As the draw for the Champions League Quarter-Finals threw up a potentially easy tie for rivals Juventus against Monaco, Inter were left to rue the loss of their final chance to feature in Europe’s premier club competition in 2015-16.
The task of overturning a 3-1 deficit against Wolfsburg at home, came unstuck fairly early at San Siro on Thursday night when Daniel Caligiuri squeezed the ball under Juan Pablo Carrizo to give the Germans the lead in the 24th minute. To rub salt into the wounds, a goal from Nicklas Bendtner of all people saw the Nerazzurri defeated 2-1.
For many fans, Inter’s European exit was not a surprise. The first leg which had started out so well with a Rodrigo Palacio goal after just five minutes, was turned out on its head with some characteristic poor defending from the Milanese side. However, it was reserve goalkeeper Carrizo’s errors that really served to turn the game.
Last week, we discussed how Mancini would have to get it right in Europe against the in-form Germans. But in going with Carrizo, who hasn’t been impressive in most of his outings for the Nerazzurri, the former-Manchester City manager made a gamble that didn’t pay off. And now, Inter can almost enter pre-season mode as for them the 2014-15 campaign has come to an end.
One of the biggest ongoing disappointments for Inter has been their less-than-impressive defence. This isn’t a new problem. Over the course of the last three or four years, many keyboards have typed out a multitude of words in various languages eviscerating the Beneamata backline. The inability of any number of managers to field any semblance of a functioning, reliable defence suggests the deficiency lies with the players.
Captain Andrea Ranocchia is a prime example of this ongoing problem. Recruited in 2011 as an aspiring 23-year old from Genoa, he has consistently failed to live up to expectations. Whether it is in a four-man defence or a three-man version, his lack of pace and dodgy decision-making has cost the team on multiple occasions.
Mancini said in the build-up to this game that he felt Ranocchia and Juan Jesus were the best centre-back pairing he had available. But, the Brazilian too has been less than stellar in his time at Appiano Gentile. He does have youth on his side, however, one is entitled to expect more consistency from the soon-to-be 24-year old. He does have a bit of pace on him, but his man-marking skills are questionable at best.
In Nemanja Vidic, Inter thought they had picked up a player who would bring a degree of stability to the defence, but he has failed to reverse his fortunes in Italy and could well be on his way out after just a season, while Marco Andreolli’s fitness issues have meant he has hardly had a run in the team. Besides, the latter can hardly expected to be Inter’s long-term answer to their defensive concerns.
Mancini admitted that perhaps aiming for third place was a bit ambitious on his part, and now club President Erick Thohir will also have to face the fact that qualifying for the 2016 Champions League is only a dream. Under such circumstances, the only avenue left for Inter would be to draft in an entirely new defence next season.
Jeison Murillo from Granada is already said to have signed up, but the Nerazzurri will need some top class defenders to fix their issues at the back. A long summer awaits for the Benamata, and a few bold choices will have to be made, otherwise the club will be in real danger of losing its identity.