Season preview: Inter – Fresh hope for a chaos-free campaign under Gasperini

Last season: Inter 2010-11 season review
The squad: Inter have spent much of the summer attempting to keep their star players in Nerazzurri colours as Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o have been consistently linked with moves away from Appiano Gentile. While it now looks likely Sneijder will stay in Milan, Eto’o appears to be heading to Russia to sign for free-spending Anzhi Makhachkala as Massimo Moratti decided to cash in on the Cameroon striker while his value is still high.
Twenty-three-year-old Argentine winger Ricky Alvarez has joined from Velez Sarsfield and immediately showed why Inter were so keen to seal his signature with a display of pace and trickery down the left wing against Milan in the Supercoppa final in Beijing.
Yuto Nagatomo has made his loan move from Cesena permanent, bringing versatility to Inter’s squad, and Italian international goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, though likely to miss most of the coming season with a knee injury, adds strength to the goalkeeping department having arrived by accident after a paperwork error at Bologna’s end. The Nerazzurri have also signed 18-year-old Dutch striker Luc Castaignos from Feyenoord and Brazilian right back Jonathan from Santos.
Kenyan international midfielder McDonald Mariga has departed Inter for the season after signing for Spanish side Real Sociedad and he is joined out the exit door by a number of Nerazzurri youngsters loaned out to get experience.
One major concern for Inter is the defence. Maicon has had knee surgery and has an unknown return date and nothing has been done to strengthen the centre that was exposed dramatically at times last season, none more so than at home to Schalke in the Champions League. Lucio, Cristian Chivu, Ivan Cordoba, Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel are all over 30 and Andrea Ranocchia hasn’t been the assured defender he was before his knee injury.
The Coach – Gian Piero Gasperini: A man who worked wonders at Genoa, Gasperini is renowned for playing stylish and attacking football. He is a surprise choice at Inter as the Nerazzurri went down several other avenues before appointing him. Gasperini has not had a job since being sacked by the Genoa in November 2010 after a poor start following a summer of spending.
It will be interesting to see how Gasperini’s methods work out at Inter. Famed for using a 3-4-3 formation, he actually deployed a 3-5-2 in the Supercoppa against Milan and it worked well for the first 45 minutes before the Rossoneri turned the game around in the second half. Tactics like these, while producing goals, can lead to conceding aplenty too, an Achilles heel for Inter last season.
Such a fluid, attacking formation also requires a lot of energy. While Giampaolo Pazzini and Diego Milito will be willing workers up front and the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Joel Obi and Philippe Coutinho will have plenty of energy in midfield, the core of Inter’s squad is the same one as under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho and is therefore an ageing one.
Another interesting aspect is the relationship between Gasperini and Inter’s star players. His favoured system requires hours of practice to perfect and for everybody to pull together so Inter’s ego-filled squad could react indifferently.
Player to look out for: Philippe Coutinho – Having been frustrated by a lack of opportunities, the 19-year-old Brazilian may get his chance to shine this season under Gasperini. The Inter hierarchy have hailed him as the future of the club but he needs playing time to develop the ample technical talent he already has.
Prediction: Should finish in the top three for a Champions League qualification place.
Probable XI:

Julio Cesar
Lucio – Ranocchia – Samuel
Maicon – Zanetti – Thiago Motta – Stankovic
Sneijder
Pazzini – Milito
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