A tumultuous week for Inter has seen fans protesting about the manner in which club management conduct business, an embarrassing failed bid for Juve’s Mirko Vucinic, and a lack of transfer activity in a squad which desperately needs a shake up.
Against such a backdrop, Walter Mazzarri’s side hosted rock-bottom Catania, a team who had failed to win a single point away from home all season. The Nerazzurri began the game hoping to leave those off-field troubles aside for 90 minutes, but it would merely serve to highlight their growing issues.
On the following pages comes a look at what can be learned from Sunday’s 0-0 draw at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
The Nerazzurri’s well-publicised pursuit of Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic was a disaster for the club, both for its effect on the fanbase and the team on the pitch.
According to the table, Inter have Serie A’s fourth-best attack, their 38 goals putting them ahead of the teams around them as they chase third place. In reality, however, they have found the back of the net just once in their last six matches, netting in the 1-1 draw with Chievo two weeks ago.
That run of form has resulted in them taking just two points from those games—and being knocked out of the Coppa Italia—allowing fourth-place Fiorentina to pull away and the chasing pack to move closer.
Vucinic, for his age and salary might not have been the ideal solution—particularly not at the expense of losing Fredy Guarin—but getting a striker on board before the transfer window slams shut is essential.
Walter Mazzarri has always had teams playing on the counterattack, but against such poor opposition, possession is inevitable. Stats site WhoScored.com shows the Nerazzurri had 59 percent of the ball, much higher than their average of 54.7 percent this season.
But that same analysis shows they did very little with that dominance, completing just 82 percent of their pass attempts and managing just three shots on target in the match. They had 14 corners—compared to just four for Catania—yet rarely threatened from set pieces.
The same site shows that the midfield duo of Esteban Cambiasso and Zdravko Kuzmanovic completed just 51 passes combined, the pair simply ineffective even in a game Inter controlled easily and once again proved that...
Mateo Kovacic, a 19-year-old midfielder, has shown in his brief appearances to date that he can solve many of those issues for Inter.
The young Croatian has made just seven starts this term, but the Nerazzurri have lost just once in those games, and his introduction here at half-time again made an impact.
Mazzarri must integrate him into the team, particularly if Guarin is no longer around. His ability on the ball is vastly superior to the other options in the squad.
While it is easy to spot flaws in this Inter side, their recent defensive solidity must be applauded, and finding the reason for improvement is quite simple.
Since Mazzarri took the decision to drop Andrea Ranocchia after the 4-2 defeat to Napoli, Inter have conceded just twice in five Serie A matches, one of those coming against Lazio, when Hugo Campagnaro’s suspension forced him to field Ranocchia.
The 25-year-old has struggled to adapt to the three-man defence—just as he did during his time at Genoa—and the team is vastly better without him. In 14 league appearances he has received six yellow cards while Inter have conceded 18 goals, becoming a liability they cannot overcome.
The attack may be stuttering, but that is not from a lack of probing from the excellent Ricky Alvarez. WhoScored.com’s match stats show he created three clear chances for team-mates, who continually wasted his inventive passes.
That he also led the side in tackles (six) and had three interceptions shows that he has become the focal point of the side and a player Mazzarri can build around given time.
A failed move to Genoa behind him, the playmaker is home once more in the Catania No. 10 shirt.
In three games back with the Sicilian club Francesco Lodi has a goal, an assist and is creating 2.3 chances per game for his team-mates. The raw stats, via WhoScored.com, show the improvement, and the Elefanti have their talisman back.