Not for years, had an Inter side this ugly, looked so beautiful. In a terrible game of football, the Nerazzurri thwarted Napoli to win by a single goal from the penalty spot. They were fortunate and they rode their luck at times but more importantly, they passed a huge test at the end of 2020. They still have much to do but as this year comes to its conclusion, they have the opportunity of finishing at the top of Serie A. If they can make this type of win become the norm then they will realistically have a challenging all the way to the end.
“It was not a great game, but these are important points against an ambitious team like Napoli, always protagonist of our championship, these points and are worth double.” These were the words of Antonio Conte after the game where he reflected just how needed this win was for the Nerazzurri. He and the team had been much criticised after they dropped out of Europe altogether and they needed not just a reaction but a statement win. Napoli had also not played well but did test Samir Handanovic in the Inter goal on mote then one occasion but dogged determination won in the end.
Listen to any interview that is given by Conte and one word will re-occur, suffering. This is what he expects from his team and this is what he seemingly does from the side-lines. From this suffering, he is of the belief that this is where the strongest characters emerge. People who have scars on their souls have at least experienced pain and therefore they have the hunger to win. They must suffer in silence and show respect, for Conte suffering is almost a gift.
In football terms, it is of course less dramatic but it does make sense. He wants players to run, to chase to not hide if they make a mistake and have the courage to take chances. Out of all the teams he could have chosen to coach, perhaps Inter, with their history of genius mixed with implosion was as far from that vison as you can get.
It has always been the team from Turin that has been lauded for not playing at their best and still winning games. Just look at the shock last night as Juventus failed to beat Atalanta at home and instead came away with a draw. The DNA of ‘The Old Lady’ will not tolerate this and you can bet that Parma will take the brunt if this next weekend.
The coach did make it clear after the game that this will all be for nothing should Inter make slip up in their next two games. Spezia and Hellas Verona are the two that they will face, with the latter being in good form bar a loss last time against Sampdoria.
Inter here need to project an aura of dominance and superiority, they do not and should not need to suffer here. Conte alluded to this, saying that this team perhaps suffers too much. Even so, if the performance against Spezia per say, is not up to scratch then they again need to find a way, as a team, to dig deep and grab three points.
It is always difficult to judge a character like Conte as the emotions and the language can be misconstrued as an act or drama for the sake of drama, but he is very real. He has a hunger and a determination and unshakable self-belief. He is incredibly stubborn and very inflexible and he wants all of his players to be the same. He wants them to fight for every ball and leave everything on the pitch and it is fair to say against Napoli they did this. Was it beautiful? God no, was it successful, absolutely.
The Nerazzurri move on and Conte for now will feel that his team are giving as much as he is to the cause. Some may think he is deluded, some may feel that he is running with all his might of cliff top but even if he is, he believes he can fly.
If Inter can maintain the level of stubbornness that their coach has, even against the smaller teams, then they may not be pretty to watch all the time, but they may just win a Scudetto sometime soon.