Change the coach, swap the players and find new owners if you wish, but there is something in the DNA. Antonio Conte may be trying to bring his own brand of winning madness to the club and yet it stubbornly holds on to its old spirit. Pazza Inter, they call them, and - on the evidence of their game with Borussia Dortmund - a little dash of that craziness still remains.
After looking sluggish against Slavia Prague and earning plaudits but no points in Barcelona, the Nerazzurri were called upon to deliver a result against their German visitors to prove their progress has a European aspect as well as domestic.
The cries of “Tutto lo stadio!” at full time confirmed the Milanese giants had thrown open their Champions League group once again. And, in their own inimitable style, the performance was both concrete and a little bit cuckoo.
This was no stroll, but you would hardly expect it to be against a side packed with players who delight XBox owners everywhere. A cool Lautaro Martinez finish - with the seemingly obligatory delayed gratification of a VAR check - put the home side ahead, but they had to sweat until late in the game for the points to be confirmed. It should have happened when the same striker stepped up to a spot-kick won by teen sensation Sebastiano Esposito, but that wouldn’t be the Inter way, would it? Instead, they waited until there were about 120 seconds of normal time left to provide a suitably climactic conclusion courtesy of Antonio Candreva.
They were sometimes in control, but also under pressure for spells and that will give their coach plenty to work on. It is his job to try to cut out their idiosyncratic streak and make them a winning machine. Good luck with that.
Still, he has shown in these opening few months of his reign that he is already having a big impact on the club and its players. They bounced back from Derby d’Italia disappointment in Serie A and have now demonstrated the ability to get a major result in Europe. These are first steps, for sure, and not without a wobble or two but, nonetheless, they must give Interisti cause for optimism after dwelling in the doldrums much longer than they ever would have wished for.
Their defensive unit looks rugged, reliable and resilient. Nicolò Barella has slipped into the midfield like a little general in waiting. And Romelu Lukaku and Martinez are a double act that will be causing opposing coaches more bad dreams than a late night chunk of gorgonzola for supper.
There were slip-ups here, too, and an obsessive like Conte will not have missed out on those. It would be impossible to think you could have taken a dysfunctional side like the one he inherited and iron out all its kinks overnight. Indeed, there is a school of thought - and one that is rather appealing at that - that you wouldn’t want to eliminate all of Inter’s kookiness anyway.
A coach might well want to get as close to automation as possible when it comes to match victories, but spectators are allowed to seek different things. A hero with a few flaws, after all, is much more endearing than a perfect one.
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