Through seventeen league games and six more in Europe, Inter have struggled massively in the defensive third. In the league, Inter have managed a meager four clean sheets and, in the Europe League, Inter have only registered one clean sheet while surrendering eleven goals in those six embarrassing games. So why has a team, with a world class keeper in Handanovic and a top defender in Miranda, allowed thirty two combined goals in a total of twenty three games this season?
Well the same issues that have plagued the team for years now, are again rising to the surface. The fullback position which has long been an obvious weakness for the team, has provided other teams with an avenue for exploiting our defense. Time and time again, other teams push forward on the barely contested wings and whip in multiple threatening crosses a game or dribble dangerously into our penalty box because of the incompetent defending displayed by the fullbacks. It seems every year Piero Ausilio is left scouring the the transfer market for an acceptable fullback, but the new solution either becomes a stopgap that proves to be ineffective or an additional bench warmer that becomes a blatant waste of precious team funds. Our fullback woes have been further compounded by our error prone center backs.
Last season, Mancini got the center back pairing of Miranda and Jeison Murillo to work marvelously in the first half of the season giving Inter fans hope for a strong central pairing for years to come. Alas, it was not to blossom into the pairing of our dreams. Murillo, after showing early promise, has gone on to show costly habits. One of his strengths, his aggression, becomes a weakness in a mere instant. Murillo's aggression can lead to a beautiful interception or to Murillo being caught horribly out of position, leaving Miranda stranded against several opposition attackers. His aggression oozes over into the offensive sphere of his game as Murillo often forces dangerous passes. Against Sassuolo, Inter only seemed to be threatened after an errant pass from one of our players reached the feet of an expecting Sassuolo player. Far too often in the game, Murillo was the player haphazardly forcing an errant pass. In addition to his over aggression, Jeison Murillo has been caught out of position or off guard more than a few times this season leading to simple goals from clear cut opportunities for opposing teams. The struggles Murillo has faced and Inter's lack of depth has lead to an increase in opportunities for a certain Andrea Ranocchia.
Every time Ranocchia takes the field, cries from Inter fans around the world can be heard. Seeing Ranocchia in the team sheet provokes fears of own goals or silly back passes to opposing teams. Ranocchia going a game without making a foolish error is an anomaly. No matter who the coach has been, not one has been able to get the most from the defender who seemingly has all the tools necessary to succeed as a central defender. If I, along with probably most other Inter fans, had the choice, Ranocchia would be gone in a heart beat. The fact that Ranocchia has played at all this season reveals how thin Inter currently are at the center back position.
So, how do we solve our defensive woes? Now I know this may sound frightening to any of you who still have nightmares about the dreaded reign of Mazzarri, but switching to a three man back line would be ideal for the present. Yes, the three man defense may detract from the team's chemistry, but extra cover for the defense is required for the team's success in the near future. First, the extra defender would add sorely needed cover for the wing backs. As can be seen from the match up between Yuto Nagatomo and Lazovic in the Genoa match, our wing backs need cover, dearly. If Nagatomo and other defensively incompetent defenders keep receiving call ups for games, Inter will need extra help to hide the futility of our fullbacks. Further, switching to a three man defense would provide cover for our center backs who often roam to far out of position. With Ranocchia and Murillo both getting caught out far too often, having an extra defender back would do wonders. Maybe, just maybe, having a three man defense will allow our team to get a clean sheet without having to rely on the heroics of Handanovic. As long as Murillo is out of form, Ranocchia can even dream of seeing the field, and Gary Medel is out with injury; the three man defense should be utilized. Also, even if the team lacked chemistry going forward in the first half against Genoa and for much of the game against Sassuolo, the team still managed to get three goals while maintaining two clean sheets. The three man defense would provide Stefano Pioli's team with some stable defense that has been missed since the first half of last season.