Tuesday November 24 2020
Inter’s defensive struggles

Inter’s defensive struggles remain Antonio Conte’s main concern and Richard Hall believes the January window now looks as important as the Real Madrid clash seems dangerous.

If you had only seen the score you may have imagined that Antonio Conte’s swashbuckling Inter had returned to push aside Torino at San Siro. The fact that the home side came back to win 4-2 was a credit to them but in context after 62 minutes they were 2-0 down and they looked ragged. The issue this season has been conceding goals and the level to which the defence are operating at. Last season and this, they have not struggled to score goals but when the coach cannot play his preferred back three, the problems set in.

The COVID pandemic has effected all teams and Inter are certainly included in this. Injuries and quarantine have meant that Inter’s preferred back three of Milan Skriniar, Alessandro Bastoni and Stefan De Vrij, have not played together as often as they may like. Last season they conceded only 36, it was the best in the division and Lazio came the closest conceding 42. This season, after only eight games, they have conceded 13 times and this is certainly a huge drop in performance. Conte has certainly identified this as an issue and is quick to try to explain that this is a mental issue and not a tactical or organisational one.

“Organisation is all well and good, but if there’s nothing personal in there, none of your determination and human values, it’s not going to be enough.” The coach was making it clear for himself at least. It does not matter how much you drill the players but if they do not play with determination and belief then what more can he do? Whilst this looks to be a valid point, there are reasons that confidence can be effected and this comes down to many different events that have taken place.

Last season, the back three were more solid but especially near the end of the season when the pandemic hit, rotation was needed. What was interesting here was that we saw Bastoni become tired and perhaps lose a little bit of confidence towards the end. This allowed the veteran defender, Diego Godin to come in and deputise. A man of his experience, one of the best defenders of the last 20 years, allowed calm to stay in the back line and they were arguably as solid in with him in as they were with Bastoni. Godin was admittedly lacking in pace and the back three played a little deeper but it was Godin who controlled the line and the team only needed to tweak their game.

When Conte stood on his barrel and addressed the crowd as he did all summer, he called for experience. As the likes of Sandro Tonali slipped away to Milan, the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov arrived and this was excusable if the veterans he brought in helped Inter progress. With the focus turning to minds over bodies it was a huge shock to see Godin disappear to Cagliari. The first game arrived and the likes of Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kolarov started in a make shift back line. From here on in the goals rained in.

Fast forward to Torino and once again, D’Ambrosio and Andrea Ranocchia lined up with Bastoni, it was a line-up that would have been stronger with Godin in it. What happened against the Granata mirrored what happened in the opening game against Fiorentina. The back line's lack of pace meant it had to play deep and allowed Torino to have more of the ball in dangerous areas. The knock on effect of this was that it forced Inter to try to play out deeper from the back. This type of tight passing exposes Samir Handanovic and it does not suit D’Ambrosio or Ranocchia and also then puts pressure on the midfield. Quite simply, the reserve defenders at Inter lack the confidence to play this sort of game. When they tried to play higher on the coaches orders, Torino exposed them on the counter attack.

The January window now looks as important as the tie in the Champions League looks dangerous. Inter may be able to turn on the after burner and out gun the likes of Torino but they will not be able to do this to Real or the top Italian sides. There is a huge issue for Conte and before the window; all he can possibly do is pray that his preferred three are fit and ready. Other than that, perhaps the other option is to move to a back four but let us face it; he is not going to do that is he?


Have your say...
Inters problem is Conte he needs to go.
on the 26th November, 2020 at 4:28pm

Conte has won scudetti and EPL + FA cup, yes he is a top coach. Inter's bad results in CL isn't entirely his fault. Even Marcello Lippi could not do much when he was a coach of this joke club. Inter are losers.
on the 26th November, 2020 at 2:27am
Godin also went too far like D'Ambrosio when the former played last season...
Box to box centre back lol
What a tactic master Conte!
What is the point? Overload?? Overload your own ageing/slow defence huh???

4-2-4/2-4-4 also can overload opponents! At least it isn't risky like 3-5-2 (1-5-4 when pushed up) right now.

I don't understand why Inter didn't pick Cragno when negotiate Godin too...
on the 25th November, 2020 at 8:32am
It may be time to find Handanovic's replacement. He's been very miserable this season. There's a good chance he'll bounce back next time but he'll be 37 next year anyway. Musso and Cragno have consistently been the best keepers in the league and they're cheap. There's no better time than this to buy.
on the 25th November, 2020 at 4:13am
Very interesting that a conte team has been so poor in defense yet create so many chances up front. In the games they have dropped points, they easily could have won with the multitude of chances (most of them fairly easy too) created. Need to find a better balance, although as the writer suggests, having a full strength team will make a huge difference. Inter must be close to the worst hit team this year, def worst of the big teams. But then it’s COVID yr and everyone will suffer at some point!
on the 24th November, 2020 at 10:16pm
@Kledi: 363 days without winning a game in Champion's League (there were 29 days in February 2020) and you call Conte a top coach ? when he leaves inter after winning nothing the next coach will have to rebuild half this team !!
on the 24th November, 2020 at 9:27pm
I can’t believe inter fans are so against conte,when he took over inter were a joke a million miles behind where they are now,just look how much Lukaku and Barella have improved he also gave Bastoni the starting line up as well,for me he is a top coach what he did with juve and chelsea and now inter...inter fans be carful what you wish for...this guy has build a team players now like coming to inter I believe he will do something great with inter....only criticism is never changes his formation
on the 24th November, 2020 at 7:55pm
Most of these problems are of Contes own making, he got the players he wanted and now has to take the blame just as he would take the credit when things are going well. Another thing i've noticed, and i'm sure this is something Conte has instructed is that the wide CBs seem to be pushing on and joining the attack far more often this season and I can only assume that's why he wanted full backs to play ther. Great for creating overloads in wide areas but also makes you more vulnerable at the back
on the 24th November, 2020 at 5:06pm

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