After so many false dawns in Inter’s post-Jose Mourinho world, this summer was the first to have a genuine "Year Zero" feel. While Rafael Benitez, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni all seemed to be attempting to build on the foundation of that 2010 treble-winning campaign, appointing Walter Mazzarri was a true reset of the club.
Adding to that bright-new-dawn appearance was the takeover completed by Erick Thohir. The Indonesian businessman bought a majority stake in the Nerazzurri. Succeeding long-time president Massimo Moratti was always going to be a difficult task, but the club is certainly changing.
With an aging and incomplete squad, Mazzarri’s first campaign in charge was perhaps always destined to be tumultuous, but at times Inter have surprised many people. The fact they still sit as high as fifth in Serie A means the possibility of a European place is well within their grasp.
However, despite that distinct promise, the coach has made some serious errors in judgment to keep the Nerazzurri from reaching their full potential this season. Over the following pages are his five biggest mistakes since arriving at La Pinetina, ranked in order of their detrimental effect.
Mazzarri and his players travelled to Turin in poor form, but his selection against Juventus would only make matters worse. His formation largely mirrors that of Antonio Conte, so getting the right players in place should have been quite simple.
However, Mazzarri inexplicably selected a midfield trio of Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Mateo Kovacic and Saphir Taider, with the result surprising nobody. Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal simply overran their opponents, enjoying limitless possession as they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.
The Inter coach has continued berating match officials the way he did at Napoli, continually complaining about decisions made against his team. Walter Mazzarri has blamed referees for almost every poor result the club has suffered, allowing his players an excuse for their losses.
His worst tirades came after defeats to Napoli, Lazio and Udinese, per Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia), Goal.com and RAI Sport (h/t Four Four Two) respectively, after which he vowed not to discuss the issue "for the rest of the season." However, he was back at it again this past weekend, bemoaning an "obvious" non-call, per RAI Radio (h/t Football Italia).
As against the champions, Mazzarri got his team selection completely wrong when faced with Rudi Garcia’s high-flying AS Roma. The Giallorossi had already established their identity long before this October meeting. The coach should have known what to expect.
However, once again, he made few adjustments and effectively hung defender Alvaro Pereira out to dry against Roma’s impressive wingers. The 28-year-old was completely overwhelmed by Alessandro Florenzi and Gervinho, earning a yellow card and conceding a penalty.
The two wide men took turns to torment the Uruguayan, who was then substituted at halftime with the score already at 3-0. He had made a number of good crosses but a complete lack of protection left him unable to cope with the relentless Giallorossi attack.
Once upon a time—in 2009, to be precise—Andrea Ranocchia was viewed as one of Italy’s most promising defenders.
Back then, aged just 21, the Assisi native was often seen as the more talented of Bari’s central pairing, where he featured alongside Leonardo Bonucci.
At the end of that season, Bonucci would move to Juventus, while Ranocchia headed for Genoa. In Turin, the former initially struggled. However, the arrival of Antonio Conte and his eventual switch to a three-man defence would be the making of him. Bonucci is now viewed as one of the best around in his role, vital to helping the two-time champions lift trophies once again.
Meanwhile, Ranocchia has continued to struggle, never fully grasping the back three so beloved by Genoa boss Gian Piero Gasperini. He later moved to Inter, where he continued to build on that early promise and grew to once again be a much-admired player.
However, the arrival of Walter Mazzarri has meant he has once again been asked to play in a system which should suit his characteristics but simply doesn’t. In his 14 appearances this term, the Nerazzurri have conceded 20 goals, compared to just nine in the 11 games without him.
That he was a regular member of the side until as recently as January shows that Mazzarri should have been quicker to drop the 26-year-old.
The biggest problem for Inter this season has been their form after the traditional two-week break at Christmas. The Nerazzurri went into that period in fine shape, beating rivals Milan in their final fixture of 2013 and hunting a Champions League berth.
However, they returned thoroughly unmotivated, losing to Lazio in the first game before being eliminated from the Italian Cup at the hands of Udinese. Draws with Chievo and Catania sandwiched a loss to Genoa before Mazzarri’s side were demolished by Juventus.
That run meant they took just two points from their first five league games of the new year, finally returning to winning ways against Sassuolo earlier this month. With just nine points from eight games since that derby win, it is clear the coach has much work to do.