Derby week is officially upon us, Inter fans! In the lead up to Sunday’s match against AC Milan, let’s take a closer look at Inter Milan’s manager Luciano Spalletti. With the Italian about to manage his first Derby della Madonnina, let’s assess his track record in another one of Italy’s fiercest local rivalries.
While few intra-city derbies are as historically and symbolically significant as the matchup between Inter and Milan, Luciano Spalletti is no stranger to massive single-city conflicts. Over the course of his two stints at the AS Roma helm, Spalletti had the opportunity to manage 13 Derby della Capitale matches against their local rivals Lazio.
His record is very... so-so.
During his two stints in Rome, Spalletti won six derbies (46%), lost five (39%), and drew two (15%). In the 13 matches, Spalletti’s Roma scored 21 goals and conceded 21, for a net zero goal-difference.
On the surface, these numbers aren’t bad — rivalry matches tend to be more even than normal week-to-week fixtures, so winning more than you lose is always good. However, the underlying stats paint a bit more troubling picture.
During his two periods as manager, Spalletti’s Roma averaged a third-place league finish. In the same span, Lazio had an average league finish of ninth. Roma’s average goal difference in Spalletti’s five and a half years in the capital was +33. Lazio’s during the same time period was just +8. These stats demonstrate that Spalletti’s Roma sides were, on average, much better than those of Lazio during the 13 Rome derbies the now-Inter manager participated in.
Yet, despite having more talent at his disposal, Spalletti’s results in these matches were very even. Based on league position and goal difference, one would expect Roma to have won around eight of their derby matches against Lazio under Spalletti. It’s also worth noting that the one time Spalletti’s Roma faced Lazio in a knockout competition (last year’s Coppa Italia semifinals), the Sky Blues, not Roma, advanced.
Simply put, in the Derby della Capitale, Spalletti’s Roma underperformed.
Does this mean that Spalletti’s Inter is doomed to also disappoint against Milan? Of course not. These are two completely different clubs, and the Milan Derby is an entirely separate challenge.
Time will tell if Spalletti’s Inter are more talented than Vincenzo Montella’s Milan this year. If early season point totals are any indication, Inter have been the better team thus far, but that likely won’t mean much in a derby match.
While Spalletti’s track record in huge derbies isn’t great, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever. Sunday’s clash with Milan offers an opportunity to improve. Let’s hope that Spalletti saved his derby dominance for Inter — a win against Milan would be a clear signal of the club and manager’s intent this season.