The conundrum of how often and where to use Lautaro Martinez was always there for Inter and Luciano Spalletti, but they had hoped not to face it in quite such an open and hostile manner.
“Keep going like this and your luck will run out,” Mario Martinez wrote on Twitter after the game against Tottenham. Lautaro’s father was obviously disappointed that his son didn’t come on instead of Keita Balde Diao and he chose social media to vent his feelings. The tweet was deleted and that probably might have been the end of it. This proved not to be the case. Lautaro had nothing to do with the comments, yet it came against the backdrop of Ivan Perisic’s ill-timed comments about wanting to play in the Premier League and got more coverage.
Spalletti, whilst brushing the Croatian’s comments under the table, instead chose to focus on the Argentine, claiming he needs to surround himself with positive influences. The whole situation seemed like a storm in a tea cup (especially as his father denied he even had a Twitter account to Marca). All seemed calm again, until Martinez’s agent added fuel to the fire saying that: “This is a difficult topic, I was in Milan for three months and I can say that having a player like him and giving him little space on the pitch is complicated.”
For all the unnecessary comments, there is no escaping that Martinez has only played 350 minutes of football for Inter, scoring twice and providing an assist. Whilst statistically this is a good return, there was also 90 minutes where he was anonymous against Genoa, that should be acknowledged.
The 21-year-old has much to learn, but he is very talented and according to Sam Kelly (Argentinian Football journalist), “is similar to Mauro Icardi. He's got good movement, links well with teammates, and is an explosive finisher. They're from a very similar mould, in many ways.” In the same interview for Football Italia, Sam pointed out that Lautaro is not a Number 10 any means, something that has both good and bad connotations for the Nerazzurri. On the one hand they have an out an out replacement for Icardi, this was proven against Frosinone recently, but then again there can’t be much scope for advancement as an understudy.
Whilst there is justification to say that he should stay and wait for his moments, he is only 21. Spalletti appreciates the potential and does seemingly want to get him more minutes. Many assumed that due to his incredibly close friendship with Icardi, that is developing week by week, he could play alongside him, but two-striker systems are not really in vogue right now.
Against Roma however, Spalletti deployed him (albeit for a short period of time) in a wide position and perhaps this is the answer. Perhaps Lautaro should take note of what Unai Emery is doing at Arsenal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and how he either deputises for Alexandre Lacazette (as he did against Tottenham this weekend) or plays out wide. These two are also close friends who play in the same position for a club that plays one striker. It is not inconceivable that Spalletti is thinking the same thing, as it would be careless not to exploit the youngster’s talents.
Lautaro may now start to get more game time in this position, a situation heightened by Ivan Perisic’s lack of form. Should he embrace this, then arguably Inter could have another explosive finisher on the field at the same time.
"Lautaro can turn in the traffic of the defenders with great ease, has insights, ability to go to the box,” said Spalletti a few weeks ago. So why not from a wide position? Patience will surely be a virtue with Martinez (perhaps someone should inform his camp of this).