It isn’t often that you find a team that has scored an average of one goal per game occupying top spot in their League. However, that’s exactly where Inter find themselves, after grinding out their fifth 1-0 win of the campaign, despite being reduced to 10 men.
Felipe Melo’s sending off meant it was the second successive game that the Nerazzurri had to contend with a numerical inferiority following the dismissal of Jeison Murillo last weekend against Palermo. But, Mauro Icardi’s welcome strike saw them pick up the three points for the first time in five games.
While, the team may be celebrating returning to the top of the table, at least until this evening, the narrative would have been a lot different was it not for Samir Handanovic’s super save on Mattia Destro deep into injury time. This is where Coach Roberto Mancini has a problem on his hands – the team’s inability to secure a bigger lead in games means they risk dropping points at any time.
This was evident in Sicily last weekend when Ivan Perišić’s goal was cancelled out minutes later by Alberto Gilardino, with Inter eventually dropping valuable points against a team they would have expected to beat. If the Nerazzurri are to achieve their objective of securing a top three finish and qualifying for the Champions League, Mancini will know they need more of an attacking punch.
After the game last night, he even admitted that the team seems to play better football when down to 10 men. “We were too limp in the first half. We were too slow in building play from the back, we lacked intensity and showed little movement. We did much better after the break, even after going down to ten men. But we need more consistency to our play.”
Such displays have become the norm for this Inter side as they only seem to play to their full potential for one half or about 60 minutes. The game against Juventus was another instance of this where the first half saw the Biscione fire on all cylinders, before a tepid performance in the second. Add to that their inability to create many chances, and it becomes clear that the current results aren’t sustainable.
After 10 games, Inter have created the least amount of chances among the top five teams in Serie A. Their midfield hasn’t been effective going forward and as a result the supply to Mauro Icardi has been limited. He admitted has been left frustrated on a few occasions. “It’s a shame, I am a striker and I can only score if the ball gets to me. In 10 games, I have received four decent passes and scored three times.”
Inter have managed to keep seven clean-sheets to start the season, and he will now want to balance this newfound security at the back with an equally effective attack too. Adem Ljajic started only his second game for the club against Bologna, and he provided the assist for Icardi’s goal. The Serbian has been fleetingly used by Mancini this season, and the fans will hope they see more of him on the pitch.
The much-discussed 4-2-3-1 hasn’t been used by the former Manchester City manager. 10 goals in 10 games have proved sufficient for now. But, sooner or later, he will have to have to give this team more of an attacking outlet and it might be the right time to let loose against Roma. The current approach is safety first, but perhaps it makes sense to switch this over and see what the team is actually capable of with the shackles removed.