Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Inter Milan are stuttering. On Saturday night his inspirational Dutch signing Wesley Sneijder scored with virtually the last kick of the match – winning the match for the Nerazzurri and denying Udinese a well deserved point. But the overall picture for the reigning champions is not good. Diego Milito is now out for at least a month, joining his former Genoa teammate Thiago Motta in the treatment room, and the other big summer signing, Samuel Eto’o, is struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.
During the mid-week draw in Russia, in the Champions League, Mourinho opted for a 4-3-3 formation, deploying Mario Balotelli as his third striker, but just as in the Luigi Ferraris three days earlier, the system faltered, with the volatile youngster seeing red midway through the second half. On Saturday night, he reverted to a 4-3-1-2, placing the returning Sneijder in the fantasista role, behind Milito and Eto’o. The Coach has been eulogizing about how much his team needs the Dutchman to stay fit if they are to challenge both domestically and in Europe. It has long been recognised that the Portuguese Tactician favours the 4-3-3 formation, but during the summer he hinted that he was considering changing his system for the current season. He courted Sneijder all summer, and finally got his man on the eve of the big kickoff in August. While the Dutchman has been an outstanding signing, there have to be major question marks against other squad players, such as Ricardo Quaresma and Amantino Mancini, the latter having a dreadful night in Russia, a pale shadow of the player who performed so consistently for Roma.
Dejan Stankovic has certainly been one of Inter Milan’s best players so far this campaign and, playing on the right hand side of a midfield diamond against Udinese, he opened the scoring with a breathtaking strike, the type that has become the Serbian’s trademark. His midfield partner Sulley Muntari however, is another player who is underperforming this season and his lacklustre display on Saturday saw him replaced with David Suazo for the final quarter of the game. Patrick Vieira announced his desire to leave the club, in a French newspaper interview last week, proving that all is not well behind the scenes. In the space of seven days, the Nerazzurri have displayed a vulnerable side that will certainly give hope to the rest of Serie A and their future European opponents. The Sunday morning headlines in the Italian press were of Mourinho’s dance of delight as his side claimed all three points against the Zebrette but in the cold light of day, the “Special One” will know only too well that there is much work to be done to eclipse last season’s success.
Luciano Spalletti’s final act as Roma Coach could prove to be the club’s saving grace this season. 24 hours before the opening night defeat to Genoa, Nicolas Burdisso arrived on loan from Inter Milan and the experience he has brought to the Giallorossi defence looks to be invaluable. Sunday afternoon, in the sweltering heat of the Stadio Olimpico, he once again demonstrated his worth to the team with an outstanding display against Napoli in the Derby del Sole. With both first choice centre-halves Philippe Mexes and Juan out injured, the Argentinean’s qualities were brought to the fore. Alongside him was the Under-21 defender Marco Andreolli and between them they snuffed out any threat from Fabio Quagliarella and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Napoli took a 25 minute lead thanks to Lavezzi and the blame has to be solely laid at the feet of substitute goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont, who let a weak effort squirm under his body. It must be of great comfort to Claudio Ranieri to know he has a versatile, quality defender to call upon when personnel are thin on the ground and maybe the capture of Burdisso could prove the difference between mid-table obscurity and a place in European competition next season. Meanwhile, Roberto Donadoni’s tenure at the southern giants seems to coming to an end. He cut a desperate figure on the bench on Sunday afternoon and it seems the likeable coach from Bergamo will have to face the wrath of club President Aurelio De Laurentiis, who looks certain to opt for a change of leadership after the international break.
Serie A analysis
Milan, a tale of one city, Roma, the same old problems– August 24, 2009
José’s derby day delight, Diego tames the Roman gladiators– August 31, 2009
Chiellini fires Juve to the top, Genoa respond in style– September 14, 2009
Top spot for a resurgent Samp, Totti leads from the front again– September 21, 2009
Two tales of one city– September 25, 2009
Will the real Viola please reveal themselves, Inter fall in Genoa– September 28, 2009