Back in January, Gazzetta Dello Sport commented that Antonio Conte’s tenure at Inter was reminiscent of the great Giovanni Trapattoni. This was due to the pragmatic way in which he approaches games and how there is a common purpose amongst the players, to win at all costs.
As Inter saw off Sassuolo on Wednesday, there was a feeling that the team had a sense of belonging, and even though it was nervy towards the end, the defensive structure, reliance on wingbacks and the formidable midfield, gave the whole game a nostalgic feel.
“Aesthetics are fine, but the Scudetto is too important,” Conte claimed after the victory against the Neroverdi. It could have been “Trap” himself talking. The coach went on to say that he had asked his team to step up and become more focused and determined if they were to claim the Scudetto.
Inter were clinical and showed that with just 30 per cent of the possession, they could still pull themselves to victory against a very well-organised Sassuolo.
Former Inter president and owner Ernesto Pellegrini has not been the only man to compare Conte and Trapattoni and it is not simply because of the Inter-Juventus link. In an interview with TMW Radio back in March, he spoke about how defensively and in the midfield, he could see how the teams were similar.
Tuttosport also wrote about the comparison comparing Nicola Berti to Nicolo Barella and commenting on how the partnership between Aldo Serena and Ramon Diaz has a similar understanding of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Inter certainly have become more defiant and more together under Conte than any team since 2010, and the difference with the current stock of players, is that they have greater longevity than the heroes of Madrid.
That team was at the end of a cycle not the beginning, whilst this team could be at the start of creating something very special. There are players like Samir Handanovic who will need to be carefully replaced, and there is certainly an old guard but the basis of the team is at a good age and if recruitment is wise, then the future is bright.
Inter now go 11 points clear at the top of the Serie A table, with a 10thconsecutive victory. It is a remarkable achievement and one that is not lost on the ‘mister’. He complimented the growth and maturity of many of his players after the game.
Lautaro, he said, had improved since their ‘talk’, Christian Eriksen had grown and signed out the offensive threat Achraf Hakimi provides on the counter. Finally, he backed up his comments after Lukaku arrived and said that. “You can see the work Romelu has done, and I don’t forget when people said he was over-rated.”
Inter and Conte are aware that this title is not over despite what the media say. Conte is experienced in winning titles and acknowledged the pressure and expectation that is now on the Nerazzurri. He is asking his players to embrace the tension and fight for every point, as, he said, every three will feel like six.
Inter face Cagliari next before coming up against Napoli. That is a crunch game because if they can get six points in the next two games, it then changes the landscape again. After Napoli, Spezia, Verona, Crotone and Sampdoria are to be faced before they finish off the season in tough style against Juventus, Roma and then play afinal game against Udinese.
There is no doubt that the focus will be to win the title before they face Juventus and Roma. This looks possible on paper, but Conte knows that they have to be clinical and ruthless, just like they were against Sassuolo.
Napoli, Verona, anyone can still cause problems and Inter cannot play well every game. They will have to defend, they will need to grit their teeth and they will have to show determination and togetherness.
Conte has brought all these things, just like Trapattoni did in the late ‘80s. That’s why many Nerazzurri (and of a certain vintage) are feeling excitable pangs of nostalgia.