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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Curious Case of Wesley Sneijder

The statistics jump out at you, yet they underwhelm you. 1 goal and 5 assists in 15 games, only four of which were 90-minute appearances.
Wesley Sneijder’s campaign has been marred by injuries, disappointment and utter confusion as to what has happened to his form. Between injuries and the impression that he has looked uncomfortable playing under Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri, the 27-year old has an uncertain future for Inter and needs to redeem himself under Andrea Stramaccioni.

An obvious theory for Sneijder’s decline may be simply put, his tactical positioning. Gone are the days of Jose Mourinho’s well-composed 4-2-3-1, giving Sneijder the creative license of a classic trequartista, spraying killer passes in the final third of the pitch. Inter began this season playing in 3 straight bands of a 3-4-3 under Gasperini, which eventually turned into a 3-5-2 and Gasperini’s sacking after 5 winless games.

There was too much emphasis on Sniejder shuttling up and down the pitch, making him unable to assume his natural role behind Inter’s forwards. Although he was injured for several games during Ranieri’s tenure with the club, he was unable to acclimate towards the strange hybrid of a 4-4-2 and 4-3-1-2 that existed on Ranieri’s watch.

Another reason for Wesley’s decline can be seen in the alarming frequency of shots he has taken for Inter. After scoring five goals at the World Cup in 2010, Sneijder seems to be attempting to equal his goalscoring prowess in domestic seasons. The following stats include Serie A and Champions League games:

    2009-10 (treble season): 35 games, 7 goals, 12 assists, 3.3 shots per game
    Summer of 2010: 5 goals in World Cup
    2010-11: 31 games, 7 goals, 7 assists, 4.8 shots per game
    2011-12: 17 games, 1 goal, 6 assists, 3.7 shots per game

As you can see, Sneijder has been taking an increased number of shots but has not had a proportionate rate of actual goal-scoring.

So now that Andrea Stramaccioni is utilizing a new 4-3-3 formation, Wesley has the opportunity to get healthy and reinvent himself before the season ends. A current player that Sneijder can try to emulate to regain his form is Frank Lampard. Although Sneijder is not the industrious box-to-box midfielder that Lampard is, he can benefit from playing as the highest midfielder in a 4-3-3 as Lampard does. This will again place the primary playmaking duties on Sneijder’s shoulders, something he is more than capable of doing if he is healthy and motivated.

Since last summer, an exhaustive amount of transfer rumors have been swirling around Wesley, as a move to Manchester United being the most popular hypothetical. Sneijder’s future at Inter is truly a question mark right now, but if he is to stay with the Nerazzurri, he needs to adjust to Stramaccioni’s system as swiftly as possible.

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