For anyone involved with Inter, the time between December 16, 2017 and February 11, 2018 is etched in the memory.
This period was cataclysmic for the Nerazzurri’s title challenge and, if it hadn’t been for Matias Vecino, it could have cost them their Champions League qualification. Now, as December approaches once more, Luciano Spalletti will be desperate for his team not to repeat the same mistakes, but this may be easier said that done. A fixture list is looming which could, if not approached correctly, make this another winter of discontent for Inter.
December 2017 had started with optimism. Inter were heading up the Serie A table and they had just produced an immaculate 5-0 demolition of Chievo. The draw in the Derby d’Italia with Juventus in the next match showed they had resolve and as the next fixtures against Udinese and Sassuolo awaited, the Italian media were talking about a Scudetto race of attrition.
The defeat to Udinese at home was a shock but at the time not seen as a disaster. The shock waves that resonated from the result however, were exactly that. The psychological and seismic damage was seen in the following fixtures as Inter didn’t win a game for close to two months. They dropped three points against Sassuolo, drew against Lazio, Fiorentina, and Roma before facing lowly SPAL and Crotone. Surely now they could kick into gear? Two more draws followed before they eventually beat Bologna, although it should be noted that they lost to Genoa in the match after that.
This was ‘Pazza Inter’ and on a grand scale. Even those who had never expected much from the season were left reeling, as the team had shown promise. The season finished successfully but many were left asking asking: ‘what if’?
Those feelings and that run have not been forgotten but has been put to the back of the mind this season. The Nerazzurri look stronger both mentally and physically, and they have more depth. Spalletti has had them playing well and they are all-but qualified for the latter stages of the Champions League. Then came Bergamo and the fixture list to follow.
As the washed out faces of the Nerazzurri players gave thousand-yard stares after their 4-1 defeat to Atalanta, alarm bells started to ring. The international break offered respite of a sort, but upon their return things would get serious. A home game against Frosinone now holds immense importance, as it offers the team a chance to bounce back before what looks like a very tough run. Spalletti’s men would have seen this game as extremely winnable before their day out in Bergamo but now the Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti’s two goals in two games for Frosinone, looks unsettling. Here come the Pazza thoughts - well, remember Federico Dimarco?
After this, the Nerazzurri face Tottenham away in a crucial Champions League match. Then they then travel to the Eternal City to face Roma, before welcoming Juventus to San Siro for the Derby d’Italia. PSV are the next visitors, in what could also be a crucial game should things go wrong in London, before what looks like a respite approaches. Udinese and Chievo should be winnable games but should Inter be spiralling by this point, then the games take on a completely different perspective. Before the year is out they have the unenviable task of taking on Napoli before ending 2018 away at Empoli - this run has a make or break feel about it.
Inter are much stronger that last season however, proof of this came recently when they came through a period of games against Milan, Lazio and Barcelona. The future too looks bright, as Beppe Moratta looks likely to arrive, investment is going to be forthcoming and the crowds are now a constant at the Meazza. Frosinone is certainly the key to prove Atalanta was a blip and a win against Tottenham in England, would also perhaps spur the Nerazzurri into the winter months.
Luciano Spalletti had spoken after his team’s remarkable comeback against Barcelona, claiming his players were not afraid of big teams. The evidence for this seems to be there when assessing results against Milan, Barcelona, Tottenham, Lazio and others so far this campaign. Perhaps the worry for Inter in this period maybe complacency, Sassuolo, Parma and Atalanta have all offered up evidence for this. Inter will be aware that their response has to be quick and efficient after the International break, as they need to be explosive and not implosive.
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