Rounding out our series is La Pinetina and her five answers. Time to go behind the gates and see what her thoughts on Inter are. -TB
1. Where do you see Inter finishing?
As Inter concluded the 2013-14 season finishing fifth to secure a Europa League berth, I felt hope (a rare and fleeting emotion for most Interisti). It was a huge improvement from the dismal ninth placed finish of the 2012-2013 season. This hope began to blossom and grow as Inter began the summer market with smart (and fiscally responsible) signings.
With this said, prior to the first round's dismal performance and a quiet ending of the mercato, I projected or rather hoped (there's that strange emotion again) that the Nerazzurri would finish third obtaining that elusive, coveted Champions League position.
Considering the lack of depth in the striker and center back position not addressed on the last day of the transfer market coupled with the poor performance on display as Inter faced Torino, I felt my hope disintegrate as the reality of the season set in.
Although it was only the first match, I do not feel optimistic about a third place finish as Mazzarri prefers to play a core group of players. With multiple competitions on the horizon and accounting for the inevitable injuries, I revised my projection to fourth. Good enough to compete in Europe, but slightly out of reach of the Champions League.
2. Who will be the breakout star of the season?
As I wrote up my response to the first question, any hope that I possessed drained quickly from my body but thinking about Inter's midfield magician, Mateo Kovacic quickly provides me with a sense of joy.
Anyone who watches football cannot help but appreciate the young Croatian international who possesses such talent that even the most pessimistic Interista may feel hopeful. Watching Kovacic play is like listening to your favorite album or partaking in your favorite hobby. Regardless of club affiliation, one cannot help but be dazzled by his ingenuity and brilliance.
Obviously Kovacic is incredibly talented and while he is still young and in need of development, I predict that he will dazzle the viewers as well as pique the interest of scouts throughout Europe. It is critical that Inter keep the youngster as Kovacic is the future and a team should be built around this special talent.
3. Do you see any potential stumbling blocks?
There is too long a list of all of the things that could go wrong as this is Inter, of course. Between controversial officiating; multiple competitions (for example, Inter twice play four matches in eleven days, September 14-24 and October 19-29); fatigue and injuries due to a multitude of games with little rest and playing on a semi-synthetic pitch (thanks Barca); not rotating players properly; not having enough depth necessitating the inclusion of academy players thereby forcing Mazzarri's hand at "youth development"; and continuing the trend of dropping points against the bottom half of the table... as I said, the list is too long and I hope that it all works out in the end despite grave misgivings.
4. What will define a successful season for you?
Success for me would be if Inter finished third and secured Champions League football for the 2015-2016 season.
5. Any other thoughts about this upcoming year?
This is a make or break year for Mazzarri regardless of whether he signed an extension or not. His tendency to bolster the midfield with two holding players to try and hold the scoreline may work against Inter. The lack of offense and desperate defending demonstrated thus far (from last season as well as throughout the summer) will continue to suffer until Mazzarri makes the necessary adjustments.
Otherwise, I covered most of my concerns through the previous questions. While Inter made some solid acquisitions over the past summer and unless Mazzarri will truly call up academy players to contribute when needed, I believe Inter still have a way to go in hopes of Champions League football.