The last matchday of the previous season was painful for Inter and all the fans, as the team lost the title to AC Milan. Everyone expected a strong response from the beginning of the current campaign. All the major players except Ivan Perisic remained in the team and Romelu Lukaku’s dream return to Milan finally came true.
But things did not go as planned. Inter started the season with 4 wins and 3 losses, not showing the quality that is expected from Inzaghi’s team. Let’s go through the various reasons which have led us to this moment.
The red flags were obvious during the friendly season. Inter failed to win the last 4 friendlies conceding 9 goals. The poor form continued in Serie A. Inter showed quality only against Spezia and Cremonese in two easy wins. Torino and Lecce were defeated thanks to late goals after an unconvincing performance. On top of that Inter lost the three big games in the league and the Champions League to Lazio, AC Milan, and Bayern.
The results are concerning, but the main issue is the performance. If we compare the way Inzaghi’s team performed in such fixtures earlier this year, we will see a big gap. Inter played AC Milan four times last season and was the better team on the pitch in all four games despite losing the most important fixture. This season AC Milan played better for the majority of the game. The same could be said for the Lazio game. Inter are obviously the better team but failed to take the ball away the ball from Lazio (only 52%) or have more shots on target (7-7).
In the Champions League, Inter had to face one of the best teams in Europe without Lukaku and the only positive that we could take from the game was Onana’s great debut with 11 saves. Inter looked miles away from Bayern in every aspect of the game and deservedly so lost, which makes the next fixtures in the competition extremely important. If we look back at last season’s games versus Real Madrid and Liverpool, where Inter looked at the same level of their opponent, we can conclude that there is a lot of work in front of Inzaghi in order to first get the team back to where it was last year, and after that improve to an even higher level.
Before the win against Torino there were even rumors that Inzaghi could be sacked if Inter doesn’t show a better performance in the next games. Stankovic and De Zerbi were among the rumored names. Such reports are never good for a locker room. They create tension between the players and for the coach.
Inzaghi has a lot of work to do in terms of motivation, as Inter just doesn’t look hungry enough. In all the losses during the campaign, the opposition clearly wanted the win more. Instead of pushing for a winner against Lazio, the coach subbed off Lukaku, giving the opposition a chance to go for the win and get it. Inter were totally outplayed until the last 20 minutes in the Derby della Madonnina. As for the game against Bayern, it never looked that a different result is even slightly possible, despite the almost full stadium behind the team
Let’s hope that the win against Torino could give Inzaghi the needed calmness for the upcoming fixtures.
Seven games, ten goals conceded, only two clean sheets. Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement. Samir Handanovic is past his prime and the stats show it. The Slovenian showed a glimpse of his forgotten quality in the last game versus Torino. Still, overall has been far from the level needed for a top side in Serie A. On the other hand, Onana made a great debut in the Champions League. Now it is up to Inzaghi to solve the goalkeeper situation in the best way possible.
The past has always shown that a solid defencive line is rarely rotated during the season. That makes it compact and stable. The players get used to playing with each other and become better as the season progresses. This isn’t the case with Inter during this campaign. The team failed to sign a quality CB during the summer meracto. Only Acerbi arrived as a last minute back up signing after Andrea Ranocchia left. Bastoni,
Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij started only three of the seven games together. This comes to show that Inzaghi is still struggling to decide how his back line should look like and this is causing problems for the team in both defense and build up.
Similar to the defense, Inzaghi still hasn’t made his mind about his starting fullbacks. This is a position in which more rotations are demanded, but still a hierarchy is needed. Dumfries and Gosens were expected to occupy the two positions more than Darmian,
Dimarco and Bellanova. Still, so far none of them has come close to the desired performance, showed by the likes of Perisic and Hakimi in the past.
In the center of the field Barella, Brozovic and Calhanoglu are also still struggling to find their best form. The experiment with Gagliardini against Lazio was one of the main reasons Inter lost the game. Mkhitaryan looks fresh when he gets some minutes but is still not ready to regularly start games. And for some reason Inzaghi refuses to play Asllani and Brozovic at the same time, so the Albanian is not getting a lot of chances. Inter fails to control the ball well enough and set the pace in their games.
Lukaku and Lautaro were linking pretty well in the first fixtures and expectations were high. Unfortunately, Lukaku got injured and last year’s problems were knocking at the door again. Dzeko and Correa still struggle to prove themselves as reliable partners for Lautaro Martinez.
Also, neither of them comes close to the Belgian in terms of holding the ball with his back against the goal. His pace and ability to play one on one versus the defenders are also qualities that are missed in the current squad. Inzaghi and the fans hope that Lukaku will be back for the trip against Udinese.
The reports about a possible sale of Inter are also not helping the team’s concentration. Such major uncertainties affect the whole group on a psychological level. The sale of a club is the biggest possible change that could happen in such a company and the players and coach are heavily affected.
They should find a way to focus only on their tasks at the pitch. What we could do is hope that the situation is resolved soon, although such important deals are rarely concluded quickly.
It’s clear that Inter didn’t start the season at the desired level. The problems are obvious, but it’s early for major conclusions. Inter is two points away from the top of the Serie A table. In Europe, there are five more games in the Champions League. However, Inzaghi must find solutions to a lot of these problems quickly. Negative results in Plzen or Udine this week could again raise concerns about the team’s future ambitions before the international break.