‘Antonio Conte, there is an ill wind blowing’, these were the chilling words written in the Corriere Dello Sport this morning. They Roman paper were not shy in saying that, the 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach was doing nothing to help his reputation. Even the German players interviewed after the game looked perplexed about just how predictable the Nerazzurri were; meanwhile Romelu Lukaku angrily bemoaned his clubs soft under belly. After the Derby, Inter needed a response, what they got was more of the same, this in itself is worrying.
Antonio Conte understandably complained about the players still out due to Covid-19, loosing Achraf Hakimi only hours before the game was not ideal and it is true that the bench offered him fewer options than he would like but it was still a relatively strong line up that took to the field. What frustrated many fans of the Nerazzurri was that many of the same mistakes made in the Derby Della Madonnina were evident again against the Germans.
A point that shall not be laboured on, as it was documented after the Derby is the three-man defence. Aleksandar Kolarov was the weak link again, he added to his impressive number of mistakes, now he has made errors in five out of Inter’s last eight goals conceded. The line was too high and Conte once again refused to enter entertain a back four. Samir Handanovic, once again showed that he is incapable of playing short, quick and effect passes out from the back, something that will be punished against high pressing teams.
Being predictable is normally a conclusion journalists come to after watching teams for some time. It is rarely that two players from the opposition are so vocal about after the game. Monchengladbach’s Jonas Hoffman said after the game “Inter tried 99 per cent of the time to give Lukaku the ball, he brings it down and allows the team to get up the pitch.” He admitted how difficult he was to play against, but it highlighted how one-dimensional Conte’s side were. Defender Mattias Ginter said of the Belgian, “I don’t think you can take players like Lukaku out of the game completely. He had three chances and scored twice,” indicating that he had instructions to team up on Lukaku, as he was the main source of danger.
Lukaku certainly was the main threat, his brace was testament to his own endeavours, he dragged Inter over the line but it was not enough. The striker spoke of Inter’s weakness mentally and criticised the defensive errors made by his team. It is hard to argue with Romelu, the tactics and mentality are simply not good enough so where do Inter go from here?
The problem is, that these tactics are good enough to beat many of the teams in Serie A. Players like Lukaku and Martinez individually will always get you points. The smash and grab feel of Inter can work, often they will score more goals that the opposition. Take Genoa this weekend, one would not be surprised a 3-1 win and this would be enough to make things look positive but then what? Lazio saw a draw, Milan a defeat and Borussia a draw. Better opposition will work this system out and can also alter tactics to cope with it in game. Games against Genoa and Parma may see points gained in the coming weeks but it will be interesting to watch how games against Atalanta and Real Madrid come to pass?
Last season there was evidence that the team was starting to attack as a unit, they had different passages of play and this bore fruit as the Lautaro Martinez/Lukaku partnership blossomed. This season, Lukaku has become essential to the team but this is an issue. Being ‘Romelu-centric’ is something that Conte’s tem need to get away from, it develops a mentality were mistakes are made as it is just assumed that the star man will save the day. This has happened to many teams over the years, just look at Ronaldo and Real Madrid. Inter were on another direction but now they have changed lanes.
Teams like Atalanta are the benchmark, you can take any player out of the team and replace them with a squad player and the machine still moves in the same way. Conte has a reputation for not changing but unless he does, his tenure maybe short lived. The ill wind is building but the forecast suggests that this could quickly become gale force.