With just three games remaining in the season and little hope of any European competition next season, Inter have sacked Stefano Pioli. The beginning of his Inter tenure sparked hope among many Inter faithful who believed he could be something different, but a recent drop in form had led to his dismissal from the club. Now the second coach fired since the start of the season, we have to wonder if anyone suitable can be found to replace Pioli.
Counter to what you may have read, Pioli's tenure has not been as bad as the recent form would suggest. Prior to Pioli taking the reigns of the club, Inter sat in ninth place. De Boer, who was hired right before the start of the season, had lost seven of his fourteen games while in charge of Inter. Upon arrival, Pioli had a ton of work to do in order to get Inter looking like a threatening team again.
In his first game as the manager of Inter Pioli displayed that he had potential to unite this team in a draw against bitter city rivals AC Milan. Then, after losing to Napoli, Pioli led the team on an unprecedented run of form. Pioli led the team on its best run of form in years when the team won nine games consecutively in all competitions. This surprisingly excellent run of form did not come to an end until the team lost to Lazio in the cup. So even though the team's form has been horrid, he leaves the team in a better position than the one he inherited.
The excellent form at the beginning of Pioli's tenure highlighted many of his positive attributes as a coach. First, Pioli was able to unite the team quickly and get the team to adapt to his style far faster than De Boer ever could. Further, during this run Pioli had the team playing solid and cohesive defense. During that run the team went from being leaky in the back to looking sturdy. In addition to an improved defense, the team also started to share more of the goals. Before Pioli took over, Icardi was the only player scoring. Pioli positioned the team in a manner that allowed more players to get on the score sheet.
After winning nine games in a row, the tides started to turn, but not for the better. Pioli lost to three respectable teams in Lazio, Juventus, and AS Roma. The fact that Inter lost to these teams is not terrible, but the fact that Pioli's Inter failed to beat any notable opposition is. While Pioli could pick up points against lower opposition, Inter failed to beat anyone in direct competition for European competitions.
After a couple of beat downs on Cagliari and Atalanta, the team sputtered, and sputtered, and eventually just collapsed. This downfall has consisted of just two points from the last seven games and ultimately doomed Pioli too his fate. During this dreadful run of form, Pioli failed to inspire the players. Ever since a draw to Torino all but guaranteed that Inter would not be in Champions League next year, the players have seemingly lost the drive to win games.
The defensive solidity that Pioli had seemingly brought back has gone away as Inter have failed to keep a clean sheet since February. In addition to the defensive frailties exposed in recent weeks, the team has also been held without a goal in the past two games and are struggling to find consistent creativity. Eder who was once Pioli's super sub has diminished in effect recently and the coach has struggled to make tactical changes that have worked for the better of the team. To add to the heap of struggles being exposed, Pioli has had to mix and match center back pairings due to injuries, suspension, and poor form, but the team should not be suffering as much as it has been.
Ultimately it normally is the coach who is blamed for failure and Pioli has failed to deliver in the past seven games. Many will be surprised by his dismissal with just three games left in the season, but as my colleagues reminded me this is not too surprising for an Inter side, an Inter side that has cycled through coaches remorselessly since the treble.
Looking at the sacking from a positive side, this displays Suning's willingness and determination to succeed. The management team is not going to be satisfied with abysmal play and will do what is necessary to bring the squad back to where it belongs.
On a sour note, the new management must know that cycling through managers will not ensure success. This continued changing of the guard will not lead to future success and this can be easily seen by our recent history where changing coaches frequently has not earned us a Champions League places in years.
For prolonged success to be secured, Inter have to find some continuity. Every year cannot be year zero. This has been our fault for so long now and it is just purely disappointing. To be caught in a continuous loop of rebuilds is distressing, but if Suning can convince a strong coaching candidate to take over and motivate the squad even in meaningless games, then maybe the team will show signs of fight again.