After a three-month break, Inter Milan finally kicked off their new Serie A season on Sunday evening, and the result was worth the wait! The Nerazzurri eased past Fiorentina in a 3-0 victory — Inter’s first of the Luciano Spalletti era. Here are five key takeaways from the impressive season-opening win.
A perfect result
While Inter’s performance on Sunday wasn’t perfect, and there are undoubtedly areas that need to be improved, the 3-0 result was all you could ask for. After a summer of change, seeing the club begin a new season with a win was refreshing, if not therapeutic.
In the past 10 season-opening matches, Inter have only won four times. Entering Sunday’s match, the club also hadn’t kept a clean sheet since February 19th. These facts, combined with Spalletti’s debut as a manager, makes the win that much more important for the club. If Inter are going to be able to achieve their goals this season, it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint, but seeing the team start the season with a well-deserved three points is encouraging to say the least.
Impressive debuts from several key signings
Three players — Borja Valero, Matias Vecino, and Milan Skriniar — made their competitive debuts for Inter on Sunday. All three played well, and had a tangible impact on the match.
Valero, as expected, dictated Inter’s play from the midfield. Not every pass was perfect, but the Spaniard’s creativity and deft movement was the key that unlocked the Nerazzurri’s build-up.
Vecino also looked good in Inter’s midfield. The Uruguayan operated in more of a defensive role, and was able to snuff out a few of the Viola’s attacks. He definitely has room to improve, but it was a promising start for Vecino, who admittedly didn’t overly-excite many Inter fans when the club announced his signing.
While Valero’s performance was close, I was most impressed with Milan Skriniar’s debut. The Slovakian center back looked like had been playing alongside Miranda for years. Despite being just 22-years-old, Skriniar’s composure, especially playing in a back-line that featured Yuto Nagatomo, was simply outstanding. After an impressive preseason, Skiniar seems to be earning Spalletti’s trust and confidence. While depth at the position is clearly needed, it’ll be difficult for any potential center back signing to make Inter’s XI if Skiniar continues to play this well.
Mauro Icardi is… well, Mauro Icardi
This goes without saying, but if Inter are to be successful this season, the club need their talisman to preform at his best. Mauro Icardi is one of the world’s top strikers and Sunday’s match was once again proof. The Argentine star scored two goals against Fiorentina (one from the penalty spot) and could have easily netted four.
Icardi’s second goal was most impressive. He was able to out-jump both Nenad Tomovic and Vitor Hugo to meet Ivan Perisic’s cross and head the ball home. Frankly, Icardi had no business winning that aerial battle, but he’s Mauro Icardi, so he did.
Icardi had a few more glorious opportunities to score a hat trick, but it wasn’t to be. He was subbed-off for Eder in the 85th minute, and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the San Siro crowd. This will come as a surprise to no one, but Icardi was simply immense for Inter on Sunday. I think it’s time to start rethinking my Capocannoniere pick…
This was the best time to face Fiorentina
After praising the team with my first three takeaways, now seems like a good time to add some perspective. Fiorentina were in shambles at the start of the game — and to Inter’s credit, the Nerazzurri made them pay — but it was a different, evenly played match for the hour between the 20th and 80th minutes.
Given all the losses the Viola sustained over the summer break; that this was new manager Stefano Pioli’s first time in charge; and that Riccardo Saponara, Federico Chiesa, and Milan Badelj missed Sunday’s match due to injury, suspension, and fitness respectively, Inter were undoubtedly favorites entering the tie. This shouldn’t dampen the positivity of the club’s win, but Inter were the better side, and the victory should’ve been expected.
For 60 minutes in the middle of the game, Fiorentina were able to frustrate and test Inter. While they didn’t concede a goal, the results were a mixed bag for the Nerazzurri during that span of play, and we certainly saw areas that can be improved. That said, it’s a good thing football is a 90 minute game, and not 60. I think Inter facing AS Roma away next weekend will be a more telling test for Spalletti and his side.
Spalletti has a lot to consider when picking his starting XI to face Roma next week
When the lineups were officially announced, two rather unexpected names made the Starting XI: Marcelo Brozovic and Yuto Nagatomo. Neither played poorly (finishing aside, Nagatomo wasn’t that bad), but it was surprising to see Joao Mario and Dalbert left out.
The Brazilian fullback did not make his debut for Inter, but the Portuguese midfielder replaced Borja Valero in the 63rd minute. Joao Mario’s presence was immediately felt, and Inter’s new number 10 was very impressive during his time on the pitch, and certainly more impactful than Brozovic.
This presents Spalletti with a bit of a dilemma for the Roma match. While his formation looked to be a 4-2-3-1 on paper, it was more of a 4-3-3 in practice. Perhaps the Italian manager is wary of playing two creative midfielders (Borja Valero and Joao Mario) in the same side, and he could prefer to use Joao Mario as a super-sub, but it’ll be disappointing if the Portuguese isn’t given a chance to start on Saturday.
Given that Dalbert just recently joined Inter, seeing Nagatomo in the XI was less surprising than Brozovic, but it also provides intrigue for Spalletti’s next lineup. Will the Italian trust the Brazilian fullback enough to give him his Inter debut against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico next weekend, or will Spalletti once again rely on the nerve-racking Nagatomo? I’d certainly be worried if we see Yuto face the second highest scoring team in Italy from last year.
It will be interesting to see what Spalletti chooses to do against Roma on Saturday. The Italian is not short of tough decisions to make.
Do you have any additional takeaways from Sunday’s match? Share in the comments below.