It would not be Inter without some drama. Their project looks to have been beaten black and blue after losing the Europa League Final, which was swiftly followed by rumours of Antonio Conte’s departure. It does seem that as before, their future may be based on blueprint that is completely black and white. Confusing, it is in fact simple. The Milanese could be putting in place the next stage of a process that served the Turin giants so well. After Beppe Marotta and Conte, the natural progression is Max Allegri.
Conte does not hold back when speaking his mind. His outburst to Sky Sport Italia about having ‘zero protection from the club’ is well documented and there has been talk ever since that he would leave. His comments after the Europa League Final also seemed to compound this, as he was speaking as if he had already left. Today the coach and President Steven Zhang will sit down to discuss the situation, but it seems highly likely he will leave by mutual consent. The Italian media are convinced there is only one candidate to take over, Allegri, and this would make sense for many reasons.
The most obvious is that it has been done before and with great success. Conte was of course the coach of Juventus and had embarked upon a project that would put The Old Lady back on top of Serie A. He had been successful, winning three back-to-back titles, but when he fell out with the club and left, they turned to an unpopular choice, Massimiliano Allegri. What happened next was he took that Juventus team and improved it by some considerable way.
Claudio Marchisio spoke during the 2014-15 season about the comparisons between coaches. His key observations were that Allegri was much more flexible, allowed them to change tactics within the game and focused on possession. He almost said that Allegri was too safe whilst lauding Conte’s results and claiming that they rigorously focused on one system, one formation. Whilst conceding Max’s’ style maybe better in Europe at this time, he had no idea how successful Juventus would go on to be.
The former Milan coach certainly did not come in with a sledgehammer at the Bianconeri and it is unlikely he would at Inter either. Beppe Marotta will give the club a friendly feel and they will (like Conte and Beppe) have the plan in place. When Allegri took over from Conte, he waited and kept the 3-5-2 until it became evident it was no longer working. Seven wins and one draw was a good start for Juventus that year, all of these games saw the same formation, albeit slightly less counter-attacking. It was only when Juventus lost to Genoa 1-0 on October 29 that he took action. The next match against Empoli (a 2-0 win) saw him employ his Christmas tree 4-3-2-1 formation, the next game they beat Parma 7-0.
This is not to say he did not revert to the old system or 4-4-2, the point was simply that they were flexible. In some ways, to teach these ideas at Inter would be slightly easier, because Conte has only been there for a season, and whilst they have played superbly under him, those movements will not yet be part of the institution.
There is of course risk in any appointment. Allegri was criticised at Juventus for his style becoming laboured and not adventurous enough, but one suspects Inter would trade that for trophies. Christian Eriksen, Stefano Sensi and Nicolò Barella would be absolutely vital to his plans as he likes to play with the ball, and what we have seen from Inter (the semi-final with Shakhtar Donetsk being an example) is that they prefer to physically impose themselves on the counter. The Dane would need to be at his best to give the potential new coach what he needs, because Inter are currently not a possession-based team.
There is an argument that Inter should try to keep Conte. His team are improving and it felt this season that the gap to Juventus had closed. Now with Andrea Pirlo in charge of the Old Lady (who is also a disciple of Allegri and the Italian media predict he will play in the same manner), it was thought that Conte potentially could have caught them next campaign. It does seem that Inter’s best-laid plans may have to change, but if they switch to Allegri, then it could still be seen as a major upgrade.
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