Thursday November 29 2018
Inter’s midfield disconnect

The Nerazzurri lost the midfield battle against Tottenham Hotspur, notes Richard Hall.

For Inter, the Champions League this season held a special importance. Of course, they have history in the competition and tales of victories against Real Madrid and Benfica in 1964 and 1965 resonate alongside memories of beating Munich in 2010. This season, however, their absence from the tournament had been too long and that is why the excitement was so high. Last night they stood on the verge of qualification from the group stages for the first time since 2011. Then the celebrations were put on ice.

Inter had bounced back after the defeat to Atalanta with a 3-0 demolition of Frosinone. The victory was made more important, as Luciano Spalletti’s rotation paid dividends. In this display, both Lautaro Martinez and Keita Balde, found themselves on the score sheet. This allowed players such as Mauro Icardi, Matias Vecino and Ivan Perisic to be rested. Upon arrival in London, Inter found a scene reminiscent of Milan some years ago, rain and a poor pitch.

There was no surprise, perhaps, that in the early stages that Inter had to weather the storm. It seems to be par for the course for the Milanese in the Champions League this term: the opposition attack and the Nerazzurri react. There was little possession for Spalletti’s men in the Spurs half and, once again, they failed to keep hold of the ball and in turn could not dictate the pace of the game. The Inter coach has made it clear before that, in these situations against high pressing teams, they need to take the sting out of the match by creating longer spells of possession.

Radja Nainggolan was certainly the biggest culprit for this in the first half, as he struggled to get into the game. This created a gap between Vecino, Marcelo Brozovic and Icardi and forced Inter to play the ball long, down the wings in desperate hope they would find their target. Even when the away side did manage to maintain a good period off possession, Nainggolan misplaced passes that invited pressure when it was not necessary. He alone was not guilty of inviting the Spurs onslaught, but the midfield was certainly key in making Inter look like a disconnected team. The question had to be raised about Nainggolan’s fitness and soon this was addressed. On 43 minutes by the Beneamata Coach took the Belgian off and replaced him with Borja Valero.

The introduction of the Spaniard did have its advantages. While Valero certainly could not last 90 minutes, his stamina certainly proved good enough for 45 minutes in this game. His ability to keep possession should have been key, as his calmness on the ball could take pressure of Vecino and allow Brozovic to be freed up in the final third. The 33-year-old’s influence was immediate and his tricky play started to bring Icardi into more dangerous positions. Soon, the Milanese were able to put together some fine flowing moves and Brozovic and Vecino were more involved offensively and defensively, but it wasn’t enough.

Despite Valero improving the Spalletti’s men, Inter still looked out thought and out fought in the middle of the pitch, and the introduction of Cristian Eriksen unlocked them further, especially when he got on the score sheet. Even when the Nerazzurri rallied, Brozovic and Vecino seemed ineffective and there was little supply for Icardi, while the wide men were also isolated and forced to try to create individual moments. Perhaps the best way to assess Inter’s performance, was to look at the amount of chances Icardi managed on that rainy night.

Even if Inter can progress from the group, it will be an area that Spalletti needs to address, as without Nainggolan, the Milanese have no plan B. There is still much to be positive about, however. Valero showed he still has a large part to play in this season and this midfield is easily good enough to deal with most teams in Serie A. The issue comes in games where teams with high tempo and high-speed pressure Inter or they take on superior opposition. For the Nerazzurri these are not monumental issues, these are simply one of the many that Spalletti will looking at to help get his team some marginal games and take a step to the next level. Now the focus turns to Rome.

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Have your say...
Be realistic, I won’t rank this Inter in the top 16 in Europe. Asamoah is one of the best performers and he was only a sub in Juventus.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 11:47pm
U guys expected 2 much from the current squad. Spurs should beat Inter in both games for their performance. As I said before, a bunch of flops in the squad. Perisic and Nainggolan both finished their best career time and the management was stupid and incapable, they should sell Perisic and bought Rafinha and Cancelo instead of the dying Ninja and Vrsaljko. Why Juventus didn’t pick up Politano? He lacks strength and can’t compete at the Cl level and lost in all the body clashes.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 11:44pm
@ Elmi

What kind of a team is that?
on the 30th November, 2018 at 11:17pm
CB:Skriniar CB:Vrij

RB:Vrsaljko LB:Perisic


CM:Asamoah CM:Nainggolan

RW:Politano LW:Keita

on the 30th November, 2018 at 7:07pm
Inter need a player like Modric to link everything together. Wesley Schneider was the last player to fulfill that role at Inter and it has been desperately needed ever since. Nainggolan as attacking midfielder is not optimal at all. He seems more useful next to Brozovic.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 5:24pm
This is probably the best Inter squad in a long time, but that's not saying much given the Juan Jesus/M'Vila/Belfodil era wasn't that long ago.

Nobody seems to be mentioning Handanovic's role in the goal. He's been a great keeper over the years, but he dived far too early for Eriksen's shot. If he had stood up, it would have hit him.

They are in trouble now. People who think Spurs will lose might be in for a shock. Will Barca reserves really care against a desperate to win Spurs side?
on the 30th November, 2018 at 9:23am
for me i blame the coach for 2 year now he doesn't know nor have figure out inter cant play 4231, brozovic always alone against 2 or 3 players vecino doesn't know when to attack always missing when inter need to defend, he should sit along side brozovic to form a 2 man wall on wait on the right opportunity to attack.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 1:42am
Honestly, who was writing the ratings about this game?
"I don’t remember him creating any meaningful chances, I can’t remember him involved at all now, come to think about it." Inter had only one chance the whole game. Guess who created and missed it. Perisic (Valero helped to create).
Do not make a fool out of yourselves.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 11:45pm
The Zaniolo deal, and I say this as a lifelong Inter fan, will come back to haunt Inter for many years to come!
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:53pm
Rajda had a poor game, but cut him some slack, he has scored and won us very important games in the Seria A. He's not 100% at the moment and needed more time before he was reintroduced into the starting lineup. IT was a gamble, and if it had paid off the responses here would be very different. So cut the hypocrisy and don't be so fickle
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:41pm
I think that a lot of comments are far too critical of Spalletti. Yes there were faults discovered in the lineup, but the expectation that Inter should have dominated or even just won the match is a wrong one. We barely just entered into the Champions League and you want to slam the team when they come short against Barcelona, Spurs, and PSV? These are teams that have been playing well in the European stage for sometime now. Our project needs time and Spalletti is the man to do it.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:38pm
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:02pm
Yes what where they thinking. Inter is 9 points clear of Roma, who will lose about 40-50 milion euros of income when they miss CL next year.
And they wil sell Zaniolo when he turns 22 cause thats the Monchi plan.

Meanwhile Inter will only get stronger and stronger and buy players that can win now instead of being a talent feeder club for the big guys.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 7:50pm
Inter's midfield is a big issue. Nainggolan is not the midfielder that he once was. There was a reason why he was left off of the national team this past summer. To boot they give Roma Zaniolo who looked great on Tuesday's game against Madrid. They had a promising attacking midfield and acquired an midfielder past his prime. What were they thinking!!!!!
on the 29th November, 2018 at 6:33pm
Inter should buy Marco Benassi and Sensi for the midfied. They need to steer more italian blood in the side. and inter should be a more aggressive team.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 6:12pm
I would still bet on inter progressing as long as they beat PSV and to be honest if they aren't able to beat PSV they have no business being in the knockout stage.

As for inter defeat spurs have better players in virtually every area it really should surprise anyone that they would dominate the game to lump on a midfield missing the core issues, besides inter didn't even try to score they just kept their shape the whole game they would rather bring on keita than lautaro
on the 29th November, 2018 at 2:03pm
A coach is what most is more like a card player who utilise every single of his deck in wisest of way and always put a card under his slave as a element of surprise!. That surprise must be taken when you are out of choice. Guess spalletti failed in that case. Mourinho and allegri dont allow this type game go away like this where you need only a draw and your opposition snatch from you that luck by scoring a goal in the second half...
on the 29th November, 2018 at 1:00pm
Inter lack creativity and pace in the middle of the field.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 11:01am
Why on earth were Inter not looking for that ONE goal, that would have secured qualification. Inter had 10 minutes to equalize. Not much Mourinho-tactics.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:57am
Inter's fortune goes downward since an indonesian buy them from Moratti.
Now even an half indonesian on pitch can let Inter down.

End of BS.

How a coach even don't know his player's health condition?
How a coach didn't calculate away goal rule??
How a coach always get wrong approach???

Spalletti's level is just domestic, not continental. Even his common sense is in question.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 10:19am

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