Home > Liga I - Season 2017/2018 > Three names to watch in Craiova: Mangia, Ivan and Baluta

Three names to watch in Craiova: Mangia, Ivan and Baluta

Craiova won comfortably against Iasi, 2-0, in the opening game of Liga 1’s 100th edition. It was Mangia’s first official game in charge and it was exciting to watch. Changes were expected, although the squad is pretty much the same as last year, and the Italian’s work on the tactical side should get the deserved praise, as I don’t expect many teams in the league to actually have a game plan into place even three months from now…

Often used on the wing, Craiova’s highest rated player, Ivan, was sent upfront, supported by two quick and skilful attacking midfielders, Baluta and Gustavo, one breaching the lines through the middle, the other starting his actions from a wide role, but always aimed inside. The right side belongs to an attacking full-back who overlaps with consistency, the other flank to Bancu, both being able to get crosses in at a good rate. Baluta, the new number 10, stole the show. The fresh international scored the opening goal with a header, provided the assist for 2-0 and later on hit the crossbar with another header. Not bad at all from the 1,70 m player, who was struggling to add an end product to his runs last season, mostly used as a winger. The 23 years old looks set for a promising season, but not all eyes are on him.

Ivan is 20, wears the armband and surely has a more appealing profile, and this season – assuming he’s still in Craiova by the end of the transfer period – will have a big influence on his future career.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 16.28.18Expected to move abroad for more than a year now, he’s yet to convince a foreign club to table at least 3 million Euros. His stats are just one of the issues. Yet to score 10 goals in a season in a mediocre league, Ivan only confirmed in the first appearance of the new season that he needs to improve various aspects of his game, missing again a clear cut chance only because he tried to score a beautiful goal, instead of a, well, goal. By taking him off without second thoughts after 67 minutes, Mangia showed that he can do this talented player more good than a transfer abroad at this age, in a more competitive and demanding environment. Ivan is not ready for that, mentally and tactically. Let’s talk straight: he is not a winger, as previous coaches tried to convince everyone, including the player himself. Ivan always said he enjoyed to attack spaces and what every other coach did? They offered him the easy way out: ok, you’ll play wide, score the 2nd or 3rd goal on the break in the 90th minute, and with your great set of physical attributes, age and potential, the transfer will come. So far (not) so good. Ivan is still here, he cannot become a good winger in a top league and basically he has learned next to nothing in the past two years about playing upfront, centrally, where his future lies.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 15.48.58

Mangia just told him the following things: he’ll have to play as a 9; he’ll have to play better as a 9 than yesterday; he’ll have to take his chances and stop being so wasteful in front of the goal; he can’t take for granted his place in the 1st eleven, even though he’s the captain, the most valuable asset of the club and one of the few quality players in the side. Basically, the Italian just told a 20 years old who thinks everything will fall into place in his career what he would have learned, the hard way, in his first experience abroad. Ivan should swallow his pride, get his head down and learn / work. This season under Mangia could do him a lot of good. If he gets to play it, of course. It’s only July 15…

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