Andrea Stramaccioni's first year with Inter Milan has been impressive, especially for a first-year coach. He has proven time and again that he is worthy of his position, and will continue to do so.
Massimo Moratti shocked many fans and pundits last season by appointing Stramaccioni as the successor to Claudio Ranieri.
The shock was warranted—to a degree.
Stramaccioni had tremendous success with Inter's youth squad and even won the NextGen Series. Still, this wasn't a job with a youth squad. This was a shot at coaching one of the most prestigious teams in Europe.
To his credit, Stramaccioni handled the added pressure without ever giving the impression that he had bit off more than he could chew. He led Inter to a Europa League qualification spot last season and currently has the Nerazzurri in second place so far this season.
With Inter qualifying for the next round of the Europa League and also chasing their first scudetto since Jose Mourinho left for Real Madrid, Stramaccioni faces a large test.
Can Stramaccioni continue living up to the hype from his work as a youth coach? He's given every indication he could and there are a few ways that he can further prove himself.
For me, qualifying for the Champions League while chasing the scudetto are the only real objectives to Inter's season.
However, winning the Europa League would be a nice bonus and another accolade to add to Stramaccioni's collection.
Last week's win over Partizan Belgrade shuffled Inter to the top of Group H. Both teams have 10 points, but Inter holds a higher goal differential and will move on to the next round.
Inter may not be the best team left in the competition, but they definitely have the quality to win it all.
As far as their chase for the Serie A title goes, Inter do have an uphill battle. Losses to Roma, Siena and most recently, Atalanta have set the Nerazzurri back a bit. Still, their win over Juventus was huge for both the team's spirit as well as their position in the table.
They are only four points behind Juventus for first place and there's plenty of season left, but they'll need Juve to start losing if they are to raise the title.
Regardless, they will finish near the top and qualify for the Champions League.
The only concern would be whether or not they have enough depth in rotational players to offset the tough competition they'll face both domestically and in Europe.
Cassano, Palacio and Guarin have all flourished under Stramaccioni
Stramaccioni has to continue to make the right player decisions for Inter.
So far, he's done just that, bringing out the best in his players.
In Italy, coaches don't have the final say on who clubs sign, but they let the guys in charge know who is needed. After the end of last season, heading into the summer transfer window, Stramaccioni knew what players he wanted.
While not pick every has worked out (such as Matias Silvestre) he has struck gold on some very important ones.
Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano, brought in this past summer, have both flourished in their short time for the Nerazzurri.
In addition to transfers, he's also making personnel decisions on the field. Pairing Andrea Ranocchia with Juan Jesus has been another stroke of genius, as has been the development of Philippe Coutinho. Until he got hurt, the young Brazilian playmaker was the star of Inter's Europa League contests.
Sure, it's easy to pick out a few personnel choices and ramble on about their success, but obviously, there are ups and downs in every season
Still, Stramaccioni has proven he knows exactly what Inter needs, and the success of his decisions is a good indication that he'll continue making good ones.
The pun on Stramaccioni's new nickname aside, there is something to be said about Stramaccioni being "special."
Like many of the other young coaches who have experienced success despite their inexperience, Stramaccioni has been given that dynamic title.
But if you, like me, are wary of such praise, let's use another term—bold.
Stramaccioni has surely been bold in his short time as Inter coach. He has not been afraid to try unique formations or change things up from game to game, depending on his players' form.
Even formations that make some fans cringe. His 3-4-3 attacking formation is uncommon in the defense-heavy Serie A, but despite that has worked very well for Inter.
More telling of his boldness, though, was his approach and response to the Juventus game. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's admit that Juventus was bound to lose a game eventually.
Still, Andrea Stramaccioni went into that game with confidence that tactically, his team would win. Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta scoffed at Stramaccioni's claims.
Well, Stramaccioni got the last laugh. Then, after feeling he was slighted by Marotta and others for his tactics, he demanded respect from Juve following the game.
A bold move for an inexperienced coach, to say the least.
It's this type of boldness that surely won over any Nerazzurri fans who doubted his tactics, and it will continue to win people over.
That's a bold claim for me to make, because a lot of things can happen. Stramaccioni can still fail at Inter or he can even leave to conquer another club.
I mean, that is Mourinho's "special" way, isn't it?
It doesn't matter how special or intelligent a coach is—if the players don't want you around, you won't be there. It may seem obvious, but I think it's often overlooked.
It's exactly the reason why coaches like Rafa Benitez and Gian Piero Gasperini failed at Inter. Sure, their tactics were part of the reason, but, if you look at their time at Inter, they never truly had control of the team.
That's where Stramaccioni differs.
I'm sure that when he was first announced, the players were baffled that he was chosen. Over time, he has proven himself to the players and gained their respect.
This, in turn, means the players will believe in him and buy into his tactics. The same thing happened in Italy when Antonio Conte took over Juventus. He had "different" tactics and lacked experience, but the team bought in, and they went on an 49-game unbeaten streak.
Don't expect such a streak from Inter, but do expect Stramaccioni to achieve the same level of respect and admiration Antonio Conte has at Juventus.
Club owner Massimo Moratti and captain Javier Zanetti already gave their seal of approval. You could argue that those are the two most important seals of approval on the team. given their high standing with the club.
All it means, though, is that Stramaccioni will prove himself at Inter for as long as he wants to be there.