Inter fans were flying high after the weekend victory over Napoli. Those morale-boosting three points along with Roma's dropped points left fans thinking that there might be a late dash for 3rd place. Of course any chance of that occurring relied on the nerazzurri picking up another win in the round today against Genoa, and Mancini knew it. So of course he goes and does everything in his power to make sure Inter doesn't win today.
(Just as a heads up, this is going to be less of the typical play-by-play review of a match and more of a rant.)
Where to begin? Let's just start with the attack. So at the weekend Stevan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi played together and they really seemed to click. Their linkup play was excellent and it looked like a partnership was beginning to show. So of course Mancini decides to break up that combination today and leave Jovetic on the bench.
Instead, Icardi was supported by Palacio, Perisic, and Brozovic. One of those players does not usually start in the attacking third (hint: Brozovic) but upon looking at the starting lineup I figured that Palacio would be playing out wide and Broz would be acting primarily as a central attacking midfielder who dropped deep to pick up the ball. Turns out I was wrong, Mancini decided to have Brozovic operating out wide and Palacio dropping deep. It didn't work out to well and Brozovic was ineffective for a majority of the match.
Next let's look at the midfield. Since Mancini used a 4231 formation and Brozovic was playing in the attacking three, the midfield two was comprised of Medel and Melo. You know, the two destroyers whose jobs are to break up the opponent's play. The two destroyers who when played together earlier in the season made it painfully clear that this combination leads to a isolated attack because they can't pass the ball around to save their lives. The two destroyers who should only be on the pitch at the same time if Medel is playing in defense or Inter is going up against a team that is going to dominate possession and the two of them can break up attacks and launch balls forward for counterattacks.
I seem to forget, was Inter playing against Juventus today? How about Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or some other team that was going to dominate possession and impose their game on Inter? Oh no, we were playing Genoa, a team that sat back and allowed Inter to have a majority of possession during the match. A team that everybody knew was going to park all of the buses and try to hit Inter on the counter. So why on earth did Mancini play Medel and Melo when all they were going to do was pass the ball between the two of them and the defense? Why on earth did Mancini play Medel and Melo when as soon as they get pressured they blast the ball to wherever and lose possession? Why on earth didn't Mancini play Brozovic as one of the midfield two where he would have the requisite space and time on the ball to make something happen? Nobody knows...
Finally let's talk about substitutions. During the halftime interval I said that Mancini should pull one of Medel or Melo, drop Brozovic deep and send on an attacker. Did he do it at halftime? No. When the game followed the same depressing pattern for the next 10 minutes did he make a change? No. It took until the 73rd minute for Mancini to look to his bench, and when he did it took all the self-restraint I have not to throw something at my computer. When sending on Eder he didn't pull one of Medel or Melo, instead he pulled off one of Inter's most in-form players for the last few weeks in Perisic. Why? I have no idea, maybe because he wanted to preserve his sterile possession, maybe he wanted to ensure his defensive solidity (which is incredibly ironic considering we conceded 4 minutes after the change through a set piece and not through an open play scenario where the two of them would have mattered).
Within three minutes of the goal Mancini went to his bench again, this time a little more desperate. Did he pull one of Medel/Melo? Nope, this time he pulled off Telles when sending on Jovetic. At first I thought that he was leaving them on because Medel would slot into a back three and D'Ambrosio would go out wide but instead the Italian played in the back three and the midfield duo of Medel and Melo remained. Finally in the 89th minute the manager turned to his subs for one last throw of the dice. Does he pull off Medel or Melo? Of course not, he sent on Ljajic and took out Palacio, one of the attacking players who had been the most willing to move around and create something in front of a Genoa defense that had anywhere from 7 to 10 men behind the ball at all times at that point.
So this result coupled with Roma's Totti-inspired turnaround means the side from the capital is seven points ahead with four matches left. With Totti seemingly hellbent on giving Spalletti and James Pallotta the proverbial finger and dragging that team to the Champions League on his own, I'd say third place is completely out of the question now. We can only be thankful that Fiorentina has continued to implode and leaves us two points clear of them. Inter must hold onto fourth place in these final matches, and to do so Mancini cannot have another day like today.