It was Inter’s 106th birthday and the sun was beating down on the San Siro pitch. The sprinklers cascaded water onto the surface and Erick Thohir was in the stands to watch on. The Nerazzurri faithful were in good spirits and the day was not to disappoint as Rodrigo Palacio made sure that the celebrations could begin. It was his looping header that dispatched Torino, even if not convincingly.
Erick Thohir had not seen his new team win (whilst he was attending) at the San Siro since he had taken over. This was put to bed as the Nerazzurri produced a workman-like display to beat a Torino side, who created some decent chances but overall looked like they had not recovered from their Derby defeat against Juventus the previous week.
Statistically the game seemed comfortable for Inter who had more possession, more shots (on- and off-target) more tackles and won and more aerial duels whilst also spending much more time in Torino’s half. Rodrigo Palacio, Hugo Campagnaro, Jonathan and Hernanes all performed well, and whilst they did not produce a performance that wowed the fans, there was a pattern developing.
Walter Mazzarri came to Inter and split opinion. Some thought that he was perhaps not the right man for the job at the Nerazzurri and his style was not the correct fit, whilst some enthused that he would produce the same attacking brand of football seen at Napoli. One thing he has succeeded in doing is uniting Inter fans; they are almost unequivocally underwhelmed by his performances so far.
Much has been written about his teams lacking an identity, which certainly still seems to be the case, or that the players he has do not fit his system. The counter-argument for this is that both of these areas need work and this takes time. Some of Mazzarri’s comments to the media have suggested that he perhaps has written off the season in a blasé manner that has not always sat well with the fans.
What the game against Torino continued to show was that Mazzarri does have a plan and he has slowly been putting it into place. He believes that Inter’s revolution is a long-term project. Even though the signing of Hernanes has been an outward sign of that, it is the work at the back that is bearing fruit.
Inter are not winning any awards when it comes to style and it is obvious that the wing-backs are not good enough, whilst there is room for improvement offensively. Last season however they finished the campaign in ninth place after losing 16 games and conceding 57 goals.
This year Mazzarri has tightened that up (even if at the expense of the football style) and after 27 games they have only conceded 29, which joint-third-best in the league. Add to this that they are unbeaten in five and have only conceded twice in that time and a pattern emerges.
Mazzarri has not been idly sat back watching his team produce hum-drum performances whilst waiting for the transfer window to arrive so Thohir can splash out on numerous members of new personnel. Quite the contrary, he has been making Inter hard to beat and solid at the back. There is no doubt new players will arrive in the summer, but this will be for phase two of his plan as, by then, the defence should be incredibly reliable.