As Inter traveled to Florence, the players hoped to silence the critics as they wanted to put their loss to Cagliari behind them and focus on getting a positive result away from home. Fiorentina seemed to be struggling of late with only two goals scored all season. What better way than to boost Inter morale (in the domestic campaign) but to win away at the Artemio Franchi.
Big questions loomed ahead of Match Day 6 for Inter. Could the Nerazzurri harness some of their Europa League success (as they remain undefeated in Europe), and channel it into their domestic pursuits or would Fiorentina finally jump start their campaign in Serie A against Inter?
Finally, was the loss to Cagliari an isolated incident or was it a sign of things to come?
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
FIORENTINA: 1 Neto; 40 Tomovic, 2 Rodriguez, 15 Savic, 28 Alonso; 10 Aquilani, 7 Pizarro, 16 Kurtic; 14 Mati Fernandez; 11 Cuadrado, 30 Babacar
Substitutes: 12 Tatarusanu, 21 Lupatelli, 5 Badelj, 6 Vargas, 19 Basanta, 20 Borja Valero, 23 Pasqual, 25 Brillante, 29 Bernardeschi, 32 Lazzari, 55 Hegazi, 72 Ilicic
INTER: Inter: 1 Handanovic; 23 Ranocchia, 15 Vidic, 5 Juan Jesus; 33 D'Ambrosio, 90 M'Vila, 18 Medel, 10 Kovacic, 22 Dodò; 7 Osvaldo, 9 Icardi
Substitutes: 30 Carrizo, 46 Berni, 6 Andreolli, 8 Palacio, 17 Kuzmanovic, 20 Obi, 25 Mbaye, 44 Krhin, 88 Hernanes
Inter lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; a three man defense of Ranocchia, Vidic, and Juan Jesus; a five man midfield of D'Ambrosio, M'Vila, Medel, Kovacic, and Dodo; and a strike force of Osvaldo and Icardi.
The Nerazzurri side immediately took possession of the ball and looked sprightly as if to exorcise the ghosts from the Cagliari loss. Unfortunately, Fiorentina had other designs as they sapped the energy from the Inter players with two early strikes in the first 20 minutes of the match, (Babacar 7' and Cuadrado 19').
Inter players never quite recovered from the early goals. While the Nerazzurri were able to obtain 54% possession of the ball during the match they were unable to convert their four shots on target.
Ranocchia's early yellow card on Cuadrado (20') eventually led to his substitution in the 59th minute as Hernanes entered the game. The center back's exit also led to a tactical change from a three man defense to that of a four men defensive line with D'Ambrosio on the right and Dodo on the left flanking the center backs, Vidic and Juan Jesus. The change in defensive scheme did not seem to make much of a difference as La Viola were content to stay back, defend the score line, and counter in attack when the occasion rose.
Fiorentina put the game away with their third and final goal by Tomovic in the 76th minute.
Although the first two goals were exceptional strikes, there was too much space given around the area just outside of the Nerazzurri box. Whether the goals conceded were due to the inability to close down the spaces around the box, communication problems, or the inclusion of two similar defensive midfielders are purely speculative but regardless of the cause, these weaknesses were easily exploited by Montella's men.
La Viola struggled to score all season and although they scored two magnificent goals their performance was far from extraordinary. The home side did not dominate possession but converted their offensive opportunities against a shaky Nerazzurri defense. Fiorentina did enough to win and capitalized on a poor Inter performance.
During the match, the Inter players looked a bit lost on the pitch which is worrisome considering that the domestic campaign is in the sixth week.
An area of concern was the inclusion of both M'Vila and Medel playing together in the Nerazzurri midfield. While in theory, two defensive holding midfielders should stabilize the midfield, when both M'Vila and Medel play together, it seems to hamper both of their performances. Whether it is due to unfamiliarity with playing alongside each other, their similarities in position therefore restraining their abilities on the pitch, or communication problems between the midfield and defense, is pure speculation but one thing is certain and that is when Mazzarri puts them together in midfield not only is creativity in attack relinquished but it seems to open up spacing rather than closing it down.
On the rare occasion when two defensive midfielders actually work, it is usually when one of the two is creative and in an advanced position than the other. That was the case of combining Motta and Cambiasso in the Inter midfield. Cambiasso would play in front of the four man defense and bolster the defensive line while Motta was more advanced connecting the midfield to the attack. (It is important to note that the team fielded during their tenure at Inter was more talented than the one that saw the pitch today but the example utilized was illustrating when two defensive midfielders work in the same midfield).
Medel and M'Vila are too similar in characteristics and positions for them to work in this present day Inter squad.
After consecutive league losses, supporters are less than thrilled with the results and justifiably so. To watch Inter lose to a bottom dweller like Cagliari or a struggling side like Fiorentina is frustrating for Interisti.
Is fatigue already setting in with the traveling and participation involved with multiple competitions?
Will a defensive change from three center backs to a back four be the answer to the leaky defense?
Were the acquisitions in the market not enough in the striker and defender categories?
Many questions need to be answered and areas of improvement addressed and while many may not like to face the possibility but the solution to the problems may be more systemic in nature than any quick fix.
There will be plenty of time to address the issues at hand as Inter have the international break to reflect on the past two losses and to make immediate changes as Inter look to host Napoli in two weeks.
The Nerazzurri dropped from 5th to 11th place in Serie A and while it is only the sixth match of the domestic league and there is plenty of time to recover, Interisti have rarely exhibited patience when it comes to their beloved club.
While I do not expect Thohir to give Mazzarri his marching papers yet, if Inter are unable to turn things around, then the new owner will have a tough decision on his hands.
Fiorentina 3-0 Inter
First Half: Babacar (7'), Cuadrado (19')
Second Half: Tomovic (31')