After huffing and puffing for most of the match, Inter found themselves 1-0 up with just injury time to go. But true to current form, the team was unable to hold on, as Giovanni Simeone scored after some sloppy marking in the Inter penalty area. Frustratingly, the winless run continues and many of the concerns that were raised early on in the season seem to be coming home to roost now. Here are the takeaways from Inter’s game against Fiorentina:
1. Winter break cannot come soon enough
As has been pointed out in both the player ratings and match recap, the winter break cannot come soon enough for this group of players. The squad is physically and more so mentally toast at this point and the two week plus break (Inter play Roma on January 21st) will give Spalletti enough time to get the players in some sort of shape to keep up the pursuit of a top four finish. This downtime will also give the coach and management time to strategize any transfer dealings. With Suning preferring to take a more frugal approach, it might be a case of selling before buying and the odd loan deal here and there.
2. Ivan Perisic gone missing again
Even though Mauro Icardi has been the talisman of the team with all his goals, it was Ivan Perisic who grabbed many headlines in the early part of the season with his scintillating displays. All this after a summer where it seemed almost certain that he would depart for Mourinho’s Manchester. The professionalism with which Ivan handled the entire situation spoke volumes about his maturity and his commitment. However, after his hat-trick against Chievo, the Croatian has been woefully off the pace. He was completely missing in the back-to-back losses against Udinese and Sassuolo and was equally anonymous in this game. His crosses were ineffective and shots lacked conviction. We all knew that Icardi alone (even with his monumental goal scoring feats) would not be able to drag Inter to a top four finish. The other supposed big name players like Perisic would have to step up to the plate and when they have not, the team’s performances have markedly suffered as Spalletti does not have a huge squad to choose from. Hopefully Manchester does not need to come calling again for a return to form in the second of the season!
3. The tale of two Joaos
Many Inter fans have been clamoring for the inclusion of Joao Mario in the starting eleven. The Coppa Italia defeat to Milan where he probably would not find the back of the net even if his life depended on it, summed up the problems with his game right now. The Portugese is neither able to add the same level of creativity as Brozovic, nor are his performances effervescent like we remember them to be. He does not seem to have the same running in him to make him a candidate for box-to-box midfielder. In summary, it is hard to make a case for his inclusion in the starting eleven based on recent performances. However, he is definitely talented and unless Inter can get a sizeable transfer fee, one can only hope that Spalletti is able to work his magic with him, like he has with some other members of the squad.
While one Portugese Joao has been struggling, another has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance. The game against Pordenone was perhaps Cancelo’s worst of the season but his performances since have been on the upswing. For a team that has struggled offensively in the past few games, he has been one of the few bright spots. It was his cross that eventually led to Icardi’s header and goal in this game. While not always the strongest defensively, it does appear that after a tough introduction to Serie A, Joao Cancelo is finally starting to repay Inter’s faith in him.
4. A new lease of life for Andrea Ranocchia
When Spalletti was first announced as Inter’s new head coach, his ability to extract the most out of an existing squad was one of the most intriguing aspects to look forward to. Fast forward to around midway in the season, and the performances of Yuto Nagatomo and Danilo D’Ambrosio have been by far and away the most surprising (in a good way) and both are certainly candidates for most improved players. Having said that, an area that the squad looked most vulnerable was at center-back with only Miranda and Skriniar as first choice options, and Ranocchia as backup. Even though D’Ambrosio could fill in at center-back in a pinch, Spalletti would need to depend upon the former Inter skipper sooner rather than later. Inter fans had every right to dread this given the former skipper’s past performances. However, credit where credit is due, in the absence of Miranda, Ranocchia has performed steadily and has not had any howlers to speak of. It does appear that Spalletti’s coaching is finally able to get the best out of the much maligned defender. If Inter is unable to strengthen at center-back in the January window, it brings some comfort to think that Spalletti might have discovered a ‘new’ backup option.
5. Threadbare squad showing its impact
Even when Inter were top of the table and blowing teams away with their dynamic, free-slowing displays, the fear of a thin squad was always lurking in the back of most Inter fans’ minds. Whether it be the lack of defensive cover, creativity in midfield, or a genuine backup to Icardi, Inter’s squad in its current form is one or two injuries away from utter mediocrity. Even if the squad manages to avoid injuries, the lack of quality options mean that Spalletti has little to no choice when it comes to swapping out players who are not in form. The lack of creative options in midfield is perhaps the most glaring and the performances of Matias Vecino in the center of the park have been very disappointing of late. Borja Valero continues to justify his purchase but Inter need more from the midfield if the second half of the season is to be anywhere close to the first in terms of the points haul.
It would have been a massive morale boost for the players and coach to have finished the first half of the season on a winning note but instead everyone will look forward to the game against Roma more in hope than expectation. Given the recent results, and Roma’s game in hand, the next game holds an added significance from a psychological standpoint. It is in tricky times like these that one can show their true support to their team, while also staying objective. Hopefully Inter (Inter Milan) vs. A.S Roma can have more positive takeaways - as always, Forza Inter!