Danilo D’Ambrosio was charged full of adrenaline after the Derby Della Madonnina. His heroic block from Patrick Cutrone’s shot in the dying embers of the game gave his team all three points. He could be excused for his enthusiasm, as he told Inter TV that beating Milan twice in one season “proves we are superior, while for years we have earned more points than them”. New captain Samir Handanovic said something similar on the night.
Whilst they may have a point, the issues surrounding Inter have not gone away with the victory and they will have work to do to remain Kings of their city come the end of the season.
Nothing can be taken away from the Nerazzurri’s performance in the Derby Della Madonnina. For a team in so much disarray both on and off the field, the response was impressive. Luciano Spalletti managed to motivate this apparently disunited group for one of the major games of Inter’s season. The players responded and played with aggression, tempo and quality, so in the end they were too much for their neighbours.
D’Ambrosio was right, in that now they own the bragging rights to the city, but it will not be that simple for them to now stroll clear of a Rossoneri side who, despite the result on Sunday, are a much-improved unit.
It must not be forgotten that 90 minutes before the epic encounter in San Siro, the world looked a miserable place for the Nerazzurri. Mauro Icardi was out with a ‘knee injury’ despite the doctors clearing him to play. His future surrounded by a cloud filled with lawyers and Wanda Nara’s influence. Radja Nainggolan was also unavailable, as was Joao Miranda, and rumours had surfaced about a three-way split in the dressing room.
According to La Repubblica’s mole, the club’s hierarchy was torn between supporting different factions, Italian, South Americans and Slavs. Add to this the abject nature in which they exited the Europa League and it could be argued that even with the Derby win, it is the Rossoneri who are better placed to move into the Champions League this term.
Spalletti will no doubt realise that, whilst the Derby Della Madonnina success will give his team a boost, he will need to work hard to address the other issues. The positives are that the Nerazzurri are doing what they can to sort out the Icardi debacle quickly. President Steven Zhang is set to meet the former Inter Captain on Friday according to the Corriere dello Sport, and the Rome-based paper also claimed that the dressing room split has been exaggerated. If this can finally put an end to the poorly handled affair, then there is a possibility that (at least until the end of the season) Icardi could be back amongst the squad.
If Inter can produce a united front with their main goal threat back amongst the ranks, then this will at least be a start. However, Inter should remember that beating their city rivals wasn’t exactly a cure-all in October either.
After the last Derby victory, Inter beat Lazio 3-0 and Genoa 5-0 before things fell apart. Defeats to Atalanta and Juventus looked like a blip as they steadied the ship quickly, but they didn’t manage to maintain the progress they would have liked, losing to Bologna and Torino. These fixtures stare them in the face again and it will need all their resolve and not just the Derby bump to see them through.
There is no question that if Inter can quickly get their house in order, then they have a good chance of holding off challenges, not just from Milan, but from Roma, Lazio and Atalanta as well. They have all these teams on the horizon and Spalletti will need the same energy and tempo that was shown in the Derby to navigate through.
Milan will no doubt bounce back, as they seem very certain of their direction, meaning Inter will not be able to put a foot wrong for the rest of the campaign.
Whilst Inter bask in the glory of being undefeated in the last six Derbies (a feat not achieved since 1999), they will have to also be realistic.
“This was supposed to be my final meal,” said Spalletti to reporters who had his Inter career obituary all written up. The Coach and his team have earned a reprieve, but it’s clear all is still not well in the camp. Every member of the institution has a job to do, from Steven Zhang, Beppe Marotta and Spalletti to the players. Only if there is unity in the group can this team hope to succeed. The Derby Della Madonnina may have given them the city, but it doesn’t give them a successful end to the campaign.