given sits out Ireland squad training at Malahide>

Poll: Should Jon Walters start up front for Ireland?

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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