With almost a quarter of the season done and the second international break upon us, now seems like a good time to take stock of the performances of Inter Milan players so far. A lot was made of this Inter squad over the summer with many ‘experts’ touting them as the anti-Juve. This hype all came to a grinding halt in Round 1 and the problems continued before Luciano Spalletti’s men went on a six-game winning run.
In Part 1 I discussed the defenders. This article will focus on the Nerazzurri midfielders.
Inter’s marquee signing of the summer, the Belgian midfielder was reunited with the manager who brought the best out of him at Roma. The excitement was quickly cut short as the 30 year old suffered an injury the decimated his pre-season and kept Inter fans waiting until Round 3 for him to make his debut – but what a debut it was! A vital goal against Bologna (to help Inter to their first win) was followed up with another important goal against PSV in the Champions League. He may not be vintage Radja yet, but he would still be working towards full fitness after the extended lay off. Look for him to improve physically, and in terms of his chemistry with the other attackers, as the season continues.
One of the few Inter midfielders to have a full pre-season, expectations were high for Gagliardini heading into his third season. He then suffered the huge disappointment of being omitted from the Champions League squad, and it is hard to say how that affected his overall confidence. As with much of his Inter career, he has also failed to find consistency. His performances have ranged from very good (think: Bologna) to very poor (think: Cagliari). As the fixtures pile up, I expect to see him more and more in the Serie A and will be hoping to see a return to the form that helped Inter control games in the second half of last season.
Late Cameos <10 mins: 2
His vital goal against Lazio was not enough to dissuade the rumour mill from suggesting a reunion with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, but the Uruguayan remained with the Nerazzurri and has found a place in Spalletti’s first choice 11. His season highlight was his late winner against Tottenham, but he has been otherwise underwhelming on the field. His passing and seeming lack of direction has frustrated Interisti and it will be up to the manager to clearly define his role going forward. On the plus side, his two best matches have come in the Champions League where Inter need him the most.
Distance Covered in CL: 24473m (2nd overall)
At 33 years old, it’s fair to say that we can’t expect the Spaniard to play 90 minutes every week. What we can expect is a consummate professional to help Inter either (a) hold possession late in games, and (b) substitute Brozovic when he needs a break. That’s exactly what we’re getting from Valero, who remains one of Spalletti’s most trusted players. He brought some much needed guile late in the games against Tottenham and Sampdoria, and was serviceable in his two starts against Cagliari and SPAL. Expect this pattern to continue for the remainder of the season.
Passing Accuracy: 93.7% (including 100% vs SPAL)
It is still hard for fans to trust the mercurial Croatian who has delivered so much and so little over his Inter career, but he is an absolutely integral part of our line-up. He started the season slowly (no doubt suffering from the long World Cup), but has been immense since the Tottenham game. The late winner against Sampdoria was a highlight, but he is truly the player who makes the team tick. He runs more than any player on the team, and Spalletti will need to manage his energy levels as the season progresses. We simply cannot afford to lose him for any extended period of time.
Appearances: 8 (1)
Passes Per Match: 83.6 (#1 in Serie A)
Another player who is yet to make an appearance for Inter this season – but don’t expect that to continue. Inter are light on midfielders and, as the fixtures pile up, expect Spalletti to call on the Portuguese. It’s hard to know where his head is at but the recent interview with Sky Sports was a step in the right direction. If he’s unsure on how to turn things around, then he need only look at Brozovic for inspiration. Interestingly, I think his skill set makes him a genuine option to back up the Croatian in the centre of midfield. The quality is there, he just needs to unlock it.
What do you think? Post your comments below!