Under heavy criticism since the start of the season, the Italian coach looks to have finally earned some credit and the quiet atmosphere that comes along with it. It might have been down only to Dinamo’s first winning streak of the season (the Red Dogs only managed a draw in Medias this weekend, after three consecutive wins) but behind this good run of results is a playing style that starts to define a team under construction, with a roster that combines the huge experience of Ionel Danciulescu and Catalin Munteanu and the youth spirit of George Tucudean, Cosmin Matei or Constantin Nica.
Very ugly in the beginning, refusing to play, sitting back and working only to frustrate the opposition, even if it was inferior in terms of squad quality and club size, Dinamo was heavily contested. Supported only by the board and a part of the fans, but at war with the influential agent Victor Becali and most of the journalists, Bonetti deserves credit for his consistency and the hidden work that lead to a surprising transformation of a team that now is quite difficult to play against. The more you try to hurt it, the bigger chances you’ll be the one to suffer, by the quick reaction of a tight unit able to unleash deadly counters. Lacking enough attacking flair and worried about a rather young defense which lost its pillar, Cosmin Moti, to Ludogorets this summer, Bonetti knew that he would have struggled to create a solid offensive team, so he started his work from the back. Using his first matches to put this to the test, he managed to calibrate his team in a matter of weeks, being lucky enough to get some points along the way (including a lucky last minute win against Petrolul). The climax was the impressive display against the revelation Pandurii, a team able to create – and waste – a ton of chances, but which allows you to do the same, if you can absorb this sort of pressure. And Dinamo certainly can, an ability that might see the team struggling to break weak, defensive opposition, but offer an advantage in the derbies that can decide, in the end, who deserves to be up there and who doesn’t.
Undefeated for almost a month now, Dinamo sits now in 5th place with 18 points and looks prepared to earn a European spot this season without glamorous displays, but with determination and hard work. And, comparing to the previous seasons, marked by an unrealistic, cocky approach, this time a place in the top five Romanian clubs will look like an achievement, not as a failure.
* foto from gsp.ro
Position last season: 5th place
Looking at the way they blew it last season, it’s difficult to find the guts to bet on the Red Dogs this term. They’ve dominated the league for half of season, then thought that changing Liviu Ciobotariu would produce a shock and deliver results, finishing in 5th place instead, as Dario Bonetti couldn’t deliver more than a Romanian Cup triumph. The Italian made a promising start though, winning the Supercup a few days ago, but he struggle to keep his position safe, once the results will be anything short of great. The fans have nothing against him, but they’re not close enough to the team in big numbers to influence things, the board members have different opinions, while the influential agents Victor and Giovani Becali are 100% against the man. Same story like last season, then?
Important transfers out: Cosmin Moti (central defender, key player); Djakaridja Kone (defensive midfielder, key player)
Two experienced, dedicated players who were part of the team’s back bone. Moti went to Ludogorets in search of a new challenge, while Kone’s playing a dangerous game. Wanted a couple of months ago in France, the move isn’t done yet and I wonder if the rumors had any truth in them or if this is just another agent playing with a client’s career. Anyway, both will be hard to replace, and Bonetti decided to move Srdjan Luchin in the middle (last season, regular starter at right back), with Cristian Scutaru, who played second division football last term, ready to step in and… that’s about it. Very delicate situation in the long run, but it’s not too late to add at least another name for this role.
Bulgarian centre-back Valentin Iliev, who is running out of contract with Steaua and has been linked with a return to CSKA Sofia in the summer, is the hero of this much anticipated derby, which filled the stands of the impressive National Arena. The 31 years old scored a brace that was enough to seal the win, after Rusescu’s penalty had cancelled the opening goal scored by Alexandru Curtean, after a nice move by Marius Alexe. With Vlad Chiriches again impressive at the back and Cristi Tanase posing a threat with his runs, Steaua ended the game with 22 shots and had almost twice as many clear cut chances to score.
Dinamo paid in the end for a very poor game from central defender Dragos Grigore, while upfront Marius Niculae looked to be struggling physically and lost his breath, feet and ideas on several occasions, and Dario Bonetti, the coach, didn’t miss another chance to have a shot at his players after the match, an approach that won’t help him stay too long at the red and white outfit.
After this huge win for Steaua’s fans (and terrible defeat for Dinamo’s ), there are only two points that separates them and FC Vaslui from the first spot, but unfortunately for both teams it’s all in the hands of league leaders CFR Cluj. Betting on the outcome of the title race remains very tricky and all eyes will be on tonight’s Cluj derby, hosted by Universitatea. After the interrupted match on the 8th of May, the decision was to replay the game from the first minute. Strange call, with no logic, as far as I’m concerned, as the incidents took place when CFR was leading 1-0 and the fights started because of Cadu’s goal celebration, but now both Steaua and Vaslui will hope for a favorable outcome, considering the fact that the title race ends in defeat for them in case CFR manages to get all the three points…
Dario Bonetti’s first game in charge wasn’t great. Dinamo lost against Gaz Metan Medias and the last 10 minutes were really difficult, as the home side managed to make it 2-1 and needed one more goal to overturn the 0-1 defeat suffered in the first leg.
The Italian decided to make small adjustments to the 4-4-2 that had failed to deliver under Liviu Ciobotariu, after some impressive displays and results in the first half of season. First of all, he added a second defensive midfielder, Dorel Stoica, who did three good things: 1. protected the back four well enough even if he didn’t look in top physical shape (both goals came from set plays); 2. allowed Djakaridja Kone to act higher up the pitch and use his energy and muscle to block the opposition’s build-up strategy earlier than usual; 3. scored Dinamo’s only goal, decisive for the step to the final. This lead to the usual playmaker, Catalin Munteanu, who also suffered an obvious dip in form, to move on the left wing, where he found more space and time to dwell on the ball and look for options, as well as send some quality crosses – something nobody else does at the moment for Dinamo.
The most important move made by Bonetti was the use of Marius Alexe in a different position, who moved from left midfielder to second striker – a role that (in my opinion too) suits him better, making him less predictable in movement and allowing him to get more scoring opportunities.
Even though it had little effect in last night’s game, this decision can have major implications not just for the young player who has been in disappointing form in the season he was supposed to prove himself too good for Liga I and ready to move abroad, but also for the team. If he will keep on playing there, there will be little to no space for Ionel Danciulescu, the veteran striker who is the club’s second scorer this term and the active player with the highest number of goals scored in the Romanian first division. This isn’t a surprise, as Danciulescu, who has scored over 200 goals in his Liga I career, had been forced by the same Italian coach to leave Dinamo a few years ago and move to Hercules Alicante, in the Spanish second division, a club he has helped at that time to gain promotion in La Liga.
If CFR Cluj got rid of Jorge Costa after a 0-5 defeat at home against another title contender, Dinamo Bucharest took the same call after a 1-3 defeat at home against Petrolul, a team that struggles to avoid relegation. In both cases, the boards went for coaches who have been previously in charge of the two teams, but if Ioan Andone has won a title with CFR, nothing notable springs to mind when you think of Dario Bonetti’s first spell with the Red Dogs.
Apparently recalled only to help as a supervisor of Liviu Ciobotariu, the Italian has to step in now that the coach refused to work in the new structure, but it’s clear from his and the board’s statements that this was the initial idea anyway. It’s not a wise move at all and, as I said in this earlier preview, Dinamo’s chances to win the league will suffer once the shareholders will give up on their surprisingly discrete role from the first half of the season…
Instead of giving a wake-up call to the players – veterans Catalin Munteanu, Ionel Danciulescu and Marius Niculae, who were in top shape until December, were offered new deals in January and their performance instantly dropped afterwards -, the board sacked a humble, but dedicated young coach, who had created a functional and, at times, attractive 4-4-2.
This move will anger the anyway disgusted fans, the very influential agents Victor and Ioan Becali, as well as a club legend like Cornel Dinu, and with so much unrest withing the club’s ranks I doubt that Bonetti’s arrival could have a positive effect on a team that was cruising in Liga I in the first half of the season and now will have to chase CFR, but also keep an eye on their biggest rivals, Steaua and Rapid, who took advantage of the recent unconvincing displays and results.
PS If I were Mihai Stoichita, the recently appointed coach of third placed Steaua, I’d start praying that the next league game versus Otelul Galati will end with a satisfying result for the never satisfied owner, Gigi Becali…