Antonio Conte is not backwards about coming forwards. Should an issue be in front of him, the Inter Coach will speak out with as much gusto as he has in him. His combative style is similar to his playing days and often gets results.
This season his Nerazzurri team have benefited from this authoritarian approach but they are still far from the finished article, still only second favourites with the experts at Eurotips. So far, Beppe Marotta and his trainer have seen eye to eye on how the club should progress but they will have work to do, as the defeat in the Derby D’Italia has shown, and injuries that mean the side doesn’t look deep enough.
Marotta was quite clear in a recent interview when he stated that the ‘Italianisation of Inter’ was paramount. The team already have Daniele Padelli, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Andrea Ranocchia, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi, Roberto Gagliardini, Antonio Candreva, Sebastiano Esposito and Matteo Politano but this is not enough according to the sporting director. It is true that at Juventus, the pair had another good Italian core and the unity that the players had from playing at club level and at international level was certainly a factor that helped the team gain success.
This in turn will shape Inter’s transfer policy as it is believed that the January and summer windows will see the Milanese continue with the same focus. Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli and Brescia’s Sandro Tonali are midfielders that have been mentioned in January whilst, Federico Chiesa is a well-known, longer-term target. The club are also looking to bring back Andrea Pinamonti from Genoa at the end of the campaign as he seems to be progressing well.
Whilst this seems to be a logical and well thought out strategy there is an issue. The likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have also been linked, as Inter will never abandon their penchant for big named foreign singings but again this is long term. How they address their immediate issues will be of interest. Injuries and form in recent weeks have started to reveal a few cracks in this Inter team and whilst they are not critical, if they are not addressed soon they could quickly become so.
Firstly, the midfield seems to be a headache for Conte. Stefano Sensi should be fit (at least off the bench) for Sassuolo and his terrier-like work rate and superb range of passing would have been missed. Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella have played well so far but Gagliardini and Vecino, whilst offering much, don’t seem to be enough for Conte.
There has been talk of Inter looking for the aging Nemanja Matic in January to fill the hole, allowing Brozovic and Barella to play further forward. The question is, does this short-term fix work or should (as Marotta indicated) they look to Tonali or Castrovilli as a longer-term option? Why not blood the extremely promising Lucien Agoume instead?
Secondly, up front, Inter have a problem. Whilst Gazzetta may question Romelu Lukaku’s ability to replace Mauro Icardi, he is developing well under Conte and Lautaro Martinez is a star in the making. The problem is, the injury to Alexis Sanchez sees only youngster Sebastiano Esposito as back up. There has been talk of Olivier Giroud coming in in the January window yet they have Gabriel Barbosa coming back from Flamengo on December 31. Do they back what they already have, or as with the midfield, look for an older option?
These may not be paralysing problems for the Nerazzurri, but could have long-reaching effects. Should Inter look to Matic and Giroud in the window so that they can try and wrestle the title away from Juventus? Should they back the kids they have and have invested in and look to purchase players for the future? Would this then impact their title ambitions? It hardly seems that Tonali would make less of an impact than Matic.
There are decisions to be made as when they look across to Turin, they can see a Juventus team that Maurizio Sarri thinks has too many players. Inter now need to think of their long- and short-term strategy.