The new season brings major changes in Milan. Huge investment has seen the squad overhauled as Inter look to get back into the Champions League. Richard Hall wonders if Roberto Mancini now has all the pieces to his Nerazzurri puzzle.
The rhetoric surrounding the Inter camp is positive and determined. Why shouldn’t it be? There has been major investment, the squad had been overhauled and target is the Champions League. When the season begins, many will expect the Nerazzurri to be quick off the mark but Roberto Mancini’s team are not the finished article yet.
There was no question that major surgery was needed after Inter’s last campaign. In April, Mancini himself admitted to Tuttosport that the job he had undertaken in Milan was much harder than expected. With Erick Thohir, Marco Fassone and Piero Ausilio, the Inter Coach has brought in six household players and is still looking for more. Geoffrey Kondogbia, Martin Montoya, Stevan Jovetic, Joao Miranda, Jeison Murillo and Jonathan Biabiany have been added whilst Felipe Melo and Ivan Perisic are still being pursued.
The need for a winger is certainly key to Mancini’s thinking as he has been bemoaning the lack of width since he arrived in Milan. Last January he attempted to start the transition from ex-Coach Walter Mazzarri’s version of 3-5-2 by investing in Lukas Podolski and Xherdan Shaqiri. The former Arsenal man did not work out and suffered from poor form whilst the Swiss international, now also departed, suffered from a loss of form after an injury.
This failure to be able to play an expansive game cost Inter on occasions and it is certainly limiting them in pre-season. Despite beating Stuttgart Kickers 4-3 and Carpi 4-2 in Brunico early on they were beaten in China by Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Milan before losing to Galatasaray. In all of these games Inter played with their preferred 4-3-1-2 formation which, whilst offering good performances, offered no goals at all.
Pre-season is of course difficult to draw too many conclusions from and Mancini’s men did beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 days later. These games did, however, show that Inter have a deficiency despite the spending - they simply do not have a plan B. The Nerazzurri may be able to overcome many of their opponents in Serie A with this formation but the inability to change and play a more varied, wider game may cost them against better opposition.
Fortunately there is still time in the window for Mancini to find someone else to play out wide. Biabiany is the only natural player in the squad right now who can do this following Shaqiri’s quick exit to Stoke City. Inter are now looking to cut the squad numbers to 25 as they have to sell before they can buy. This leaves the Nerazzurri boss with a waiting game but at least there is time, he can redress his issue that, importantly, he has already recognised.
Inter certainly are in a much stronger position than last year and Champions League qualification is a possibility. Mancini, Kondogbia, Hernanes and Miranda are just a few who are talking up the team before the new season even to the point of title challengers. The difference between top three and the Scudetto is whether they can have a solid plan B. The way to ensure this has been identified, now they just have to find the final pieces of the jigsaw.
Mancini has certainly identified the magnitude of the challenge and has worked hard to change the mentality at the club. He knows what it is to ‘be Inter’, he has been here before. It is true there are issues but he knows it and he is still trying to get his plan B. If he gets it, he is experienced enough to get the best out of this group.
Capocannoniere Icardi scored 22 goals last season and will be crucial again. Settled in his personal and professional life the young Argentine will be crucial for the Nerazzurri again this term. He will need to stay fit as Rodrigo Palacio is past his best and Stevan Jovetic still needs to prove he can stay injury free.
The young defensive midfielder from Monaco was certainly quite a coup for Inter and his qualities have been of note in pre-season. His immediate understanding with Mateo Kovacic has been delightful for Inter fans to watch and he will be an integral part of the team this year.
Brought in from Newcastle in the January window, Davide Santon only featured nine times for the Nerazzurri last term. Despite rumours of departure he looks like he will be play a big part in the team with other players in his position looking to be moved out. Still only 24, he has a lot to learn but he is Mancini’s man.
Handanovic; MONTOYA, MIRANDA, Ranocchia, Santon; Kovacic, KONDOGBIA, BROZOVIC, Hernanes; JOVETIC; Icardi
Champions League really depends on Mancini’s ability to finish off his squad in this window. The overhaul has seen much quality come in but they are a team in transition. They should, however, be strong enough to fight for their targeted position.
Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.