Inter Milan have not been matching the standards of a top European club ever since the start of this decade with Juventus dominating the Serie A. Napoli, Roma and Milan have all enjoyed better campaigns over the decade with Inter last winning the title under Jose Mourinho in their treble winning season. It has been a sharp decline for both the Milan clubs with Inter especially not being in the fray for the top positions in recent years. Inter have not featured in the Champions League since 2011-12 and have been finishing out of the top 4 except for 2015-16 under Roberto Mancini.
Inter Milan have steadily enjoyed the better start to this new Serie A season under Luciano Spalletti despite not having the more talked about transfer window of the two Milan clubs. While Milan went about and purchased players, Inter bought players who were the most needed and pulled off a coup or two in the process. Their progress has been visible thus far in this season as they have had five wins and a draw from their opening six games.
Their first eleven looks set and they have a coach who knows what it takes to thrive in the Serie A. With the hype surrounding the red and black half of Milan considerably down now, it does look like Inter will be the team from Milan to mount a title challenge if the early signs are anything to go by.
The reason Inter have made a solid start to the season is in no small part down to the appointment of Luciano Spalletti. Having replaced Stefano Pioli with the more experienced and successful (relatively) Spalletti, Inter have in them a proven manager who is capable of handling the squad he has and pushing them near the top end of the table. Spalletti has spent his entire managerial career in Italy barring his stint at Zenit and is a seasoned coach and tactician at the highest level with regards to the Serie A.
Spalletti steered Roma to a second placed finish behind Juventus last season after having taken over the reins of the club for the second time, at the start of last season. He brought the best out of a talented squad and played some attractive football. Roma scored the second most number of goals in Serie A with 90 goals, second only to Napoli who scored 94 goals themselves. Edin Dzeko was the goal scoring machine he once was again under Spalletti last season while Mohammed Salah, Leandro Paredes and Kostas Manolas in particular were hugely impressive for Roma last season.
Spalletti has inherited a squad with a number of talented individuals with the likes of Mauro Icardi, Miranda, Joao Mario and Ivan Perisic amongst the others. Having been someone who does not refrain from being versatile in his tactics, Spalletti has started off with a 4-2-3-1 in the first weeks of the season. While Spalletti does favour goal scoring and sets his team in an attacking manner, his Inter side have been solid so far at the back conceding only two goals so far, in six matches. This has been a huge problem for Inter during their recent ‘slump’ years where they have leaked goals continually.
Spalletii’s biggest feature would be his ability to adapt in addition to his versatility. He was known for his 4-6-0 during his first stint at Roma, with the use of a False Nine in Francesco Totti. His days at Zenit saw him use the 4-2-3-1 while at Roma again he played a variant between the 4-3-3 and a 3-4-2-1. This flexibility will be key in bringing the best out from his players and find the best possible combination to integrate his team.
Shrewd transfer business:
The Rossoneri made all the noise in the transfer market and were talked about much due to their Chinese takeover and the huge money spent on a number of players. Inter meanwhile went under the radar and have made quite a few intelligent additions to the first team. The arrival of the duo from Fiorentina- Borja Valero and Matias Vecino added to the spine of the team in the center of the park.
Vecino is a good all rounded midfielder who fits Spalletii’s plans while Valero for a measly 4.95 million pounds is great business. Despite his age, Valero is a proven midfielder in the Serie A having been instrumental for La Viola over the last five years. His qualities are never in doubt and he will add to the stability that is much needed in this Inter side.
Another area of concern for Inter from last season or rather for a few seasons now, is the full backs department. Quality full backs have not been much in the market and it is to Inter’s credit that they have signed two gems on either side of the pitch. Joao Cancelo on loan from Valencia is a very shrewd piece of business as he ticks all the boxes for a quality young full back playing in a Spalletti system.
Dalbert on the other hand is a gem of a player who was instrumental for Nice’s success last season. He averaged 2.6 tackles per game in Ligue 1 while almost averaging a key pass per game while going forward. His defensive contributions are excellent while his forays forward would complement that of playing Ivan Perisic up front. A Dalbert and Perisic partnership on the left flank is solid, hard-working, great positioning and good end product.
Milan Skriniar is another excellent buy to shore up the defense at the back with the departure of the well rated Jeison Murillo. Skriniar is only 22 years old and is already featuring regularly for the Slovakian national team while having started 34 times for Sampdoria last season. The loaning in of Yann Karamoh is particularly astute as he can play as back up to Antonio Candreva on the right.
With his talent, Karamoh can even go on to start ahead of Candreva, having already shown glimpses of his talent. Alessandro Bastoni from Atalanta is another excellent buy with the young defender already a recognied talent. An 18 year old with a high ceiling, Inter have another talented youngster in their roster from Atalanta, having already secured Roberto Gagliardini’s loan last season.
The Mauro Icardi factor:
In Mauro Icardi, Inter have a top quality forward who would get into most of the top sides in Europe right now. Such is the quality of the Argentinian forward who scored 24 goals and 8 assists last season for Inter. He is the captain of the side and is a great professional with the mentality to lead the side and continually keep challenging for better. His qualities suit the side very well and in Ivan Perisic, Inter have a solid player who complements Icardi well with the duo being the identity for Inter, for much of the last season. Having already scored 6 goals in 6 games this season, Icardi is a major factor in Inter’s start to the season.
Icardi suits Spalletti’s plans well, with the Italian coach known to build his teams well around the focal point up front. Icardi’s multi dimensionality will be a definite boost for Spalletti as he can mould the tactics each match and Icardi can be a fit no matter what the set-up is.
What can one expect of Inter over the course of the season:
With a very good start to the season, Inter Milan can go on to achieve much in the season with no European football. One must understand that they are in the process of building up an identity now under Spalletti – something that they have been lacking over the recent years with continuous managerial changes. With this start, it is also easy to get carried away in thinking that Inter might push for the title, which in my opinion is a little too high for them this season.
However with the key departures from Roma, Inter can definitely pull off a third placed finish if Icardi remains fit throughout the season and Inter maintain their early season form. They can go on to be the team that chases the top two of Napoli and Juventus and with extraordinary performances, might just try to pull off a title challenge. The top four looks definitely gettable and Inter fans can be ambitious of a return to the Champions League next season. A decent cup run is also on the cards. Inter fans can definitely have their hopes up high for finishing above Milan this season having seen their rivals finish above them last season.
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