Inter held their own in Asia against difficult opponents
In the International Champions Cup, Inter faced Lyon, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea, winning all three matches by a combined score of 5-1. That’s impressive, especially when you consider that Chelsea and Bayern are the defending champions of England and Germany, respectively. It’s also worth noting that all three of Inter’s ICC opponents have competitive matches next weekend, and thus should have been further along in their preparations than Inter.
All of this is to say that Inter’s Asian tour was very impressive, and encouraging. We haven’t seen this positive of a preseason in a long time, and a trophy is a trophy, so full credit to Spalletti and the team.
Spalletti needs to ban Geoffrey Kondogbia from making long back passes... What was that?
Inter's midfielder, Geoffrey Kondogbia has scored one of the greatest own goals of all time. pic.twitter.com/ZmcVj7p6RW— Declassified Sports (@DeclassifySport) July 29, 2017
Frankly, it was just impressive.
The counter attack was a positive, especially early in the second half
While Inter’s first goal was a result of a very generous penalty call from the referee, the second certainly was not. After winning the ball back in midfield, Inter put together an impressive counter attack. Antonio Candreva and Stevan Jovetic combined to find Perisic out wide, and the Croatian slotted home a very nice finish past Thibaut Courtois.
Author’s note: I embedded the tweet below for an extended version of the highlight that includes some of the build-up play. You can ignore the Manchester United comment... Please stay, Ivan!
Ivan Perisic scores for Inter Milan vs Chelsea, he's even more perfect for Manchester United than he was before. pic.twitter.com/rekAiqRkHa— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) July 29, 2017
Shortly thereafter, Inter had another golden opportunity on the counter. Although they were unable to score again (Joao Mario really should’ve scored), the transition from defense to offense was extremely encouraging in this match. Chelsea were one of the most compact and well organized teams in the Premier League last season, so seeing Inter look this dangerous on the counter was a tremendous positive in my opinion.
A bend but don’t break approach to defense
The defense and midfield was by no means perfect on Saturday, loosing the ball several times, and having a few noticeable unforced errors. However, each time Inter as a team were able to track back, and snuff out a Chelsea opportunity.
Inter also conceded double digit corners in this match, but were able to prevent Chelsea from scoring from them. This was a bend but don’t break style of defending from the team, and it worked today, which is encouraging.
I also thought the Milan Skriniar – Miranda partnership worked well against another difficult opponent. We’ll see how Spalletti lines-up his defense moving forward (please no more Nagatomo), but the defending in Asia was very encouraging, overall. I just hope Suning doesn’t take that a signal to not further invest in improvements this summer.
Spalletti still needs to find the right midfield combination
Inter’s midfield was perhaps the most negative aspect of Saturday’s victory. Spalletti started the match with Roberto Gagliardini and Borja Valero in the pivot, with Marcelo Brozovic playing behind Jovetic in the ‘number 10’ role. Simply put, it didn’t work that well.
Gagliardini in particular struggled, losing possession several times in the first half (which is understandable when facing N’Golo Kante), and his somewhat shaky performance forced Valero to stay deeper than I would’ve liked. While the Spaniard was still able to dictate Inter’s play in the first half with his quick decision-making—and he did send in a brilliant long ball to Jovetic (which resulted in Inter’s penalty)—Valero wasn’t given much freedom next to Gagliardini.
Unlike the Bayern match, Kondogbia’s substitute appearance in the second half didn’t fully unleash Valero either, as the French midfielder also struggled in this match. From my perspective, Brozovic was mostly a non-factor too.
Spalletti will likely need to use the remainder of the preseason to figure out what combination of midfielders will work best for Inter. Borja Valero and Joao Mario obviously deserve places in the side, but the battle for the second pivot spot should be wide open at this point. I don’t want to give up on Gagliardini, but he isn’t best as a defensive midfielder.
It’ll be interesting to see how Spalletti chooses to move forward with the midfield, especially if Inter’s reported interest in Matias Vecino materializes. Hopefully the club’s final two preseason matches will provide more clarity.
Up next for Inter is another preseason match; they’ll face against Villarreal next Saturday in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy.
What are your takeaways from Inter’s win over Chelsea? Share in the comments below.