Defeat in the Derby Della Madonnina is not a disaster for the Nerazzurri but it does highlight a problem. Antonio Conte has been more than vocal since the Europa League Final and the message has been “back me and my plan.”
Inter have done just that, both in support of his tenure and in the market but something is just not quite right. The Milan Derby defeat showed that there are some issues that still need to be addressed. Conte has made incredible progress with the team but perhaps now is his time to compromise and become more flexible.
The decision to play Aleksandar Kolarov at center back was a wrong decision. That was clear to see. It does not however, mean that Conte has bungled the season nor does it mean that his transfer policy was wrong. It may prove to be the case, we will see but rather than blaming his policy of bringing experience in perhaps, the argument lies elsewhere. Let us use the Kolarov example for a moment as it is at least topical. The Serbian is still a good player even at 34 years of age; he is no Zlatan but then again who is? The problem is not with bringing him in; it was how he was deployed.
Danilo D’Ambrosio also comes into this argument. He has been one of Inter’s most improved players of late. He has performed well when he has been tasked to be a center back but in the Derby he was also found wanting. This performance does not mean he is a bad player nor does it undermine his recent achievements. He was exposed as Conte played a back three with a high line against a Milan team with pace out wide. In hind sight this maybe but both Kolarov and D’Ambrosio were always going to be exposed.
Juventus fans all around the country will be smiling and saying, “we told you so.” Conte is a winner because of his unshakable belief in himself; however, this is also his Achilles heel. His lack of tactical flexibility was perhaps why the Old Lady were so abject in the Champions League and as time went on, teams began to figure out his 3-5-2 that he stands so loyal to. Look at what happened when Max Allegri came in at Juventus, he kept the same system until they lost at Genoa, his move to a four-man defence thereafter was a perfect time to introduce a new way. Would he revert to what Conte had introduced, of course but he now had two ways of playing.
The fact that Antonio has demanded the unequivocal support of the Inter board means he will die on his sword if things go wrong. This seems to be a fact that is generally accepted apart from the definition of what constitutes success. Many of an Inter persuasion would say that that means winning the Scudetto and if this is the case then the pressure is on. The Italian media were critical after the Derby defeat and have labelled Conte as stubborn and naive. Alessandro Costacurta hit the nail on the head. He claimed that it would not have mattered if Alessandro Bastoni was playing because Inter do not have quick defenders and therefore against certain opposition, playing this formation with such a high line is almost nonsensical.
The overall problem for Inter is hard to assess. Going forward they look incredible, even if they were not clinical in the Derby. Conte works hard on this and normally after a game when they make errors they do not make the same mistakes the game after. The intensity and mind set are vastly improved but there has to be another option defensively. The key question here is, will Conte change? There is no evidence in his past managerial career to suggest he will. So then the question becomes, just how far can he take this team?
The Derby defeat does not mean that Inter are in crisis. The Madonnina mess up does not mean that all the experienced players Conte brought in are useless. It does not mean that Inter cannot win the Scudetto, it simply highlights a frailty. Milan are a very good team under Stefano Pioli and they exposed these weaknesses. Conte now has a choice, he can try and find a plan B or he can push mercilessly on with the same system. The reality is probably the latter but this is his gamble, he was the man who asked to be backed and he would deliver; now it is time to see if he does.
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow