Coppa Italia: Round of 16 / Team rating: 4 / Top scorer: Icardi (22)
Europe: Europa League Round of 16
It was yet another season filled with disappointment and change for the Nerazzurri as they regressed from last season and in the process left plenty of unanswered questions for the future, writes Varun Mathure.
“It was important to end with a win. This is the positive thing, along with the fact that Mauro [Icardi] finished as Capocannoniere.” These two lines from Roberto Mancini probably summed up Inter’s 2014-15 season rather effectively, for the year gone by was indeed a massive let down.
The season had started off with a sense of positivity around the club as it was to be the first full year under President Erick Thohir’s stewardship. Furthermore, with Marco Branca gone as technical director, there was a cautious sense of optimism as investments were expected in the squad.
The summer got off to a good start with the club securing the services of Nemanja Vidic, Dodo and Gary Medel. Vidic was expected to bring in some balance and experience to the back-three, but he didn’t settle into Serie A and failed to really get going in Walter Mazzarri’s 3-5-2 formation. The first game of the League campaign ended in a tame 0-0 draw away to Torino, where the Serbian was sent off.
There was a hint of brief positivity when the Nerazzurri romped to another 7-0 win over Sassuolo with Mauro Icardi netting a hat-trick, but familiar problems resurfaced in a 1-1 draw away to Palermo where once again a mistake by Vidic put the team on the back-foot early on.
This was a sign of things to come, as regardless of the starting XI used by Mazzarri, results just wouldn’t arrive and the defence always looked as if it was somehow just managing to hang on regardless of the opposition they were up against. It is fair to say that without one of the best goalkeepers in the League - and perhaps Europe - in Samir Handanovic, the team may have struggled to even reach the mediocre points total it did.
The breaking point for Mazzarri came during the November international break. Inter conceded a late goal against Verona to leave them with just four wins in their first 11 games and lying ninth in the table. There was a rebellious attitude from the fans towards the Coach, whose name was not read out at San Siro before the game to avoid it getting booed.
Mazzarri’s constant excuses too had tested the patience of the fans with the now-infamous “everything was going well, then it rained” proving to be very irksome. This, coupled with his stubbornness in moving away from the 3-5-2 formation, had left the club with no choice but to get rid of him within six months of offering him an extended contract.
Back came Roberto Mancini to return to the club he had left six summers ago. The side he inherited was nothing like the side he had left though, and both the aims as well as the means of the club were widely different to his first tenure in charge. In rehiring him, Thohir was making the populist choice hoping to appease the fans who were starting to desert San Siro.
Mancini’s first move was to abandon the three at the back and revert to a more traditional four-man backline. This tinkering of formation though didn’t change the ineptitude of the players playing in it. The defence was simply not reliable enough and the 48 goals conceded were the third-most for any side in the top 10.
The team did at least start playing a slightly better brand of football and there were some memorable results like the come-from-behind draw against Lazio and the 1-1 result against Juventus either side of the Christmas break. The January transfer window too was an excitable affair as Lukas Podolski made his way on loan from Arsenal, whilst the real coup was the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri from Bayern Munich.
With the teams above faltering on a regular basis, there was genuine belief among the fans, the team and the management that the Nerazzurri could possibly contest for a top-three spot. But, once more the failure to address the deficiencies in defence in the transfer market cost the team dearly, as it couldn’t defend its goal to save its life.
Inter just managed to keep eight clean sheets throughout the entire season, and was shut out nine different times. They kept leaving themselves a mountain to climb through silly mistakes at the back, conceding the opening goal of the match on no less than 17 occasions during the campaign. In fact, the team let in goals in the first 10 or last 10 minutes of a match 16 times, which is remarkable for a side wanting to contest for Europe.
Even Mancini was left visibly frustrated by his players’ inability to concentrate for the full 90 minutes. After the Coppa Italia exit against Napoli following an injury-time goal by Gonzalo Higuain, he remarked: “We were like a bunch of chickens, it was five against one. It was a ridiculous goal to concede.” It wouldn’t be the last time he was left ruing lapses from individuals.
One of the very few positives under the new Coach was the team’s ability to bounce back from adversity. Despite going a goal or two behind, on many occasions the Nerazzurri managed to recover enough to salvage a point from the game. This was a notable difference to life under Mancini’s predecessor, as during Mazzarri’s tenure the team had failed to recover a result after going two goals behind.
It wouldn’t be wrong to brand the season gone by as an utter failure. However, despite the club failing to achieve any of the goals it set itself both before and during the season, there were faint glimmers of hope for the future.
Even so, the club now finds itself on a precipice, with UEFA already having sanctioned it under Financial Fair Play regulations, meaning there is intense scrutiny on how the Nerazzurri spend their money.
Rumours abound that Samir Handanovic is ready to leave the club, while the futures of both Mauro Icardi and Mateo Kovacic are in question - with these players being the only ones who could get significant value in the market.
Inter have talked about chasing Yaya Toure and spending money, but whether it is the right move in signing accomplished players at the cost of young talents is certainly questionable. An uncertain summer lies ahead.
It was the third season in the last five years that Inter had more than one man in charge during the same campaign. Mancini took over with the team in trouble, but on the results front he failed to turn things around. In fact, the team finished with fewer wins and points than last year. However, taking over from someone else in the middle of a season is never an easy job.
The young Argentine put his controversial off-field life firmly in the background by having a breakout year in Serie A. His 22 goals meant he ended the season as joint-Capocannoniere alongside Luca Toni and became the youngest to achieve the honour since Paolo Rossi in 1978. Despite some issues with Inter fans during the season, he has their firm backing to be the lead man for next season.
- Inter’s victories over Palermo, Atalanta and Cagliari in February were the first time since November 2012 that the team had won three League games in a row.
- Inter last finished in eighth place 15 years ago in the 1998-99 season when the team went through four different Coaches - Gigi Simoni, Mircea Lucescu, Luciano Castellini and Roy Hodgson.
- Mauro Icardi became Inter’s 14th Capocannoniere in Serie A history, with the Nerazzurri overtaking Juventus in the process. He is only the third Inter player to bag the honour in the last 25 years. Milan have had one of their players bag the top goalscorer award the most times with 17.
|30||GK||Juan Pablo Carrizo||1||–||–|
|6||D||Marco Andreolli||5 (1)||–||–|
|14||D||Hugo Campagnaro||8 (2)||–||–|
|23||D||Andrea Ranocchia||32 (1)||2||–|
|33||D||Danilo D'Ambrosio||19 (4)||–||2|
|54||D||Isaac Donkor||1 (1)||–||–|
|55||D||Yuto Nagatomo||11 (3)||–||–|
|93||D||Federico Dimarco||0 (1)||–||–|
|10||M||Mateo Kovacic||26 (9)||5||3|
|13||M||Fredy Guarin||25 (3)||6||6|
|17||M||Zdravko Kuzmanovic||10 (4)||–||1|
|90||M||Yann M'Vila||3 (5)||–||–|
|18||M||Gary Medel||34 (1)||–||2|
|20||M||Joel Obi||6 (5)||1||–|
|27||M||Assane Gnoukouri||2 (3)||–||–|
|44||M||Rene Krhin||0 (3)||–||–|
|25||M||Ibrahima Mbaye||0 (4)||–||–|
|77||M||Marcelo Brozovic||13 (2)||1||1|
|91||M||Xherdan Shaqiri||8 (7)||1||2|
|29||M||Gaston Camara||0 (2)||–||–|
|8||A||Rodrigo Palacio||30 (5)||8||5|
|9||A||Mauro Icardi||33 (3)||22||6|
|97||A||Federico Bonazzoli||0 (4)||–||–|
|7||A||Dani Osvaldo||5 (7)||5||2|
|11||A||Lukas Podolski||8 (9)||1||1|
|28||A||George Puscas||1 (3)||–||–|