Coppa Italia: Quarter-Finals / Team rating: 7 / Top scorer: Icardi (16)
Although failing to achieve a Champions League spot, Inter have nevertheless had a mostly positive season and can build on these foundations, writes Mohamed Nassar.
The black and blue team from Milan have just finished one of their most polarizing seasons in recent memory. Had one offered your average Nerazzurri supporter a fourth place finish at the start of the season, most would have probably taken it, especially seeing that in their last four seasons Inter’s best finish was a hard fought fifth place. However, despite the clear progress the squad has shown compared to previous years, a few factors have arisen that leave more than a few Nerazzurri faithful with a bit of a bitter taste in their mouths.
The club’s management has made it clear from the very start of the season that a Champions League finish was the season’s main objective, so naturally when one falls short of one’s own target, disappointment ensues. Then comes the matter of last summer’s transfer market. Inter sold fan favourite Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid and brought in the club’s third ever most expensive player, Geoffrey Kondogbia, as a replacement. This had a double damning effect, as it bode ill of the type of football Coach Roberto Mancini was looking for. Creativity and flair had little room in Mancini’s Inter, he was more concerned with work-rate and industry.
The final, and possibly most important reason for fan disillusionment is the fact that even when Inter were top of the Serie A table and grinding out 1-0 wins week-in-week-out, their success never seemed to be as much a result of planned play and strategy as of good fortune and weekly heroics of want-away goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. Inter’s style of play to many fans never seemed sustainable, and without a consistent creative outlet within the squad, it would always remain so.
But it’s certainly not all doom and gloom. Interisti the world over will agree that for the first time in years, there seems to be a certain character and genuine talent (that’s not just the ageing heroes of 2010) within the squad. Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Joao Miranda, Jeison Murillo and Marcelo Brozovic are all very talented players on whom one can build a real squad. More importantly, with the exception of Miranda, they are all well under thirty and probably nowhere near their prime.
Lest one forget, for the first time in years, it appears that there is a clear vision for the club that is shared by the club’s owners, the management, coaching staff and players. Gone are the days of Massimo Moratti’s temperamental recruitment and firing of Coaches and vanity player purchases, New owner Erick Thohir seems to genuinely want to return Inter to the top of European football in a manner that is sustainable and well managed in a fiscal sense. The buy-in from the fans is a critical component of the puzzle and it would appear that Inter fans are indeed sold onto the project, as evidenced by the fact that Inter have the league’s highest home attendance.
So where to from here? It is clear that Roberto Mancini will almost certainly not win the scudetto with Inter, nor will he reach a Champions League semi-final either. However, what he is doing is building the squad for the next manager to come in and accomplish just that. It is critical that Mancini is kept over the summer and be afforded the budget to further reinforce the squad. Inter are in need of at least one quality full-back, a creative outlet and a wide man of Perisic’s calibre to play on the opposite flank.
The central defensive pairing of Miranda and Murillo with Juan Jesus and Danilo D’Ambrosio deputizing is more than adequate, while a central midfield pivot of Kondogbia and Brozovic with Gary Medel and Felipe Melo giving the squad depth is a great line-up. Mauro Icardi will rightly remain the focal point and is to be supported by an attacking trident, of whom Inter currently only have Perisic. If Inter fill the aforementioned holes in their squad, keep Il Mancio and retain their best players over the summer, then they will be able to mount a realistic and sustainable challenge for third next season.
If Mancini's Inter can be described in word, it probably would be experimental. The seasoned Italian tactician used the same starting line-up less than a handful of times in consecutive games all season long. The feeling was however that towards the end of the season a preferred system and line-up was finally taking form, and it's on this core that Mancini must build next season.
The Croatia international had a bit of a quiet start to the season, but slowly found his feet. Perisic was Inter’s top assist giver and his work rate up front as well as tracking back make him this season's player of the year.
- Inter's 38 goals conceded is the Nerazzurri's best defensive tally since the 2009-2010 Treble winning season.
- Inter only scored more than two goals in six out of 38 Serie A rounds.
- With 12 red cards, Inter’s disciplinary record was second only to Atalanta on 14.
|28||D||Fabio Della Giovanna||1(1)||-||-|
|9||A||Mauro Icardi (c)||33(1)||16||4|