2016-17 preview

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The Nerazzurri will be hoping that a fresh face on the bench can bring the creativity that has been lacking, writes Richard Hall.

Inter go Dutch

It is not reassuring for fans to see Coach Roberto Mancini leave by mutual consent with under two weeks to go before their Serie A opener, so this is going to be a voyage of discovery for Inter. Frank de Boer was drafted in for his maiden Italian experience as well as the first full campaign under new Chinese owners Suning.

Last season was one of progress for Inter. They emerged from their poor finish the campaign before, adding some new faces with a clever transfer window. Results got off to a very strong start, top of the table or thereabouts until the midway stage, yet Mancini realised there was something not quite right with the team and he never did put his finger on what it was.

When they were defensively strong, they were pitiful going forward and rediscovered Catenaccio’s uglier younger cousin by accident. He then tried to play with a more expansive style and this did see the emergence of Ivan Perisic. However, Mauro Icardi and Stevan Jovetic were not played together enough to form a partnership, for reasons that will be lost under the waves of Mancini’s silver hair forever.

Despite this, the midfield suddenly clicked when Gary Medel, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Marcelo Brozovic played together, but their inconsistency meant that this harmonious movement did not happen enough. The lack of a real playmaker affected the creativity in the team and they were labelled dull and shaky at the back, relying too much on Samir Handanovic. This was true at times, but still so much had improved.

Mancini was obviously feeling the pressure at times and whilst Inter did (and still do) have a plan in place, it was something he looked less and less a part of. During his entire tenure the Coach was consistently blocked on various transfer targets, Yaya Toure being the main one, and this frustrated him. Perhaps if he had been given carte blanche then Toure or one of his other finds may have unlocked Inter’s full potential.

Erick Thohir and the Coach seemed to drift and then the arrival of the Suning Group, more transfer disputes and a poor pre-season, saw him leave the club with his dignity intact and people wondering what might’ve been.

Now there is a new era and this time the future is orange. Ajax legend De Boer comes to Milan and seems to be dividing opinion just as much as his predecessor. It’s a whole new challenge for him, a dozen days to prepare for the campaign and the likely change of system that leaves Ever Banega somewhat stranded. Getting the Sevilla midfielder for free was an absolute steal, but does he still fit into the new-look Inter?

There is a hope that the Suning’s admission they want to see youth players come through is partly behind the appointment, unlocking the cave of Inter’s academy that has not been used well in recent history. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the philosophy De Boer has worked with at Ajax and in Barcelona cannot just be instilled overnight. Even Johan Cruyff couldn’t do that in the Catalan city straight away.

If the Dutchman tries to employ a ‘velvet revolution’ at Inter, then the fans may have room to be fearful, as modern football doesn’t seem to offer that amount of time. Should he build on Mancini’s good work and add creativity and youth, then Inter could be a very dangerous animal.

Coach - Frank de Boer

The Dutchman arrives in Milan with the season about to start. The animated Ajax legend will bring fresh ideas to a club who, although they had improved under Mancini, had gone stale. There is no time for wholesale changes, nor does there need to be, and the serial Eredivisie-winning Coach will simply need to look for a new approach for a talented squad.

Star player - Mauro Icardi

The turmoil around the Argentine marksman this summer goes a long way to explaining his importance. Top scorer in Serie A two seasons ago alongside Luca Toni, he proved how lethal he can be. He suffered again last season with a lack of supply, but still managed to net 16 goals.  The club have shown great resolve to keep hold of him and he could benefit from the new Coach’s ideas and the new players brought in.

Best buy - Antonio Candreva

The former Lazio winger arrived at Inter to the delight of the fans and himself. It was a move he had wanted all summer and he is exactly what the team needs. He will perhaps even suit De Boer’s style of play more than Mancini and brings numerous assets to the squad. Not only is the experienced midfielder flexible, he is also creative, a superb dead ball specialist and can chip in with his fair share of goals.

Azzurri prospect - Danilo D'Ambrosio

With Giampiero Ventura now in charge, the former Torino man could break his way back into the Italy squad. His versatility is key, as the right-back is also comfortable on the left or in central defence. The 27-year-old also showed he can play in a more advanced wing-back role in the 3-5-2 system.

One who got away - Joao Mario

Although the deal for the 23-year old Sporting Lisbon midfielder is not dead yet, it seems out of reach. Money talks and the interest shown from Paris Saint-Germain (despite them saying they are closed for business) and Chelsea perhaps means Inter will be priced out. He would be an ideal playmaker for a team in need of one, but the €50m tag may turn Inter off.

Probable line-up

Handanovic; ERKIN; Murillo, Miranda, ANSALDI; Kondogbia; Medel, BANEGA; Perisic, CANDREVA, Icardi

Prediction - Europa League