Wesley Sneijder said, after Inter’s 1-2 loss to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening that he was not impressed with Roma even though they “are a good team.” The Dutchman put the blame for the Nerazzurri’s loss down to the referee and his assistants. Unfortunately, this is far from the first time this season that we have heard someone from Inter complaining about officiating when they should be looking closer to home to find out what the real problems are.
Yes, it is true that Inter were somewhat unfortunate at points during the game, and yes, it is true – as Sneijder asserts – that Luca Toni did spend a lot of time on the floor for such a large man. But Inter were already losing 2-1 at that point, it is not like Toni’s alleged diving was the difference between the teams. After all the analysis the simple fact is this: Roma were the better team.
Rather than looking at the players that played poorly, it would be a better way to start by examining who played well, actually no, the players that didn’t play badly. Wesley Sneijder, Esteban Cambiasso, Douglas Maicon, Diego Milito and Walter Samuel. That is all. That means that six of the starting 11 did not play well, and against a side like Roma that is simply not good enough. What is it exactly that the team needs for motivation? Is playing in one of the biggest games of the season in front of a packed Stadio Olimpico not enough? Yes, this criticism may seem harsh coming so soon after a great performance against Chelsea, but it is this ridiculous victim mentality that the club have that seems to be holding them back.
Blame has to start with the manager. It is hard to remember the last time that Inter lost and Jose Mourinho had anything else to say other than complaints about match officials or the other team’s tactics. It is a similar tactic to that which he used at Chelsea, building up a siege mentality so that the team pulls together, but it appears to have lost it’s magic, because over the last few weeks – Chelsea game aside – Inter have been very poor.
And yet you look at the talent in the team and it seems inexplicable that they can be in a patch of such poor form. Player for player, la Beneamata have one of the most talented squads in Europe, but also the most inconsistent. If there is one thing that the Roma game has shown it is that maybe Inter need to lose lo Scudetto this year, because they need something to strive towards. Winning the title for the last four season has driven expectation up to ridiculous levels – to the point that winning the title is now expected, not celebrated. For a team that had gone for 16 years prior to the 2005/06 season without winning the title it shows just how soon the difficult periods are forgotten when things are going well. This season holds the possibility of, arguably, being the first season since Calciopoli that Inter have actually won a title, rather than leading a procession, as there is genuine competition and the league has a lot more strength-in depth than in years past.
There is also the small matter of a Champions League quarter final first-leg tie against CSKA Moscow to worry about on Wednesday. After beating Chelsea, Inter should be confident but they still need to be wary of a side that dispatched Sevilla in the last round. The best advice the team have received this week is from striker Diego Milito, who said that the squad need to forget what happened against Roma and focus on this game. After all, Europe is where Inter – and especially president Massimo Moratti – are desperate for success. Inter have the first leg at home and have to make it count, because playing in Moscow is very difficult, and Mourinho will not want to rely on his side producing another top quality performance in the second leg to make it through.
This season, for the Nerazzurri, is where they can prove all their doubters wrong. Those who said that everything they have was handed to them by Calciopoli can be made to eat their words and realise that Inter are finally a great side in their own right. But it is going to take a great deal of work from a squad which must be beginning to wonder if everything is going to go wrong at the tail end of the season. Their fate is still in their own hands – just.