When Giampaolo Pazzini saw his last minute spot kick sail over the bar after his bizarre slip, he could at least take solace in the fact that this was the least of Inter’s problems. Last weekend saw the Nerazzurri crash to another defeat in Serie A, this time Udinese were the opponents highlighting the home sides’ frailties.
In only 12 games Inter have suffered six defeats, three of them at home, whilst they have also drawn twice, dropping points at home on the first occasion. How can a team that won the treble only 18 months ago be closer to relegation than the title?
Tactically Inter have not been able to evolve; despite playing around with certain tactics they have eventually caved in and gone back to the 4-3-1-2 that served them so well under Jose Mourinho. The first problem for Ranieri’s side is that they are not compact enough; this may be because they are still reeling from the Gian Piero Gasperini’s three at the back tactical horror show that had no chance of working with this Inter team. Whatever the reasons both Lucio and Walter Samuel have looked slow and uncomfortable when the ball is played behind them, whilst the full backs who look good going forward, lack the defensive attributes needed. This is excluding Zanetti of course but Inter can not count on his aging legs forever. Christian Chivu is not the perfect partner for any of the centre backs and has had a particularly poor season with his decision-making becoming increasingly questionable.
Ranieri has also failed to recognise that with the players at his disposal, his formation has flaws. This all starts with the front two and the man in the hole who are prone to switch off and not press. This allows the opposition to play the ball out from the back and almost bypass them. The ball, once in the midfield can then easily be played out wide as Inter’s next line of defence is a midfield three. Often this season this has not been filled with defensive players (like Obi) and therefore does not press or players get easily dragged out wide. The inevitable outcome is that the back four have no protection and get very stretched or dragged to high up the pitch, this is not ideal for an aging defence. Inter do create chances it is true but they also have not settled on their personal up front and therefore cannot find the perfect combination. They are certainly missing Samuel Eto’o.
It is no secret the Nerazzurri’s squad is aging; the physical abilities of Milito, Stankovic, Chivu, Lucio, Forlan, Cambiasso, Samuel are but a few who are struggling. Some of the younger players such as Nagatomo, Coutinho and Jonathan still have question marks over their head. Inter are missing a striker as well so their problems are plentiful.
Mentally it seems that it is Massimo Moratti who is struggling to get rid of these players who brought him so much success only 18 months ago. Failure to break up the older parts of the team immediately and integrate youth is now taking its toll. This lack of blame on the players is evident when counting the coaches since Mourinho’s departure, however, even if Moratti realises it now it is unlikely that with the financial fair play laws looming he will break the bank.
The Nerazzurri are stuck at the beginning of a transition period and unless they rely on youth from the academies to push them through this difficult time it could be a long time until the Nerazzurri win another treble.