The crazy season is in full swing, and to predict what Inter’s squad will look like come the beginning of the season is pure speculation. In fact, it is nigh impossible to tell what deal will be struck in the next 24 hours.
In this article, we will take a look at how Inter are shaping up for the new season given the current squad and possible tactics that Gasperini may employ.
1. A tactically sound coach
Rafa Benitez showed that tactics or the lack thereof counts for everything in Serie A. Inter repeatedly performed miserably under the Spaniard, who was just not up to scratch to be able to handle the tactical battle that even middle to lower teams offer in Italy. With Leonardo, the team’s success owed more to grit and determination than sound tactical formations.
In Gasperini, Inter have a coach who has the required experience to lock horns with the likes of Milan’s Gasperini and Napoli’s Mazzari, amongst others. To finish as high as fifth with a team like Genoa requires talent and intelligence in terms of tactics. Thus, it is hard to see Gasperini being found out as badly as Benitez and Leonardo were over the course of 2010/11.
2. Flexible formation and training regime
Over the course of last season, more than a few Nerazzurri players have come out in criticism of the training methods of the earlier regime. The sheer number of injuries cannot be attributed purely to coincidence. Inter’s injury crisis in the first half of the season was one of the worst. If anything, it cost them the title even before Christmas.
Leonardo’s team, while exciting, showed a deft lack of defensive ability. To expect a team to come from two goals down every single game is unrealistic and silly. The result against Schalke in the Champions League is testament to this.
It is true that Gasperini’s favored formation is a 3-4-3. This would mean the likes of a Wesley Sneijder would have to play out of formation or be shipped out. Gasperini has to only cast an eye on how his three predecessors fared and what they did right and wrong. This Inter squad is still in the process of transition and has players who aren’t the quickest. Having come up through the coaching ranks the hard way, he is not one to be stubborn and has said in numerous press conferences that the team will play according to the strengths of the squad.
3. Hunger for success
When the 2010/11 season began, there was only one way for Inter, and unfortunately, it was down. Even the most optimistic of fans cannot expect a team to repeat a treble in consecutive seasons. Though success creates hunger for more success, it is in human nature to rest on one’s laurels. Not every Inter player covered themselves in glory. Maicon’s 2009/10 and 10/11 seasons were chalk and cheese, likewise Diego Milito.
The criticism and lack of silverware will most definitely spur the players to achieve greatness once more. Nothing like a battered ego and tattered reputation to have a charged up player, ready to give his all. Inter have a lot of players who have a couple of seasons left in them at best and would surely be hungrier than ever to win the Scudetto one more time.
If Inter did not sell Milito when his value was at its peak at the end of the treble season, doing so now would be foolish. Inter would be best served keeping hold of the likes of Milito and Motta and gamble on them repeating their form of two years past than losing them for a pittance.
4. Relatively light postseason
The exertions of the World Cup cannot be under estimated. Inter began the campaign with most of their influential players either injured or exhausted. Even the most die-hard Nerazzurri fan had a fear that the team might take so long to recover from the earlier season and the summer World Cup that the following season would be affected beyond repair.
Sneijder remained a peripheral figure for the most part of 2010/11. Even while in the team, he looked tired and frustrated. The same can be said for the Brazilian fullback Maicon, who was a shadow of the player that he was in the earlier season.
The worst affected was probably Diego Milito. He did not figure much in the first team for Argentina. A combination of injuries and bad-form made Milito a sub-par performer for the entire season. He cut a sorry figure during Inter’s final game of the season against Catania.
5. Lack of Pressure
The pressure of having to repeat the exploits from the previous season can weigh down even the best of players. Milan winning the Scudetto means they start the season as favorites, and Inter may be considered even behind Napoli as far as challengers go. Starting the season off quietly and without too much media focus might work in the favor of Inter.
This season, the players do not have to worry about records and stats. They can go out there and play without anything to lose. Such an attitude will help the team in key games such as the derbies and against other top four sides. Last season’s Inter looked jaded and lacking in ideas when it came to the crunch games. A solid preseason training, coupled with a well drilled squad of players, should see Inter make a strong start to the new campaign.
6. Who Inter needs to sign?
Inter has a clear weakness in the center of its defense. Even with the signing of Ranocchia, it leaves Inter with only three center-backs who can be depended upon for a whole season. Ivan Cordoba can only be really depended upon for substitute appearances. Samuel’s injury has shown that a season-long absence is extremely likely and what dire consequences it has. Inter must sign another center back or promote one of the youngsters from the Primavera team.
In the midfield department, Inter seem to be doing well for the moment. Inter have signed Ricardo Alvarez, who is an attacking midfielder. He plays a role similar to Sneijder, which increases speculation about the current No. 10’s future. Thaigo Motta looks likely to stay. If he can manage to stay fit, which is a bigger if than most, he should be a first team starter.
Under Leonardo, Cambiasso had some of his worst performances in an Inter shirt. The fact that he was playing on the flank while Motta occupied the central role can be attributed to this. One has to wait and see how Gasperini uses the two first choice midfielders. In addition, Inter needs another box-to-box type midfielder who can take up the role when likes of Motta, Cambiasso and Stankovic need to be out of the team. In addition, a younger midfielder will increase the dynamism of the Inter midfield.
Rumors of Inter’s interest in Valencia’s Ever Banega have persisted through the summer. If a deal for the midfielder can be tied for the mooted nine million euros, it would be considered on of the best bargains. Banega has been one of Valencia’s better players. As the former Valencia sporting director, Amadeo Carboni says, "Banega is the most important player in the squad. He dictates the pace of the game, he gives assists, he organises the play from deep, he runs the game." (source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/feb/08/valencia-ever-banega-liga-spain).
Gasperini’s fondness for the 3-4-3 makes the flanks a very important part of Inter’s formation. The club has recently signed the Brazilian fullback Jonathan from Santos. Many consider this to be a sign that Maicon’s days at the club are numbered. No one can deny that a mega offer from Real Madrid will certainly be accepted. At the same time, the management have stated that they seek to have more than one option for every position.
Zanetti’s lack of pace makes it hard for him to cover against pacy opposition wingers. Thus, there is a need for a winger/fullback who has pace and strength when Maicon is injured.
In the forwards department, if Inter can keep hold of Eto’o and have faith in Milito for one more season, they look to be well covered. The addition of Gianpaolo Pazzini in January was an astute acquisition by Inter. The rumors of Manchester City’s interest in Eto’o never seem to go away, yet it does seem as though the Cameroon forward will stay at the San Siro.
7. A small note on the whole Wesley Sneijder saga:
Wes has been a fantastic performer for Inter, and I can never forget the game he had against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. There have been other moments too, but the Champions League made his performance all the more special. I would hate to see Sneijder leave Inter, but am a firm believer in the fact that no player is bigger than the club.
Sneijder is 27 and is shown to be quite injury prone. He had a decent season in 2010/11, but nothing stellar. If Inter decide to play a 3-4-4 formation, that makes it further hard for Sneijder to exercise his influence on the game. If Inter let Sneijder go, they must indentify a midfielder who is capable of seeing a pass, scoring goals and taking free-kicks like Sneijder does.
Without Sneijder, the current Inter midfield is completely bereft of ideas. If the club management does decide to let him go, they must replace him with someone like a Pastore who has a similar skill-level but is also younger. Without a logical replacement for the Dutchman, it would be suicide to let Sneijder go at this stage.