Tuesday September 18 2018
Comeback exposes Inter cracks

Inter may have pulled off a memorable comeback on their Champions League return but, as Richard Hall writes, it also proved their issues remained intact…

‘We are back,’ read a huge banner on Inter’s Curva Nord, encapsulating the feeling in the black and blue half of Milan. After such a long absence, Inter were finally were back amongst Europe’s elite. Fast forward to the final minutes and, like against Lazio in May, Matias Vecino was wheeling away in celebration as his late header sealed a 2-1 win, this time against Tottenham Hotspur.

Add to this a delectable strike from Mauro Icardi on his Champions League debut and the narrative is positive, right? Not particularly. The emotion, moments of quality and drama at the end masked the same issues that have been plaguing the Nerazzurri for months. 

Fans of the Beneamata may tell you they don’t care how they won and for tonight, why should they? Their team didn’t play well but managed to dig deep and snatch the game at the death. The victory may act as a turning point and may give the team belief but when the dust settles, but there is no hiding from the fact that Inter still have many of the issues that commentators and fans alike thought had been eradicated after the last mercato. The midfield lacked creativity and were overran at times, the defence switched off at key moments and Icardi remained isolated. 

Perhaps the biggest issue that remains unresolved is how Inter lack a collective responsibility. Luciano Spalletti spoke of his endless search during preseason for the ‘trequartista’ he still craves. Joao Mario was, of course, tried out in the role last season but failed. Now Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez and even Antonio Candreva have all been touted as Nerazzurri’s creative hub. It is this search that may be the problem itself as many of the elite teams in Europe - Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus to name a few – have a number of players who act as an attacking threat. These sides may well have a focal point up top, but they also have players who take responsibility for supplying goals and for scoring them.

Maurizio Sarri was perhaps the biggest advocate of this and proved it at Napoli. In his first season without Gonzalo Higuain and, in turn, his top goalscorer, he challenged the rest of his team. He asked for all of his men to take responsibility (especially when Arkadiusz Milik got injured) and what he saw was Marek Hamsik, Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens oblige. It’s arguable that Spalletti has a team of players, whether it be wide men, central midfielders or full-backs, who need to move the ball quickly and help Icardi shoulder the goalscoring burden. However, this is nothing new.

Inter will learn a lot from their encounter with Tottenham, who were in poor form themselves. Marcelo Brozovic was exemplary at times in the first half and plays much better when Vecino sits in. Matteo Politano had chances and perhaps needs to believe himself more as he was caught in two minds too often, but he does have the ability to cause problems. Keita Balde Diao is a huge threat who offers a physical presence, and he has a big part to play in Inter’s future. Indeed, Radja Nainggolan and Ivan Perisic need support and options so that they can move the ball much quicker when in possession.

Perhaps the most concerning point for fans who frequent San Siro has been the stagnation of Luciano Spalletti. The above issues and formations aside, there seems to be very little in terms of a fluid plan and player development. Games are being won by individual moments, mainly thanks to Icardi or Perisic, and there is a worrying lack of direction. The Beneamata boss has been backed in the transfer window and tied down to a lucrative extension, seemingly making for an ideal working environment. 

Still, Inter fans can’t be too despondent on a night when their team returned to the Champions League with a game that will stay in the memory, thanks to its dramatic ending and the novelty of an early kick-off. In the context of the group, the result is huge for the Nerazzurri and they may well use this as a springboard in Serie A and Europe. They travel to Sampdoria on Saturday and their supporters will hope that they can start to gather momentum and start to play with an identity. It’s essential that they do as late Matias Vecino headers can’t save them every week.

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Have your say...
Inter are lacking the profile Rafinha brought to the team last year. Brozovic has, over the years been inconsistent. At present Inter are not driving forward enough through the last 3rd. They play too horizontally - across the pitch and blunt their own attack. They don't *need* Rafinha (or type) but with how they're playing, they need something (player or tactics) to provide the catalyst for attack in the final 3rd of the pitch and this is on Spalletti to solve. He can, so far, he hasn't.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 5:33pm
Agree with Marco. They became much more urgent after Icardi's equalizer. If only they could start with that kind of intensity from the get go. I blame this purely on the coach. He failed to motivate the team and failed to create a proper attacking plan. What the players showed in the last 10 minutes was their pure determination and individual qualities. I hope Simeone takes over this team as soon as possible. Inter have an immense quality on the team, it's their mentality that's clearly lacking
on the 19th September, 2018 at 5:09pm
Inter looked scared to attack. They lack ideas and self belief when attacking. With more courage they could have scored in the first 20 minutes.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 2:03pm
It`s just mind bogglin` why we don`t start all games with this grit and determination like in the last 10 minutes. I enjoyed Borja`s cameo and hope to see more of Valero this season - he does what he should be doing, especially that we lack a proper playmaker.

PS: Take Rafinha back. FORZA INTER PER SEMPRE!
on the 19th September, 2018 at 1:06pm
W/o taking much away from Inter's victory, this article exists and their group is still tough, let's instead notice Spurs only scored a scrappy goal. Their one emphatic win (and clean sheet) was against a poor MU, otherwise the most they've done is consistently score.

Inter did well to respond, however most teams they've faced put up a better fight (Parma maybe not as bad as perceived since they were once a great club like...) throughout 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Spurs are known bottlers.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 12:47pm
I must say this was a very exciting game of football and I enjoyed the late winning goal! - Napoli fan.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 12:21pm
My first time watching Inter this season and now I understand their results this season as they are too workman-like. Next to no creativity in the side. Icardi is class, Nainggolan and Perisic have moments of inspiration in them but the rest geez.mspalettimdoes not seem a good fit either. Simeone fits this club to a tee as Atletico are not too dissimilar.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 12:04pm
I agree with this article but the team seems tired already and several key players have returned late from the World cup or have been injured. Add to that 4/11 starting yesterday was new players. Inter have so much potential but to gel takes time and at Inter you dont have time to wait for that.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 7:17am
Before the Spurs goal they only had Harry's chance, after the goal Inter were chasing the game and left spaces. This is why Spurs had more chances in this period. The early kick off is a great idea.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 6:14am
Wow who would have thunkt it Parma better than Tottenham.
on the 19th September, 2018 at 5:57am

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