Over the last few weeks, some of Inter’s transfers have become the butt of jokes for a more global football audience. The manner in which the club has signed two so-called ‘outdated’ players hasn’t made too many fans pleased and the jokes only hit a peak when Antonio Conte’s men drew links with Olivier Giroud and Arturo Vidal.
As much as Ashley Young and Victor Moses might’ve played their best football some years ago, they are exactly what Inter needed. The same goes for Christian Eriksen, whose move from Tottenham was confirmed on Tuesday. While the global audience has every right to poke fun, Inter aren’t joking around at all.
The draws against Atalanta, Lecce and Cagliari have left Conte’s men three points behind Juventus. Lazio are catching up, having a game in hand and being only two points behind. But the last three games have been indicators of something Conte had always feared - lack of depth and tiredness. That, in general, has been the purpose behind signing Young and Moses.
The former Chelsea man presents a very reliable option for Conte, who had overseen the Blues side that beat Tottenham to the Premier League title in 2017. Moses was a key part of that team, as Chelsea regularly used a 3-4-3 shape with the Nigerian being the right wing-back. That was probably the best season of his career, as Marcos Alonso also enjoyed an impressive campaign at left wing-back.
It was a position that Moses had never played before. Conte was left without a wing-back after the exit of Branislav Ivanovic and he just had to rely on Moses. Being a quick winger from his time at Crystal Palace, Wigan and Stoke, Moses had the pace and acceleration to take defenders on and beat them. Having an extra defender at the back reduced the burden on him, but tracking back wasn’t too much of a task for a hard-working player.
At 29, he presents a trusted soldier that Conte can rely on for either flank. With Valentino Lazaro having joined Newcastle United on loan, Moses can take his place. Unlike the Austrian, he won’t demand as much first-team football as Lazaro. He wouldn’t be as alarmed if Antonio Candreva and Cristiano Biraghi are first-choice wing-backs.
The same rings true for Young. The draw against Rolando Maran’s Cagliari was proof of why Conte wanted him. While the Englishman did take some criticism for poor crossing at Man United, things are different at Inter. He comes into a team that has stability and tactical structure. He will have more options to pick out, considering Inter have Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku up front.
Young too, was a winger before Louis van Gaal took over at United. Age has caught up with him and he isn’t as quick. Kwadwo Asamoah’s consistent injury issues make him seem like a liability to Conte, who has played him only eight times this season. Young brings a better crossing ability and presents the case of being a leader. And at 34, he won’t crib for regular football either.
Eriksen though, could be a game-changing signing. Conte was especially vocal about lack of depth in midfield. He has seen Eriksen destroy his Chelsea side when Spurs won 2-0 in the 2016-17 season and the structure at Inter is quite the same, even the system isn’t.
That campaign had seen Spurs use two deeper midfielders in Victor Wanyama and Moussa Dembele behind Eriksen. They had Harry Kane and Dele Alli play in front of Eriksen, who enjoyed the season of his life back then. Mauricio Pochettino’s system relied more on relentless high-pressing, but it is the freedom that Eriksen was given that brought the best out of him.
Stefano Sensi did start the season exceptionally. But injury issues had seen him return only recently. Being an anchor man from his Sassuolo days, Eriksen coming in will allow him to potentially play deeper or rotate in the advanced midfielder position. And the Nerazzurri will have one of the best playmakers in world football behind probably the best striker pairing. That is a very dangerous combination for any club.
These signings may not win Inter the Scudetto this season, but they fix their issues perfectly. They don’t just add depth, but they fit Conte’s demands of playing in a direct system. They’ve laid down the foundations for potentially going one better next season.