Thirteen points in 12 games, just one point from six away ties and suddenly the Inter project and its much-heralded creator, Andrea Stramaccioni, seem to be in imminent danger.
This was one season where expectations were quite low to begin with at Inter, and the fact that the new man in charge was all of 36 made it one where it was easy to keep them in check. But a 10-game away winning streak, which culminated in ending Juve’s unbeaten run in Turin, suddenly saw them skyrocket once again as per habit.
Many an editorial dedicated to Stramaccioni and his genius were written around the peninsula, but now the young Coach faces his biggest challenge as the Nerazzurri seem to be suffering from an identity crisis very reminiscent of their dreadful campaign from last season. The team is struggling to impose itself on the smaller teams and dictate play, while looking extremely vulnerable when the opposition counter-attacks.
One of the biggest changes that Strama made during the season was to switch to a three-man defence. This idea raised an eyebrow or two given the utter failure it was under Gian Piero Gasperini, but a sudden turnaround in the team’s fortunes saw it being praised for its execution at the time.
So what exactly has changed between now and then? Injuries have played a key part in Inter’s current predicament with Walter Samuel and Diego Milito’s absence been keenly felt, and moreover opposing teams have also realised that Inter are a bit of a one-trick pony.
The counter-attack which was so successful earlier is going flat as teams are allowing Inter to have the ball more. In the recent defeat to Siena, the Robur were more than happy to allow the Serpenti their fair share of possession as they realised Inter’s avenues were limited when forced to create an opening. Ezequiel Schelotto, who made his debut, was taken off after the first-half as his teammates failed to involve him in the game as he was neglected out wide.
With the exception of the Italian-Argentine, the other notable arrivals at San Siro in January are again players who like playing through the middle. The inability of the team to stretch the game on the flanks is costing them points, and one has to wonder if there is a readily available solution at the moment. With Philippe Coutinho, as well as the creative Wesley Sneijder, being sold and Ricky Alvarez being unable to deliver in his limited chances, Stramaccioni will just have to hope that the team can somehow break down opponents while doing the same things that have not been working for the past six weeks.
This could mean giving young Mateo Kovacic a starting role or even going back to a four-man defence, especially in the absence of Walter Samuel. The Wall’s impact has been made clear whilst he has been sidelined, and the same can be said about his compatriot Milito – whose movement in itself is responsible for creating space for the attack around him. Strama needs to find a solution and he needs to do it soon, as surely another year without Champions League football will possibly be too much for Mr Massimo Moratti to take.