There should be little doubt about why Stefano Sensi has been Inter’s best player this season. Since he trudged off injured against Juventus, Inter have looked comfortable in just a single game.
After the loss to the Old Lady, Inter did blank out Borussia Dortmund 2-0. But the league games have exposed some of their issues. They failed to close out the game against Sassuolo. This past weekend, they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Parma at home.
It is easy to say that the Nerazzurri could have won these games if Sensi was playing. But it worth acknowledging how important the former Neroverdi man has been to Antonio Conte’s side this season.
Before getting injured, Sensi played the second-highest number of key passes per game for the club- 1.9. He has also made the fourth-highest number of dribbles per game- 1 (via Whoscored). From a defensive perspective, Sensi has shown why he is originally a defensive midfielder.
He has won 1.7 tackles per game, making 0.7 interceptions per game too. Playing in a 3-5-2 shape that often has him as the most advanced midfielder, Sensi has put in performances that have allowed Inter control in midfield and composure in the final third.
His tally of three goals and two assists says a lot too, as he goes about using his low centre of gravity in the final third. He isn’t the quickest, but the way he uses the ball and distributes it so well matters a lot. Conte’s pragmatic way has tapped into his ability to use the ball with immense purpose.
Sensi boasts of a passing accuracy of 87.3 percent- the fourth highest for the club. Despite being a defensive midfielder from his time at the Mapei, Sensi adapting so well to a new role has already been hailed by Conte.
The former Chelsea and Juventus man told Sky Italia (via SempreInter) recently:
“Sensi knows football, I show him something and he immediately gets it. Today, he was not at his best during the first half, then he stepped up and had an extraordinary match. We have midfielders with attacking skills, we just have to get everyone in their best condition.”
This probably says a lot about what exactly Sensi is as a player. He’s a highly intelligent midfielder who can adapt to different situations without too much hassle. That is a unique quality to have, in today’s football.
But there seems to be a real purpose why Barca have been linked with Sensi recently. His completeness as a player is reminiscent of a certain Ivan Rakitic.
Like the Croatian, the Italian can play just about anywhere in midfield. He can create, win balls back or sit in front of the back-four- just what Barca might need when Rakitic leaves.
A comparison between their stats from last season would go a long way. Like Sensi, Rakitic was used in multiple positions in midfield.
He did make more passes per game than Sensi- 74.6 as compared to 48.1. But that is a given considering how Sassuolo will have less of the ball than a giant like Barcelona.
Rakitic did play more long-balls than Sensi- 4.6. But Sensi’s passing was direct and penetrative in Roberto de Zerbi’s system at the Neroverdi. He played 1.9 key passes per game, more than Rakitic’s tally of 0.5. Because of his directness, Sensi also took 1.3 shots per game- more than Rakitic at 1.1.
Defensively, there’s a difference of just 0.1 if their tackles and interceptions per game are aggregated. The 24-year-old made more tackles per game, but Rakitic made more interceptions per game. That shows that while they may be similar in their approaches, Sensi is more rugged and Rakitic relies on intelligence.
Rakitic’s current deal at the Nou Camp expires next summer and he has been linked with a move to Inter themselves, apart from Milan and Manchester United. In that sense, there is no surprise why the alternate links are being made.
But it seems next to impossible that the Nerazzurri will allow Sensi to leave, especially after just one season. For someone who has been their most important player, they would commit a mistake in letting him go. As for Barcelona, Sensi is everything they need in a possible Rakitic replacement. But as always, anything can happen in football. Never rule anything out.
(All stats via Whoscored)