Gianluca Mancini’s 86th minute equaliser was seen as inevitable, at least according to the Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday. This was not something that was viewed as unlucky, or as a one off but as a disturbing trend for Inter.
Antonio Conte’s substitutions and in-game management are now coming up for heavy criticism. The football betting odds were in favour of the Nerazzurri as they progressed past Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia, but what should have been seen as a very good result, instead saw questions asked on starting personal and substitutions as the game ran dep into extra time.
Cast one’s mind back to last weekend at the Stadio Olimpico. Inter had a torrid first half against Roma, but came out in the second all guns blazing. It was a familiar story, a slow start made palatable by the sheer intensity of the attacking power they have.
They drew level, then went ahead but then it fell apart. Inter have not been able to see games out this term and have been much better when on the continued offensive, instead not learning from lessons of the past, the Inter coach once again tried to see out the game.
As soon as these defensive changes were made, they sat deep and ultimately conceded. The Italian media looked at the situation at Inter and came to the same conclusion. This was that the Milanese have one of the worst records when bringing players in off the bench.
It certainly was highlighted against Roma, but this was not the first time changes by Conte had either slowed the game down or failed to be effective in anyway.
The Nerazzurri have only scored four goals from substitutes this season which if far below par when looking at their direct rivals, Inter have been free scoring but there performances have been erratic and players like Ivan Perisic, Arturo Vidal, Roberto Gagliardini and others have not offered the same intensity or effectiveness as wanted.
Inter faced Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia in midweek, Conte had decisions to make. He decided to leave the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic, Stefan De Vrij and Romelu Lukaku on the bench, as the Derby D’Italia against Juventus looms large on the weekend.
Christian Eriksen played as a deep lying midfielder and the coach assumed he would have enough to navigate the game. As the game stood at 1-1, the coach decided to start putting the above players on for his tiring team that had taken to the pitch.
Desperate to avoid extra time he pushed them on but it took until the end of extra time when a late header from Lukaku sealed victory. Was this the right move? Potentially, this was correct but what effect will this have on the weekend’s game?
The difficulty is that the Roma game was a microcosm of the season. This poor game management had not been noticed against the smaller teams, as often Inter had too much quality and would have enough firepower to scrape through.
Against the big clubs, it mattered more and the poor results against Inter’s main rivals explained this. Draws against Lazio, Roma and Atalanta and defeat to Milan, the Champions League also highlighted this, as the campaign was a disaster.
After the Roma game Conte was asked about this and said, “I think there was a bit of anxiety to get an important result. We told the players to continue to press, because sitting deep is not a good thing. Roma had nothing to lose and tried to push ahead, its normal.”
He then went on to say that his teams also concede goals when pushing to high up the field, a statement that after his first quote indicated that he was himself unsure of his best plan when in game.
The Derby D’Italia is not season defining but it will ask questions of the Nerazzurri coach again in a big game. Tactically, Andrea Pirlo will expect a dangerous, high pressing aggressive Inter but he will know that they will either start slow or run out of energy at some point.
He will then play his chess move and Conte will have to react. He needs to know whether his team are being caught on the break, he will have to judge if Inter are looking like they can sit back, he will have to make the right substitutions.