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Saturday September 26 2020
Skriniar not right for Conte's Inter

Milan Skriniar appears to be on the way out of Inter, as Kaustubh Pandey explains why the Slovakian simply didn’t suit Antonio Conte’s tactics.

The last few months have been very strange for Milan Skriniar. When Antonio Conte first came in to replace Luciano Spalletti at Inter last summer, many saw the Slovakian as a player who could become an icon under the maniacal Italian.

For many, Skriniar had already been one of the top ten central defenders in European football when Inter constantly lined up in a back-four. He had acquired a bit of a mean and aggressive streak and his passion for the club constantly shone through a lot of times. Be it on the ball or off, he seemed destined for huge things in the European game.

Fast forward a few enduring months for Skriniar, Conte realised that while the Slovakian can be very good for what he demands from his defenders on the ball, he wasn’t efficient enough for his tactics out of possession. In a 3-5-2 system, Conte’s three central defenders are organised in a very specific style.

The middle of the three - Stefan de Vrij, who was arguably the best defender in Serie A last season - is protected by the two wide centre-backs that are often tasked with making overloads and overlaps from the wide areas to help the wing-backs. This pattern emerged more often post-lockdown and a lot of times, Skriniar really thrived when marauding forward, and so did Alessandro Bastoni.

Once Inter lose the ball though, the wide centre-backs usually find themselves in the positions that the full-backs pick up in a flat back four. They are in wide positions at the back, implying that they cover the spaces that the wing-backs leave behind them. When the wide centre-backs are in that position, they have to cover a lot of ground off the ball and in the process, find themselves stuck in unnatural 1v1s on a regular basis. Those situations are exactly what Conte wants his defenders to thrive on, win the ball back and recycle it forward quickly. Skriniar hasn’t been capable of doing that on a consistent basis.

One can easily go back to Inter’s games against Parma and Sassuolo last season. Roberto De Zerbi’s team are one of the experts at stretching defences through quick transitions through midfield. In the wide centre-back role, Skriniar found himself really exposed against the pace and trickery of Jeremie Boga, who changed the game after coming on from the bench.

Against Parma in October, Skriniar was given a torrid time by the mercurial Gervinho, who dominated him on the right side of the 3-5-2. It isn’t difficult to find a common thread there and Diego Godin also faced similar issues after years of playing a flat 4-4-2 shape at Atletico Madrid.

In the system that Conte likes with all his heart and can be overly rigid with, the wide centre-backs have to cover loads of distance and it often requires players that belong to a specific skill set. Marash Kumbulla, who Inter missed out on, is someone Conte would have liked because he’s ideal for a back three, as his time at Verona showed. Sometimes, full-backs can often play as the wide centre-backs, such as Danilo D’Ambrosio or how Conte can potentially use Matteo Darmian or Aleksandar Kolarov.

It isn’t to say that Skriniar has a lack of pace or recovery. What troubles him is the positioning and the distance that he has to cover in Conte’s system. Bastoni has become Conte’s favoured option in the left centre-back role because he replicates Skriniar’s marauding runs off the ball and out-performs him off the ball. He can often play like a mixture of a left-back and a centre-back in the 3-5-2 and that is what Conte really needs.

Conte’s feelings towards Skriniar became all too evident when the former Sampdoria man was left on the bench in the Europa League games against Getafe, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sevilla. It was a signal of intent from Conte that when he really wants to win, he wouldn’t trust Skriniar to manage games in the 3-5-2 shape, but he would want Bastoni to play in the same role.

Links with Tottenham Hotspur are clearly developing. Fans might look at how Skriniar’s downfall has come about last season and feel that he might struggle under Jose Mourinho’s Spurs as well, especially since the Portuguese coach has experimented with a back three and they constantly transition from a back four to a back three. But usually, it is the left-back that plays a dynamic role on the left side of the defence and the centre-backs are much more conservative and central.

There’ll be much less distance to be covered and consequently a much lesser risk of getting exposed by pacy forwards - especially since Spurs now have Sergio Reguilon at left-back, who happens to be a highly athletic option. Inter fans would hate to see Skriniar depart, but this season could be make or break for Conte. He is desperate for success and only wants players that he really trusts. Sadly, Skriniar isn’t someone he trusts for his system.

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Have your say...
Pinturicchio

The only hogwash here is your ignorant reply to an intelligent blog post.
on the 28th September, 2020 at 4:56pm
Dont forget Skriniar played Right back under Spalletti a few times and did it well. Skriniar is a player that needs the trust of the coach to perfrorm. He sacrifices so much.
on the 28th September, 2020 at 7:29am
Spurs forced Inter to pay £18mill to release Eriksen from his contract 6 months before it expired. If Inter now sell Skriniar to Spurs for anything less than £45million then they are mugs. Force Spurs to pay up as they did with Eriksen otherwise no deal
on the 27th September, 2020 at 10:35am
If Spurs really can pay 60 million euros for Skriniar, then I think we can make it work by reinvesting the fund for Milenkovic and Smalling who are more suitable in defending with huge spaces behind them.
Feel bad for skriniar though. He's a solid defender. Actually he did relatively okay last season, not really that bad. He played more minutes than all the other defenders except for DeVrij, and we had the best defensive record in the league.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 7:54pm
As a Juventino i love Conte but i would like all Interesti to remember Contes time at Juve, the club he loved so much that he left us only weeks before the new season was to start. Remember he threatened to leave at the end of last season i can almost guarantee he will leave at the end of this season. Don’t let him dismantle this inter to bare bones and then leave. It would be a shame as Milan could be the future of this Inter.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 6:42pm
agree with interista, letting your manager who is clearly only going to be at your club for a short time have that much say in your transfer decisions is madness
on the 26th September, 2020 at 5:37pm
Even if you consider that Inter bought well last summer, this seasons transfer market looks very underwhelming, Hakimi aside. Messi was always a stretch with or without Conte but to go from him to Vidal, Darmian. They're good squad players but will they really elevate the quality of the team? I thought they were trying to close the gap to Juve, not let it widen! Either way, I hope it works out for Skriniar, he looks a good player who'll fight for the cause, it'd be a shame to lose him to the PL!
on the 26th September, 2020 at 1:26pm
If a coach can't get the best out of his players, it is his fault. Skriniar was one of the best defenders in Serie A before Conte. But Conte is too one dimesional. He can't change his tactics to fit his players' strengths. Instead bringing in pensioners who he sees perfect for it. Then I'm sure he will quit soon , Crying that he was't supported, leaving Inter with OAPs. And Inter can start building a competitive squad again from scratch. They should have got rid off Conte in the Summer.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 12:06pm
Doesn't sit right with me, Skriniar SHOULD be a future captain of Inter... I really hope he stays, fights for his place, either way I trust Conte and its not easy with a very limited budget and trying to strengthen the team.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 11:53am
It's typical of Serie A - one summer it's one step forward, two steps back in the market, then the opposite a year later

Progress is rarely made, and therefore we see yearly failed attempts in Europe

It started well with the signing of Hakimi, then went downhill fast with over-the-hill purchases like Kolorov and Vidal. Are those 2 really good enough for the CL anymore?

Skriniar is another who'll be shipped out. And who comes in, Darmian?

Is Serie A for real, taking scraps from other leagues?
on the 26th September, 2020 at 11:44am
Everytime I read an article by this writer, it makes me laugh. What absolute hogwash these "bloggers" come up with is astounding.


Skriniar is 25 or thereabout, and he's down he's tactically sound and has capabilities in him to play at the top level for at least another 7-8 years. The player also likes the club, and in an atmosphere which has been more pathetic than the local circus, he's stuck around. Hence, instead of keeping him, Conte treats him and Godin like dirt. Absolute joke.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 11:34am
Feel sorry for Milan Skriniar. Guy is good.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 9:21am
@ Interista

I couldn't agree more, absolutely spot on. When Guardiola came in to City and got rid of Hart and other players you knew it was for the greater good and long term. Conte could well get rid of Skriniar, Brozovic and Eriksen and then quit the club in 6 months. Any replacement manager would love to have those three but instead they'd have Darmian, Kolorov and Vidal
on the 26th September, 2020 at 9:20am
If conte is someone you can trust on a long term basis as a coach I wouldn't mind the players he sells at Inter. But you have just seen it towards the end of the season (he threatens to leave). Skriniar would have been back to his best had did been Allegri took over this summer and moreover its conte's rigid 3-5-2 that's denying him success in europian competition. The management at Inter needs to wake up.
on the 26th September, 2020 at 6:55am
The title should be conte not right for inter's Skriniar
on the 26th September, 2020 at 3:28am

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