Last night’s game between Inter and Parma proved that Jose Mourinho’s men are not infallible.
The Gialloblu came away with a hard fought draw where for long periods they were arguably the side looking more dangerous. Inter were by no means outplayed on the night but Parma like Bari had done a few weeks ago exposed the chinks in the Nerazzurri armor – a point that Walter Mazzarri and his Napoli side would have noted in expectation of the champions’ visit to the San Paolo on Sunday. Despite Wesley Sneijder not being a part of the game, Inter started with the offensive trio of Diego Milito, Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o up-front. So evidently there was no lack of firepower in the squad. However, the strikers were kept well at bay from the Parma goal by the Gialloblu defenders notably Alessandro Lucarelli and Hernan Dellafiore. The two Italians made it hard for the Inter stars to get a clean run into the box and forced them to shoot from outside.
This showcased the first of Inter’s weaknesses on the night. Without Sneijder and without getting into the penalty box, Inter lack the ability to force the goals. The team faced a similar problem against Bari three weeks ago and it was only two defensive mistakes that helped the Nerazzurri get the draw in that game. One of the major reasons for Parma’s success last night was the almost man-marking approach they adopted. Players like Milito and Eto’o if given the space will rip a side apart as has been the case in recent weeks, but strangle them up-front and you effectively shore up all the goals.
The other weak link in Inter’s play last night was their midfield. The team has consolidated the middle third this year quite well but it is still susceptible to the fast counter-attack. Javier Zanetti for once bore the look of exhaustion at the end of a game after dealing with speedy players like Jonathan Biabiany and Luis Jimenez. It was only when McDonald Mariga came on in the second half that Mourinho’s midfield started looking like it could hold up. Inter are one of the fastest teams on the counter-attack not just in Italy but also in Europe. But their quick counter-attacks mean they leave their midfield exposed. Hence, if a team can break on them it makes it hard for the Nerazzurri to contain them.
And the most important lesson of them all is to take the game to the champions. If one tries to soak up the pressure with Inter, they will inevitably fail as the strikers always find a way through. Instead the best policy is to hit Inter on the counters and expose their pushed-up back-lines with continuity. There are few things that seem to be able to stop the Beneamata juggernaut at the moment but going by last night’s performance Francesco Guidolin might just have found the vulnerable spot.