The Claudio Ranieri led revolution continues as Inter resumed their ascension up the Serie A standings with a 2-1 win over Lazio. Like all revolutionary leaders, the Tinkerman has a knack for responding well to adverse situation. As such, the pressure of playing after all other title contenders had secured victories to then going a goal down was no match for the Coach who was responsible for resurrecting the Nerazzurri’s title challenge from virtual obscurity.
Inter creating overloads
The home team started positively, a stark contrast to their approach in the Derby della Madonnina. Both wide men tucked in when they attacked to help even off the numerical superiority the Biancoazzurri had in midfield. The fullbacks, as a result, used the space created to take positions higher up the field. The knock on effect of this was the space created when one of the opposition’s centre midfielders or fullbacks closed them down. When the former did it the away team was now outnumbered 4v3 in the midfield and when the latter took up the responsibility it opened channels in the defensive line. Diego Milito did well once again linking the forward line with the rest of the team by running the channels and also dropping into the midfield.
Wary of the threat Inter posed in behind and their affinity to play direct balls into their forwards, Lazio retreated to their half each time they lost the ball. Similarly to the hosts, they tried to mount quick attacks every time they won back the ball. Most of their attacking play in the first half came from the flanks, particularly the right, as Ranieri’s men adopted a narrow approach to defending and Zanetti and Cambiasso did well in shielding the back four and forcing the ball out to the wide areas. The Lucio/Walter Samuel duo also made it difficult for strikers Tommaso Rocchi and Miroslav Klose to establish themselves in the game. Ironically, the opening goal came from this area of the pitch as the midfield was penetrated and the Lazio captain was given too much room to finish past Julio Cesar.
Enter Wesley Sneijder
Similarly to the Derby, Ricky Alvarez was once again a peripheral figure (with the exception of assisting the equalizer). During Wesley Sneijder’s absence the Argentinean was the Nerazzurri’s main source of creativity, but as against Milan, he was hauled off, this time to be replaced by the Dutch international. The playmaker brought to the game his ability to find and create space, unlock defences and his wide range of passing – just the weapon their leader would need to win this battle. The former Roma tactician changed the shape to 4-1-2-1-2 (or a 4-4-2 diamond). This change now meant that both set of fullbacks had space ahead of them to get forward regularly and stretch the opposition and once the ball was switched quickly enough, 2v1 overloads on the flank would be achieved.
A game stretched
Gaps were now being opened in each team both horizontally and vertically. Both teams were now attacking in numbers and tried to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. Misplaced passes from deep, both teams’ refusal to play their defensive line high and squeeze play, the quick tempo of the second half meant the game was played in a back and forth manner. Giampaolo Pazzini’s winner came from a play that summed up the pattern of the second half. A headed clearance from the Inter defence of an intercepted Lazio long pass ended up in the path of the goal poacher, which he deftly finished.
The revolutionary Ranieri has now lead his charges to seven straight victories putting them in fourth place in the Serie A standings. A slight change in approach from the cautious tactics employed against the Rossoneri help them leapfrog previously fourth Lazio in a matchup where they were better tactically. Going forward it will be interesting to see if the Tinkerman sticks with Alvarez and the 4-4-2 or switches to the 4-3-1-2 in order to accommodate his best soldier, Wesley Sneijder.