Antonio Conte was more critical than ever after a 3-0 win at Sassuolo. ‘Nothing is easy at Inter, people can’t wait to fling mud at us. Responsibility is to be shared, not let a coach or player drown.’
The coach wanted his team to be more determined and ferocious in their pressing, and it certainly showed here in the opening 15 minutes, when they went 2-0 up at the Mapei Stadium.
Alexis Sanchez pounced on a defensive error, then Vlad Chiriches accidentally turned an Arturo Vidal cross into his own net.
Eventually, despite Sassuolo dominating possession, Roberto Gagliardini added a third goal for Inter.
“We always try to give our best, at times it works better than others, sometimes the results aren’t as positive, but we always give 100 per cent,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“The inertia can go one way or another, the important thing is to leave the field with a shirt that is soaked with sweat.”
Conte was asked about the change of his midfield, putting Nicolò Barella in front of the midfield rather than use a trequartista behind the strikers.
“I have not changed anything at all,” he insisted. “Let’s say we prepared the game in a certain way, as we respect our opponents. Barella played in front of the defence for the first time, but he needed to push forward in certain situations.
“We respected Sassuolo’s characteristics and in the end brought home an impressive victory.”
Conte was asked if this was Inter’s best performance of the season and his response was irritable and immediate.
“Absolutely not. It’s our best result of the season, but other performances have been far better. The result tends to affect judgment of performances.
“If we are talking about furore and determination, then perhaps it was the best, but if we’re discussing quality of football, then that’s a different matter. The ideal is to combine those two elements.
“Games change, the characteristics of the opposition change, and we must be ready to adapt to any situation. As for today, we studied Sassuolo carefully and I congratulate my players, because it is not easy at Inter, in general.
“Nothing is easy here. Inter are a club where people can’t wait to fling negativity at us. We must be hermetically sealed and not let anything in from the outside, especially those who can’t wait to throw mud or worse at us.
“I’ve worked at big clubs before, but seeing this negativity and determination to strike Inter at all costs, that’s hard for anyone. We must use it as extra motivation to give our best.”
This seemed very similar to the things Conte said at the end of last season, when he practically threatened to walk away because there was no ‘protection’ from the club.
“I always say responsibility is to be shared. I said some things three months ago, it wasn’t exactly ancient history. In positive and negative moments, the responsibility and credit should be shared equally.
“If things go badly, you cannot put all the blame on the coach and players. A change of coach is one solution, not the only one. If there’s a boat in stormy waters, you need all hands on deck to steady the ship, not let the coach or some players go overboard to drown.”
Does Conte feel he’s firmly at the helm?
“I hope so. I hope so.”