"This year is for me to assess the squad. The lads have to prove themselves and every match provides extra information. We'll add everything up at the end then look at who stays and all the rest of it. Our target for the moment is to finish as high as possible." Walter Mazzarri speaking to Sky Italia.
The Inter Coach was speaking after his side drew 0-0 with Roma on Saturday night and indicated that this season was one of self-discovery. Perhaps it was a wise move setting targets that he could not fail to hit. After all, wherever Inter finish it is unlikely to be lower than last year and so ultimately he will call it a success. In real terms he is expressing his need for time to sort out the playing staff and this point at least is fair.
It is no secret that Inter’s squad is aging and a turnover of players is long overdue. The time needed to transform the squad however is not the only problem—it is also the manner in which this achieved. The Nerazzurri do have some promising players in their ranks and, although the old guard are still to be given their golden handshakes, change should be on the horizon.
Samir Handanovic will be the keeper for the foreseeable future and Francesco Bardi will be his talented understudy next year when he returns from Livorno. The defence already has Juan Jesus, Andrea Rannochia and the newly signed Nemanja Vidic amongst its ranks. The midfield has star man Hernanes surrounded by the likes of Ricky Alvarez, Fredy Guarin and Mateo Kovacic whilst Rodrigo Palacio up front is partnered by highly promising Mauro Icardi.
There is a mixture of young players who can fill some of the gaps coming back off loan (many of whom won the NextGen Series under Andrea Stramaccioni) and they do currently sit in fifth place. It can be agreed that they are perhaps light up front and that the wing-back positions are up for debate. The latter has seen both Jonathan and Yuto Nagatomo improve, but are they good enough?
Here within lies the problem as Walter Mazzarri favours a 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 (the specifics matter little as the point is about the style). The main focus of his game is to attack on the flanks and attack with speed. At Napoli he was seen as one of the best coaches in Italy and his ‘three tenors’ Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik tore the opposition to shreds. This team featured lightening quick wing-backs who added to this deadly attacking side.
This has not worked at the Nerazzurri as Palacio is no Cavani and does not carry the goal threat, the wing-backs are simply not of the same quality and until the arrival of Hernanes there had been nobody suitable to fill the trequartista role. This has resulted in a tactical system not having anywhere near the impact it should. The fact is, it hasn’t been horrendous, it hasn’t been good, it hasn’t really been anything.
Inter’s squad has therefore lacked an identity, it is neither defensive (the errors at the back will tell that tale) nor is it offensive (the build-up play is slow and laborious), and yet they sometimes can grind out a result.
There is no doubt Inter will get to the summer and analyse everything as Mazzarri predicted. What they will find is that either the system will have to change or there will be a huge turnover in the playing staff (perhaps even both.) Should they fail to do this, next season will be nothing more than a carbon copy of this one.