When Verona last visited San Siro, Nerazzurri fans were treated to a performance they have become accustomed to. Inter had conceded a late goal once more and were held to a draw. The result saw the team languishing in ninth place with just 16 points from their first 11 games.
The aftermath of the result saw then Coach Walter Mazzarri bemoan the onset of rain which served as the final nail in his coffin. Roberto Mancini was brought in five days later and he stated that his ambition was to take Inter back to the top in Italy and Europe.
Fast forward 10 months, and that is where the Serpenti find themselves, after their fifth win on a trot to open the season. Now Mancini finds himself playing down any Scudetto talk at this early stage in the season. However, many people are also wondering if the Nerazzurri can actually keep this up or have simply gotten lucky so far.
The arguments for the latter are rather compelling. All five Inter wins have come by a solitary goal and the team has found the net just six times. They haven’t been the most impressive team to watch, and their ‘lucky’ streak was exemplified against Verona when Sala hit the crossbar at one end, only to see Felipe Melo score less than 90 seconds later and give the Nerazzurri the lead.
They needed very late goals from Stevan Jovetic to secure the victories against Atalanta and Carpi, while against Milan only a fantastic Fredy Guarin strike gave them the breakthrough. Again, at Chievo, a deflection led to the ball favourably dropping for Mauro Icardi to score the only goal of the game. It does seem that the rub of the green is favouring them at the moment.
That said, at the same time, Inter haven’t looked like losing any of their first five games either. The desperate defending which had become commonplace over the last four years has been replaced by a calm and controlled approach to every game. They have conceded just 13 shots on target to their opposition, only one of which beat Samir Handanovic. In fact, you have to go back to 1972-73 to find a campaign where they had conceded fewer goals in their opening five games.
The midfield has appeared the strongest it has since the days of Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta, with both Felipe Melo and Geoffrey Kondogbia excelling in keeping the ball and protecting the defence. This has seen Inter have an average of 57.7% of possession so far, which is the fourth best in the League. The Serpenti are also ranked fourth in the average number of passes completed with 509 per game.
A good indicator of where this team really stand and possibly how far they can go will come this weekend when Fiorentina visit San Siro on Sunday night. La Viola have a similar record to their hosts having kept four clean-sheets in their opening five games and have scored just one more than Inter this season. With both teams having started well, the onus will be on the Nerazzurri as the home side.
One of the issues with the team has been their inability to create many clear-cut opportunities despite having the firepower upfront in the form of Ivan Perišić, Stevan Jovetic, Mauro Icardi and Adem Ljajic. Mancini clearly needs more time to find the right combination, but la Viola shall provide him with a stern test. Inter’s following two home games see them face Juventus and Roma, and if the team continues to perform well, that title talk may just get louder and louder.
As for the brand of football and the ‘lucky’ tag that some have accused them of being, Felipe Melo summed up his side’s attitude at the moment in his post-game interview after the win over Verona. “If you don't like the way we play, they you can go watch Barcelona.”
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