Luciano Spalletti arrived in the summer to much enthusiasm. He had a plan to stabilise a club that had no confidence and, despite not getting all his summer requests, he started well. Settling on a fixed XI, he navigated a tough start against Fiorentina and Roma, before taking his team on an unbeaten run that lasted to December.
A surprise defeat to Udinese and Sassuolo, however, rocked the team and has found the Tuscan unable to get the best out of his players. He will be hoping for a good start after the break has concluded.
You might be forgiven for assuming that Mauro Icardi would be the star man of the 2017-18 campaign so far. You would certainly have a case, as his 18 goals have arguably made Inter look too dependent on him.
It is Milan Skriniar however, who takes the plaudits, as his defensive work has been not only refreshing, but impeccable. Strong, quick and intelligent, he has improved as the season has gone on, even scoring three times in Serie A. He is perhaps the only central defender who hasn’t leaned heavily on Joao Miranda for guidance and already looks like the complete article.
How Inter have searched for a trequartista, not only under Spalletti, but a list of Coaches before him. Joao Mario was meant to take that role, but has started only five times this season. No goals and a string of poor displays mean the Portugal international is seeking a ticket out of Milan.
Joao Mario’s best performance in a Nerazzurri jersey was the 5-0 demolition of Chievo. Not only did Icardi and Skriniar get on the score sheet, but Ivan Perisic netted a hat-trick, promising that he was ready to take collective responsibility for the goals. It made the fans believe that their team had turned a corner and were now playing and expansive game that complemented their resolute defence.
Inter’s low point arrived 13 days after the victory against Chievo. Perhaps complacency had set in, as already hinted at in their draw with Pordenone in the Coppa Italia, a tie they won only on penalties. It was December 16 when Massimo Oddo’s revitalised Udinese came to town, a fixture Inter expected to win at home. At half-time the teams were level, but a calamitous second period saw the Milanese ship two more goals and surrender their unbeaten run with a whimper.
That sparked a slide down the standings and eventual Coppa Italia elimination at the hands of their cousins Milan. The team that hadn’t tasted defeat has now forgotten how to win.
Inter have always been clear that the goal for the season is qualifying for the Champions League. The disappointing defeats and the turgid draws in the festive month have left a lot of unanswered questions. With little in the way of new blood coming in to the club (due to FFP), there is a huge amount of pressure on the players to lift themselves in the New Year.
With no Cup commitments, the fans will be hoping that if they can navigate the Roma fixture on their return, that the following games against SPAL, Crotone, Bologna, Genoa and Benevento could see them go into the Derby Della Madonnina in March in a strong position and maybe back amongst the Scudetto challengers.