‘Inter crush Lecce’ was plastered over the front of the Corriere Dello Sport and it was an apt headline. Antonio Conte’s new look Nerazzurri decimated the team from Puglia, as fans at San Siro purred over the display. For the naysayers, this was only Lecce and it was only game one of a long season, but for the black and blue half of Milan, it felt like new dawn. It is true that there will be many more and much harder tasks ahead, but if one is to draw any conclusions from Monday night, it is that Inter will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The 4-0 scoreline felt like it could have been more. It also has to be said that when Antonio Candreva’s long range shot slammed into the back of the net, the ecstatic fans could not believe what they were seeing. It is true that the new boys impressed, especially Romelu Lukaku and Stefano Sensi, but it was the effect the new Coach had on some of the old guard that really caught the eye.
Candreva put in a man of the match display and his goal was certainly the icing on the cake. Ever self-critical, the former Lazio man confessed after the game that he had a lot to make up for and that he felt he had lost a year last season. Inter fans had booed him off the pitch more than once last campaign, as his end product had been consistently poor. Life under Conte is certainly working for him, as his energy and effort saw him look five years younger and his confidence in executing the final product was evident.
The difference in the winger was so great from last term, that it will bring hope within the Inter ranks. The energy, persistence and passion showed by the team in all areas was refreshing and even at the start when the passing wasn’t crisp, they didn’t panic. Marcelo Brozovic, who also put in a stellar display, was perhaps the most cautious when talking about title ambitions after the game, but even he found it hard to deny that they should be in the mix.
Quite simply Inter need to win games like this one against Lecce, they did this with gusto, but in many years gone by, the ‘Pazza’ side has crept in later. This result will only matter if they repeat this performance away at Cagliari and then at home against Udinese and arguably real title credentials will not be known until late September when they have played the Derby Della Madonnina and the following tie against Lazio.
The early signs are promising and those who predicted a strong Inter this season have been proven right on the opening week. Whilst it cannot be reiterated enough that it is too early to pass real judgment, one thing is certainly possible to see. There is no doubt that the energy levels and work rate of this team will not be allowed to drop, and this in itself will take this team to a level they were not on last term. For some time there has been no question about the talent the Nerazzurri have assembled, but after this summer the message is clear. Inter is a train driven by Conte, he knows the destination and if you want to get on get on but don’t like his methods, then you can get off.
The message was made clear again to Mauro Icardi, whose wife and agent Wanda Nara had publicly announced the day before that her husband plans to stay in Milan. Beppe Marotta replied after the game insisting that he would not and calling the comments an irritation. This once again was the unified voice of a club that last season conducted a PR disaster.
The future looks bright for Inter as they embark on ‘project Conte’, both on and off the field. There is no guarantee that this will bring instant success, but the early signs are promising. The players are unified, the effort is evident, and the improvement of the team and the individuals is impressive. This in turn has united the fans and for once it feels like the whole Inter machine is going in the same direction. It’s only Lecce, but Inter don’t care, they have been waiting too long.