A quick glance at the Serie A table after six rounds of matches will show Inter lying in an impressive third place, two points behind joint leaders Napoli and Juventus.
If you had offered this to any Inter Milan fan before the start of the season, they would have bitten your hand off! What's more, all these results have come at the cost of just two goals conceded, which gives Inter the best defensive record in the league. However, after a string of recent games where Inter has ground out results the hard way, and the attacking display has been anything but fluent, some are becoming restless and questions are being asked if these are just growing pains or there's a more systemic problem at hand.
Luciano Spalletti has been successful in Serie A and his teams have been easy on the eye so it would be wise to go easy on the panic button and just give the squad time to gel together. After all, Inter did overhaul part of its midfield, and players from previous seasons will take time to adjust to a new system and teammates. These 'ugly' points should perhaps be viewed as points gained in adverse situations. Looking at the 1-0 win over Genoa, the following key points emerge:
- Inter's performances this season are a tale of two halves:
Through the first six games of the season, Inter have scored only three goals in the first half. That means a staggering 75% of Inter's twelve total goals have come in the second half. In a more subjective sense, Inter's first half performances in recent weeks have been slow and lethargic and only seem to gain in urgency in the final quarter of the game. It is unclear if the players are just taking time to understand their roles in each game but whatever it is, better teams will punish Inter. We cannot expect to get good results consistently for only having 20 decent minutes of attacking football in an entire game.
2. Miranda and Skriniar continue to look impressive:
Inter's relative ineptitude in the attacking half has been offset by a new-found stinginess at the back. Inter have the best defensive record in the league with just two goals conceded. Championships are more often than not won on the back of ultra-strong defenses and by current evidence Inter seem to have a good partnership going between the experienced Miranda and his young protégé Milan Skriniar. Clean sheets can often be a deceiving stat as the team might just be getting lucky with opponents not making the most of scoring opportunities being presented to them. However, there seems to be an excellent sense of organization at the back, including the full-backs and there seem to be fewer and fewer panic attack moments at the back this season. Not to say that there are none, but I will take this at this stage. The games after the international break will truly tell us if this defense is as good as we think it is.
3. A strong work ethic seems to run throughout the team:
Successful teams often exhibit a high level of commitment to the cause through an impressive work rate, regardless of the player being a superstar or backup squad member. Spalletti seems to have instilled a sense of responsibility in the squad that was sorely lacking in the past. Our attacking players such as Icardi, Perisic, and Candreva are constantly tracking back and helping out the defense. Very often, these interceptions have proven vital to maintaining the all-important clean sheet. Even when the team is not playing well, a sense of belief seems to permeate through the team and the players back themselves to score until the referee blows for full time. I believe this trait will help the squad as much as being able to run rings around opponents when our attacking game gets on song again.
4. Eder's contributions are getting more significant:
Before the start of the season, there were some rumors that Inter might decide to move Eder on, but in the end, nothing materialized and the former Sampdoria man stayed on at the Meazza. Whether by accident or intention, that was perhaps one of the better pieces of transfer business done (not done?) over the summer. Spalletti has predominantly used Eder as a substitute and his effervescent displays have had a direct relation to Inter's performances improving late on in games. While he did not score a goal in today's game, he did contribute to the performance in spades. There might be a temptation to start him in some games due to his positive displays, but for now, having him as a tactical substitute must certainly be comforting for Spalletti.
5. Midfield creativity proving to be problematic:
A large part of the attacking malaise can be put down to lack of creativity and leadership in the engine-room. Borja Valero once again put in a hardworking display but was unable to pull the strings in midfield the way Spalletti would like. The coach has also tried other options such as Brozovic, Vecino, Joao Mario, and Gagliardini but none of the combinations have proven to be effective in the last few games. Even in matches where Inter bosses the possession stat, there is very little in the way of threatening moves on the opponent's goal. Inter's problems in midfield often result in a very static display that gives opposition teams belief. After the game against Benevento, Inter play Milan, Napoli, and Sampdoria and will need much more from midfield if they are to get anything out of those three games.
So, what did you take away from watching Inter Milan's victory over Genoa? Are you happy with the three points and looking the other way when it comes the performance or are you a little more nervous than a few weeks ago? Whatever your opinion, we would love to hear from you.