For the first time this season, Maurizio Sarri’s squad was held without full points from a match. Yes, I know they were coming off a midweek loss at Manchester City and an away trip at Roma the week before, but I don’t believe in excuses.
The Nerazzurri went to a hostile environment with early implications and Luciano Spalletti’s side could have easily cracked under the pressure. But, Samir Handanovic and the Inter defense withheld press after press from a usually-lethal Napoli attack that scored 26 goals in the first eight games of the season.
In the first nine games of the season, Inter has shown it belongs back in the top half of the league and I think we Interisti can seriously start thinking about a potential Scudetto bid or, at least a place in European football again.
After Sunday, the Nerazzurri remain two points off Napoli and cling to a one-point advantage over Juventus and Lazio to round out the top four in the league. Roma is back five points with a game in hand and Sampdoria was six points back with a game in hand. The 3-2 win over Sampdoria keeps Inter at pace at the top.
While we have all the praise in the world for Inter, they have been living dangerously in the first nine games. Of their 17 goals — fourth-most in Serie A behind Juventus (27), Napoli (26) and Lazio (24) — 11 of them were scored in the second half. That can only mean the squad starts slow. This is something that will need to be fixed. We must be able to come out of the gate and press the issue offensively. Ivan Perisic should become more involved than he has been in the last three games. Mauro Icardi has stepped up his game and his nine goals this season is third-best in the league behind Ciro Immobile (13, Lazio) and Paulo Dybala (10, Juventus).
But there’s something missing.
My thoughts rest with the midfield. While Borja Valero has shown versatility in the center, we have yet to see consistency from Joao Mario. I think it’s there and waiting to be unleashed, it just needs to happen. Matias Vecino is another question mark in the center. We need to find that trequartista, or playmaker that can make things happen consistently. Perisic has been solid while Antonio Candreva has shown signs. Marcelo Brozovic had a strong game against Benevento, but was quiet before and has been injured since.
Regardless, Saturday’s draw on the road was a big step in the right direction. Consider this: we had 11 points at the same time a year ago and now we sit at 26.