He is the greatest player in the history of our country, the greatest national team coach in the history of our country, one of the most likable people coming from our country, and with his calm demeanor he has achieved one of Bosnia’s only accomplishments in the past two decades. Yet, like every man, he has his flaws.
Pape’s flaws don’t come from how he played as a player. He was almost flawless, being declared by France Football in 2010 as the best player in the history of Paris Saint-Germain. Certainly one of the best players to come out of the former Yugoslavia, if not the best. Don’t believe me? Just check out some of his highlights below:
Yeah, his flaws don’t lie in his playing days. They lie here, in his coaching days.
Make no mistake about it, he achieved quite possibly the greatest accomplishment Bosnia has ever had as an independent nation, (I know, that’s not saying much, but still) by qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And for that, he should be applauded. He kept his cool under pressure and kept much of our players in check during these qualifiers. He deserves all the praise in the world and deserves to be at the helm for the World Cup.
I have so much difficulty criticizing this guy is because he is really likable, and I have the utmost respect for him. But, ever since that friendly against the United States, Bosnia has lost 3 of its last 6 games (winning two of those by only one goal), after going undefeated for 9 straight games since the end of last year. Fittingly so, that game against the U.S. showed Safet’s main flaws when it comes to his tactics.
Here is the starting lineup for that friendly against the U.S.:
First off, notice how imbalanced the right side of our pitch is. We have no defenders on that side. Salihovic is not a full back, he is a midfielder who is used at that position by Safet because, in his words, he has “no other solution” there when Mujdza is injured. Not only is there no defender there to stop the crosses coming in, but there’s no midfielder to slow the attack down the right flank.
I’m not entirely sure which of the two between Pjanic and Misimovic is supposed to be on that right sideline, but regardless, neither of them stay there for long. Even if Susic were to give instructions to Pjanic or Misimovic to make sure to stay on the right side of the pitch, it would simply not work, as neither of those players are right midfielders, they are both central midfielders who like to play up and down the middle.
This is a problem that has emerged in all of our struggles recently, as it was one of the main reasons why we were killed on our right side of the pitch in the recent game against Argentina, except this time it was Vrsajevic instead of Salihovic, who, believe it or not, is an even worse solution to that problem. Vrsajevic was left chasing behind Argentina’s attackers all game, as he simply doesn’t know how to stay back and was pushing up far all game. Vrsajevic just doesn’t work as a right back.
And herein lies Safet’s main problem: He chooses his starting 11 first, and then places them in a formation.
Meaning, he simply picks his 11 “best” players and somehow organizes them on the pitch. Because of this, in his eyes Salihovic is a must start. And Misimovic. And Ibisevic. He is left with nothing to work with because all of these players “can’t sit on the bench”.
He’s too loyal to certain players. He needs to be a coach and make some tough decisions. Instead of looking at the obvious and seeing the fact that Salihovic or Vrsajevic are not full backs, nor is Misimovic a right midfielder, Safet picks 11 players and simply says “go”.
This method worked, up until a point. When one of our players goes down or when we face a stronger opponent, this method doesn’t work. You have to have a balanced formation to play against the bigger teams. You can’t have 8 attackers and 3 defenders out there like he did against Argentina (Yes, this did happen, only three of our players stayed back while the other 8 pushed forward). It simply doesn’t work.
And no, he can’t use the excuse he has used in every loss so far, the fact that we are a small country and have “no viable solutions”. Because we do.
Let’s use the game against Argentina as a prime example as to how these problems are fixable.
First off, the right back position. No way Vrsajevic should have started at that position against some of the best offensive players in the world (Aguero, Di Maria, Higuain). He provides nothing on the defensive end, and this should have been a priority for Safet against Argentina.
Solution? Emir Dilaver, right back for Austria Wien. He technically has Austrian nationality, but a little persuading by our FA and some talks with Susic can get him on our side easily. But no, Susic has done none of this and seems to refuse to pursue another solution.
Or how about Gordon Bunoza, like I suggested in my earlier article, Bosnian Prospects Worthy of a Call Up? Well, Safet has claimed he likes his full backs to be “speedy”, so he claims Bunoza wouldn’t work. That plan has done wonders for you, hasn’t it? By not being creative and being lazy, he has created this right back dilemma for himself.
Next, the fact that he started two (three?) strikers against one of the best attacking teams in the world blows my mind. I say three because Misimovic plays up as if he is a striker, but doesn’t touch the ball as if he is a goalkeeper. Both Ibisevic and Misimovic should have been benched that match, and Safet should have started Hajrovic (right midfielder anyone?) and Zahirovic (defensive midfielder) over those two. We would have at least stood a chance.
To reiterate, we do have solutions Safet, but they won’t fall in your lap like the Kolasinac situation every time. Of course we are not like other countries to have significant backups, but the solutions are there. It’s just up to you to find them.