For a season that started off so brightly, Inter are in the midst of a crisis as January draws to an end and have only one victory to show for in their last seven League games. A solitary win that being over Milan in the Derby since early November has ramped up the pressure on Coach Walter Mazzarri.
But, Inter fans and those close to the club have become all too familiar with things taking a turn for the worse in the second-half of the season over the course of the last three years. And one has to wonder the reason behind that.
One of the first things Mazzarri said when he took over at the club was that he’d ‘like to evaluate the players who are already here’. The former Napoli tactician insisted that in his opinion the players were better than the results they produced in the 2012-13 season.
However, now it may be that he is beginning to realise that there are certain limitations to the squad that he has available. After being ousted out of the Coppa Italia by Udinese, Mazzarri went on the defensive and maintained that ‘there was a lot of work to be done’.
But perhaps what Inter need most than anything else is a change in mentality. The players seem to lose all confidence and belief the moment things start going awry, and this has been a common theme for the past few seasons.
In fact, Mazzarri knows this and highlighted the issue at the very start of the season. He talked of how the team’s confidence was quite low after the disastrous end to the previous campaign, and that ‘every time the team went forward, they were afraid of letting in goals on the counter’.
Now, his fears are being realised. Over the last three seasons, Inter have managed to string together a series of positive results before being sent into a negative spiral after a couple of poor showings. The team seems to be struggling to recover from a bad patch.
Under Claudio Ranieri, the Nerazzurri won seven League games in a row between December and January – a run which saw them pull within six points of the top at the half-way stages despite a horrid start under Gian Piero Gasperini.
However, a loss to Lecce saw all the hard work get undone and a run of just one victory in 10 League games and elimination from the Champions League at the hands of unfancied Marseille saw the Tinkerman exit and be replaced by Andrea Stramaccioni.
Strama too managed to get the best out of his players in the first-half of the next season as Inter set a club record for successive away wins and even brought an end to Juventus’ unbeaten run in Serie A. But, a combination of injuries and losses saw the team once again struggle to reproduce that sort of form again during the latter half of the campaign.
Mazzarri is now faced with the same problem as his predecessors. The squad morale is once again taking a hit, and the same tactics and players that did very well at the start of the season are beginning to struggle and look distinctly average.
Possibly, one of the reasons for this is the lack of a personality in the Inter dressing room. Under Jose Mourinho, each player felt that every game they played no matter whom they were up against was winnable. The Portuguese Coach is of course a mastermind when it comes to player management.
Prior to the Special One’s arrival, Inter had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the ability to single-handedly carry a team on his shoulders. He might not have delivered European success, but Inter’s three Serie A titles from 2006-07 to 2008-09 were in large part due to his contributions.
Ibra even talks about the mentality inside the Inter dressing room being an issue in his autobiography. While, all quotes in a player’s own account have to be taken with a pinch of salt, one feels that there was a certain grain of truth when he said ‘the players were not fully charged up’.
At the start of last year, we saw what impact a decisive signing can have as Milan turned around their season with the arrival of Mario Balotelli. The players around him also picked up their game following the mercurial Italian’s arrival and the team managed to accumulate more points than every other side bar Juventus in the second-half of the season.
These are the things that Inter will have to work on if they are to attempt to turn around their fortunes. New President Erick Thohir has reiterated his belief in Mazzarri, but also indicated that he will wait till the summer to make real changes within the club.
A big signing next summer will probably be needed to reinforce the belief that Inter intend to challenge the big guns for the entirety of the season, and not just when they are getting the results. Until then, Mazzarri will perhaps rightly feel that his hands are tied when it comes to delivering on objectives.
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