If you are an Inter fan, it's doom and gloom time. The team is on a downward slump and no real savior in sight. To make matters worse, it is Milan of all teams that are leading the table and pulling clear if anything. Are there any positives from the derby defeat? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? I will try to address a few of these questions and assess Inter’s chances of retaining the Scudetto.
First things first: Team Selection.
Benitez has misplaced passion with intensity. Putting Marco Materazzi in the starting 11 for the want of passion in the derby sounded a little odd at the time itself. Events in the derby only accentuated that opinion as the Matrix practically gift wrapped the game to Milan, who seemed capable enough of winning even without any presents from their cross-town cousins.
I was totally perplexed with the exclusion of Santon and given that the young fullback was ready to come on later in the game, his exclusion seemed all the more puzzling. Playing Santon would free up Cordoba to play in the center. While Cordoba is no Walter Samuel, he is certainly a superior defender to Materazzi.
I do not want to sound like your typical television pundit who says “I told you so,” but I never really looked forward to Materazzi playing instead of Cordoba in the center of defense.
Benitez did not end with his perplexing selections there. Samuel Eto’o was made to play on the flank instead of upfront but more on that later.
Inter have a terrible injury crisis right now, and everyone will be a little considerate towards the Spaniard, but by making selection decisions that were queer, he basically shot himself in the foot even before a ball was kicked.
What is common between Maicon, Cambiasso, Mariga, Muntari, Motta, Samuel and Cesar?
You guessed it right—they are all injured. Just look at the names in that list. Almost all are walk-on first team certainties. As strong as a squad maybe, you simply cannot replace a Maicon or a Cambiasso.
If there’s any positive in that list it is the length of the lay-off. Walter Samuel's is the only long-term injury. The rest are in varying stages of recovery. Of course with Thiago Motta, one can never really say whether the injury is long or short term but all the strength to him.
Cambiasso and Cesar should be back by the next game, and Maicon’s return should not be too long thereafter. Maicon has hopefully put the demons of White Hart Lane behind him.
Inter are lacking the dynamism in midfield, something that Thiago Motta is very good at. His passing is superior to all, but Sneijder’s and the sooner he makes a recovery, the sooner Inter will start playing better.
Mariga and Muntari are both excellent ball-winners. Their presence in the derby could well have limited the domination of Ambrosini and Co.
To criticize Benitez without counting all the injury troubles would be a little harsh on the coach. But by no means, is it a big enough excuse for not picking up three points against Lecce and Brescia.
Milan it seemed could pick a through ball and find acres of space behind Inter’s defense at will and worryingly so, for large parts of the game. Inter have a good defensive record, but there was no real organization at the back.
At the start of the season, many wondered if playing a high back-line against a pacy attack would be the way to go. With Cordoba, you at least have speed in defense but with Lucio and Samuel, once the offside trap has failed, the attacker is a clear favorite in that foot race.
Another observation over the last few games has been the lack of closing down in midfield. The lack of Cambiasso and Mariga may have some part in this, but opposition teams might be surprised with the amount of time and space they find themselves in, when past the halfway line.
Unless the midfield starts pressing the opposition more, the defense is going to find itself more and more exposed and given the lack of goals scored, a porous defense is the last thing the Inter fans want to see.
Players Not Pulling Their Weight:
Certain players are just not performing, and there is no hiding from that. I hate picking on individual players as I believe in winning and losing as a team, but it would be unfair to not mention the names of players who have not been performing to expectations.
Christian Chivu is a unanimous choice in being one of the most under-performing players this season. He has been found wanting on the defensive side of things on several occasions this season, the most blatant being the away game against Lecce when he pretty much lost Olivera, allowing him a clear chance to score from which he duly did. Chivu’s attacking runs have been toothless to non-existent. He has lost the ball on too many occasions when a promising move seems to be developing.
Goran Pandev is another player who is just not performing. One has to wonder if he would even be in the playing 11 if Super Mario was still around. From scoring the second goal in the derby last season to the level he is playing at now, it has been a pretty steep downward spiral for the Macedonian. Missing easy chances in front of the goal doesn’t help his stats either.
Maicon has been the best Right Back in the World for the last two to three seasons. Who can forget his goal against Juventus at the end of last season, when Inter looked to be losing their grip on the Scudetto. This season however, we have not seen the Maicon of old. He hasn’t had the same authority in either defense or attack. Gareth Bale made him look like a schoolboy defender. Inter need Maicon’s marauding runs while going forward and his defensive strength that was so evident last season.
Milito and Sneijder are two other players who have not yet put in performances to match up to last season. Milito’s case is worrying as he looks unhappy and disinterested at times. For some reason, the hunger doesn’t seem to be there. I hope I am proved wrong by the Prince as I cannot wait to see him beaming after scoring a brace every second game. Sneijder started having more and more influence on Inter’s play as the Derby progressed and hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
Stay Behind The Team:
I hope like true fans, we all stay behind our team. It is very easy for us to get carried away with the press reports and lay into the team without any constructive criticism. The gap is six points.
Inter suffered a slump of form towards the end of last season. Let us hope the slump is now, and it is done with in the early part of the campaign. Milan and Lazio have been far from consistent and a couple of draws for the other teams will put Inter within a point of them in a matter of weeks.
We need Cambiasso back. Maicon needs to rediscover his form and get fit super quickly. Sneijder and Milito are showing glimpses of last season’s form; it needs just one game, similar to the Bari result and Inter should be back on track. If last season’s Inter could blow more than a 10-point lead, six points with just 12 games played is a little too soon to kiss the title hopes good bye.
Our team needs us to get behind them in these difficult moments. We must criticize only when we see a lack of effort and desire. Let us behave like true fans and give them all our backing.