Inter had won only one of their last six league games against Torino, drawing three and losing two of these meetings. The Nerazzurri have never conceded a goal in seven consecutive meetings against Granata going into today, and Inter’s luck wasn’t about to change today.
Inter were unremarkable in their display in Turin as they struggled to create any real chances on the day, as they registered just two shots on target against the European chasing team from Turin. Despite their sloppy display, it was they who started on the front foot with Martinez who flashed his shot just wide after a pullback from Silvestri after neat build-up play.
Torino’s number one, Sirigu made a couple of bright saves early in the half before the tide started to turn in the home side’s favour. Inter’s poor passing plagued their performance and gave Torino a true foothold in the game against Champions League-chasing Inter.
Izzo’s header from an in-swinging corner looped up and over the stranded Handanovic in the 35th minute. A frustrating day at the office was condemned for Inter as Politano was shown a second yellow card with 5 minutes to go as the visitors finished the game with 10 men.
With both Torino and Inter both registering a remarkably low xG on the day of 0.83 and 0.62 respectively, the game was always going to be a battle between two old foes.
Walter Mazzarri was much more consistent in his choice of formation, lining his team up in a 3-5-2, keeping in line with what they have done all season. Experienced Sirigu kept his place in goal, with the back three of Djidji, Nkoulou, and ever reliable Izzo completing the back three.
It was Rincon who played in a deeper role as a central midfielder for the home side, with Ansaldi and Lukic alongside him. Aina and Silvestri provided the width in a balanced looking attack for Torino.
Experience and hard work led the line for Mazzarri as he stuck with his favoured pairing of Belotti and Zaza as his two front men looked to put Inter’s defence under pressure.
With transfer rumours swirling, Spalletti confirmed after the game that Croatian World Cup runner-up has handed in a transfer request and was therefore left out of the team, which set up in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation, an ever-present for Mazzarri’s Torino’s side.
Handanovic started in goal with a back three in front of him of Skriniar, Vrij, and Miranda. Brozovic lined up as a true number 6, which allowed Vecino to play further forward alongside Mario. This shape allowed greater support to the two front men of Martinez and Icardi, with Icardi playing slightly deeper and in behind Martinez.
The width of Inter was provided through D’Ambrosio on the right flank and the out of favour Dalbert on the left. D’Ambrosio was the more aggressive of the two in attacking moments, finding a much higher starting position on the field.
The above image demonstrates how Torino forced Inter into rushing their build-out play, with Zaza and Belotti pressing the back-three of Inter deep in their half, with the common trigger of the ball being played negatively from the Inter midfield group.
With limited shots from both sides based on their average over the course of the season, the game was always going to be a tight affair. With with Torino allowing just 4.06 passes per possession and on a difficult night, Torino averaged just 2.64 passes per possession.
With this action of Torino’s forwards, that then triggered the closest player to Brozovic who often provided support to pivot the build-out play, the player in this example was Ansaldi but as the average positions image below shows, it was often Lukic who would take on the role in pressing moments.
This pressing strategy from Torino to take away the central pivot for Inter shows in the success of his overall actions throughout the game, with only 63% of his total actions successful, a drop from 73.6% average across the season playing in the same position.
Inter’s back three in disarray
Inter’s approach to the game with their shape didn’t help their organization of the game. This was evident in the back three with Skriniar constantly playing very narrow, possibly more familiar with playing as part of a centre-back pairing rather than a centre-back trio.
The image above shows just how narrow Skriniar’s positioning became throughout the game, playing almost on top of his centre back partner Miranda.
The image below is one example throughout the game where Skriniar left open spaces in Torino’s left channel, allowing attack after attack to be generated through that same channel as D’Ambrosio was left disconnected higher up the field.
This space which was opened up allowed Torino 46% of their shots to come from that side of the field with 38% in a central area.
Inter’s changes not enough
Inter’s attempt to change was not enough, Spalletti’s experiment with a 3-5-2 formation to start the game in order to match up with Torino’s well-oiled shape was scrapped soon into the second half with the introduction of Nainggolan. Inter adjusted their shape to a 4-diamond-2 in an attempt to put more pressure on Torino higher up the field.
The image below shows the changes which Spalletti bought about, with his diamond sacrificing space in wide areas for the unproductive Aina and Silvestri who produced just three crosses between them for the game.
This new shape allowed Inter to disrupt the midfield trio of Lukic, Rincon, and Ansaldi as the visitors looked to find a way back into the game. The image above shows the diamond shape of Brozovic, Vecino, Joao Mario, and Nainggolan, playing against the three of Torino.
With Inter out of sorts, head coach Luciano Spalletti will have his thoughts firmly focussed on the mid-week Coppa Italia clash against Lazio, and try to ensure that his team does not repeat a performance like the one they succumbed to against mid-table Torino.
Ex-Watford boss Walter Mazzarri will happy with the bonus points his group has picked up against Serie A’s third-placed team. Despite lying tenth in the table, Torino is just three points off a European spot as the top half of Serie A tightens in the second half of the season.
Torino travel to SPAL next weekend in a game they’d expect to take all three points, whilst Inter host relegation-threatened Bologna on Sunday, a game they will be hoping to recoup lost points in.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the January issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.