The rhetoric before Inter faced Cagliari had the same repetitive and dull ring to it. Like a small Milanese church, hidden between the modern structures of the city, people acknowledged it but thought nothing more. Before they hosted the Sardinians, they had not scored in the last three, a rather dismal and insipid display, when one considers they are vying for the Champions League. Still Luciano Spalletti had to rally his troops and his frustrated fans, but the message, whilst heartfelt, had been all been heard before.
“All games are difficult. This will take character and technical quality.” These comments are certainly true for this Inter squad as they have made many games against ‘lesser’ opposition look hard work, laboured and more difficult than they needed to be. In these performances they have lacked technical quality, they haven’t had character.
The comments were no different from any that would be heard in any changing room in South America, Europe or Africa. “We must fight for every ball” and “We need to improve”. It is easy to have sympathy with the Nerazzurri Coach, as every fan, writer and anyone associated with the club must be infuriated by the same errors that happen, technically and as Luciano said, in character.
All talk after the Derby Della Madonnina was about Icardi and missed chances, but it threw up a bigger debate. The Nerazzurri have been too reliant on their captain’s goals and need to look to the collective to help out in sharing the responsibility. Part of this is the lack of creativity. Rafinha shows promise, and Marcelo Brozovic has been good in recent games, yet he has been anonymous in too many this season.
Not all is doom and gloom. After all, the Nerazzurri responded to all the above comments and destroyed Cagliari 4-0. They played with intensity and Inter can still qualify for the Champions League. Mauro Icardi scored his 25th of the campaign, a personal best, and Yann Karamoh looked a direct, energetic and creative breath of fresh air, despite some missed chances. He is raw and unpolished, but his calm demeanour and general love for the game shines bright. Joao Cancelo, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic also shared the goals, so surely things are good? Have Inter turned another corner?
The issue is that throughout this season, the Nerazzurri have had poor periods (December – January), came back and filled many with hope, only for the same issues to plague them. Inter’s problems seem like a stubborn stain that despite all the will in the world cannot be shifted. In all fairness, the result was almost irrelevant, as we know by now it’s only a matter of time before Pazza Inter return.
Inter will and should enjoy the result and there was no doubt that their pace, intensity and attitude answered all of their critics, for this game at least. Now they have to step up again and try and build on this once more. When the end of the season comes around, a team who did not reach the Coppa Italia final, had no European adventures and were for the most part, looking good for Champions League spot, should look refreshed and have something to show for it. They have exhibited against Cagliari that they are not jaded and can perform, so the criticism of recent weeks lays solely with the players.
Wherever Inter end up this season, there will be a feeling of fatigue, of repetitiveness and a monumental desire to change the mentality that has seen the club only being consistent in its mistakes. Frustration and negativity are dancing in step with Inter simply because they have the potential to be so much more. They have proved again how good they can be, now it’s time to be consistent.