With Diego Alonso out, Inter Miami will call upon Phil Neville with the hope that he can steady the ship
Inter Miami has officially started from scratch – again. On January 6th, the club announced that they have mutually parted ways with Diego Alonso. In the parting statement, club Managing Owner Jorge Mas had this to say via Reuters:
“On behalf of the organization, I want to thank Diego for his hard work and dedication during our inaugural season and wish him the best in his future endeavors. This was a difficult year and a very tough decision for everyone, but we believe it is the right step for the Club. We have great expectations for Inter Miami in the short and long term.”
The man that the club has chosen to fulfill those expectations for the ‘short and long term’ is ex England Women’s National Team manager Phil Neville. Yes, Neville isn’t the sexiest name, nor does he have the accolades that Alonso brought, but what Neville can bring to South Florida is a more possession-based style. While Alonso was more of a “play it wide and cross it” type of manager, Neville has made it clear that he wants his teams to play out of the back.
Pace and Space vs Possession
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Inter Miami’s 2020 season was a dud.
The club fell flat of their own expectations and there were plenty of off the pitch issues (no stadium deal, lack of season ticket packages for fans, etc.) that eventually started to trickle on to the club’s performances on the pitch.
No shape, no identity, and a lack of true tactical direction can sum up Diego Alonso’s one year reign of Inter Miami.
He did manage to sneak the team into the playoffs, however, their 3-0 defeat to Nashville was further confirmation that Inter Miami ownership got it wrong.
In comes Phil Neville.
While Neville may not have the trophies, his tactical beliefs will see Inter Miami change their playing style quite drastically. For one, Neville has stated he likes to build from the back.
In an interview he did with The Coaches Voice, breaking down the Lionesses win against France at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, Neville stated that he wants to control possession by flooding the midfield with numbers:
“If you create an overload in midfield, and create [midfield] superiority then you’re going to control [the game.]”
This is diametrically opposed to Alonso’s tactics during his time with Inter Miami. During his tenure, he would often relinquish possession in order for his side to hit the opposition on the counter. Neville’s appointment will, perhaps, see Inter Miami control games a bit more instead of defending for large stretches of time.
With the creative players Miami has on the roster like Rodolfo Pizarro and Gonzalo Higuain, this switch to a short passing, possession-based style should put them, and the team, in a better position to not only score, but succeed. While Alonso may be the better coach, what is certain is that Neville will bring new ideas to the table.
The big question is what will the team chemistry look like after this tumultuous offseason? In a locker room filled with Spanish speakers and South Americans, how will Neville get on? Although his time at Valencia with his brother Gary Neville was underwhelming, Phil showed a willingness to immerse himself into Spanish culture.
In an interview with Valencia’s Youtube channel back in 2015, Neville expressed his excitement at living in another country and learning Spanish. When Neville steps foot into Inter Miami’s locker room, he will most likely do the same.
Neville has shown that he likes to create close bonds with his players, famously creating over 30 WhatsApp chats with his England National Team players in order to “understand what makes them tick.” Another interesting tidbit about Neville’s attention to detail comes from a quote from his assistant coach Bev Priestman, who stated:
“Phil’s man-management is world class so you have to allow him the time to concentrate on it and not get bogged down in the detail. It means he can get the best out of every player.”
If Inter Miami wants to improve on their 2020 record, Neville creating tight bonds with a flustered roster will be key.
Righting the Ship
There are a lot of MLS fans (and pundits) who believe that this is the wrong move. With all respect to their opinions, the likelihood that they’ve watched more than three Inter Miami games during the 2020 season is slim.
They genuinely have no idea how progressively worse Miami got during Alonso’s time at the club. There were far too many games last season where the team looked lost and uninspired.
From the beginning of the season, through the MLS is Back tournament, up until their lifeless playoff matchup against Nashville, Alonso failed to improve Miami in every aspect. Goals were hard to come by, constant switches in formations lead to players not getting comfortable in their original positions which lead to confusion on the pitch.
By the time December 2020 came around, the writing was on the wall for Alonso. Phil Neville’s appointment suggests that Inter Miami will be switching their philosophy in their second year of existence. Something needed to change, let’s wait and see if Neville is the correct choice.