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Empoli 0-2 Inter Milan: Icardi’s on fire

You know, like the Alicia Keys song?

Empoli FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

No post-Juventus hangover here folks. Just a few days after victory in the Derby D’Italia Inter traveled to the province of Florence to take on Empoli. Picking up all three points would signify that the team didn’t just raise their game for Juventus but that Inter was starting to understand Frank De Boer’s philosophy and showing it on the pitch. Mauro Icardi’s quick start ensured that Inter would spend most of the game in a comfortable position, and Handanovic more or less routinely picked up his first clean sheet of the season in this two goal victory.

With Ever Banega suspended for this match FdB switched to a 433 formation. Davide Santon and Danilo D’Ambrosio were the criticism lightning rods sandwiching Miranda and Jeison Murillo. The midfield three was Joao Mario, Gary Medel, and Geoffrey Kondogbia while Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic flanked Mauro Icardi up top.

For the first time this season Inter scored in the first half, with the opening goal coming in the 10th minute. Candreva got some space out wide and sent in a cross that Icardi was able to simply head into the back of the net. Seven minutes later Icardi scored a second time. Inter high press allowed Mario to strip the ball in the midfeild and sent the Argentine striker through and he calmly slotted the ball past Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski. Icardi now has 6 goals and I believe he is Serie A’s leading goalscorer at the moment.

From there things kinda settled in the half. Inter had a two goal advantage and could sit back if so desired, but that wasn’t the case. The players kept up the high pressure system and really didn’t give Empoli a moment’s peace in the first half. Their only two chances of note in the half came through Inter loanee Federico Dimarco who forced Handanovic into two good saves. The young fullback impressed and is worth keeping an eye on this season.

Outside of those two Dimarco chances Empoli was harassed and harried off the ball at every possible opportunity. De Boer’s press was seen again in this match and players were flying in making sure the home side didn’t have a chance to make a good pass before an Inter player was breathing down their necks. This system did show two small flaws today though. First, if a tackle is mistimed cards can start to rack up, Miranda, Murillo, Medel, and Mario all picked up yellow cards today and that could start to be a problem down the road. Second, if a mistimed challenge misses the ball but also misses the player suddenly holes start to appear for the other side to exploit. This wasn’t a large issue today but late in matches (or late in the season) this could start to become an problem if fitness and rotation isn’t cared for properly.

The second half was pretty simple. Inter still pressed but not as heavily, while Empoli didn’t really threaten to comeback even with the extra breathing room. Icardi, Perisic, and Eder had a couple of half-chances while Manuel Pucciarelli failed to take advantage of a poor Murillo header back towards Handanovic. Massimo Maccarone had a chance of his own but for the most part Inter cruised through the second half to secure the victory.

I’m pleased with today’s result. Handanovic got his first clean sheet, the fullbacks were actually halfway decent (mainly because Empoli never really tried to take them on), and Mauro Icardi continued the blistering scoring run he’s on. Joao Mario continued to impress in his midfield role and Kondogbia showed promise in a system under Frank De Boer. To top it all off, Assane Gnoukouri got some minutes just to show his family that he’s actually still alive. All around a good day. Next up is Bologna on Sunday.