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Tactical Analysis: Inter Milan 2 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur

A thrilling game goes under the microscope for a closer look

FC Internazionale v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Both managers went into this match under a lot of pressure, Tottenham Hotspur had lost their previous two games and Inter Milan had just lost to Parma. Mauricio Pochettino and Luciano Spalletti were under fire for their managerial decisions and both teams had to treat this game as a must-win match.

Credit where credit is due, the decisions taken by both the managers were extremely bold, given the circumstances they were in. Spurs had lost Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris to injury and Poch decided to leave Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld in England. Spalletti decided to play Milan Skriniar at right-back and the game started in a buzzing San Siro, where Champions League football was being played for the first time in over half a decade.

Spurs’ aggressive build-up

Tottenham were never a team that would aggressively build up play from the back, especially not without key players like Lloris, Alderweireld and Trippier. But Pochettino knew Inter would press high up the pitch without a well-defined structure and invited pressure from the Nerazzurri. In Radja Nainggolan, we had, arguably the world’s best midfielder for a chaotic and direct game, his intense pressing along with Perisic and Politano led to some quick counter opportunities for Inter, but they were wasteful. Talking about wasteful, we have to mention Ben Davies and Serge Aurier who had a combined pass accuracy of 70% and wasted many potential goal-scoring opportunities. When Tottenham did break Inter’s press, they would take up too much time on the ball or make the wrong pass. The one time Kane got himself into a goal-scoring chance, he bottled it.

With Spurs aggressively willing to play out of the back and Inter’s high-press often times reckless, there were many 2 v 1 situations in the centre of the pitch, Spurs players failed to take advantage of this.

Vorm would look to pass sideways to Vertonghen and Sanchez many times and invite pressure from Inter Milan

These maps are a new development in data visualisation and showcase pass angle vs pass frequency. These maps show also show that Handanovic was more focused on kicking the ball long or to the mid-third which explained his 80 % pass accuracy.

Inter’s low block

With Spurs taking too long to release the ball, it gave Inter enough time to sit comfortably in their low block, this did leave space for Eriksen to exploit, which he managed to do a couple of times, winning a few corners and scoring the first goal. What was interesting to note was that Inter would maintain their defensive shape until the very last minute even if Lamela dropped down into space or Dier surged forward. This might have worked against the out-of-form Spurs at home but won’t be so successful against Coutinho and Messi at the Nou camp next month.

8 of the 11 shots Spurs took came just on the edge of the box or outside the box
Space afforded to Eriksen to shoot as Inter maintain their defensive shape in two low blocks

Space behind Serge Aurier

With Aurier over-committing , there would be a lot of space behind the right-back for Perisic and Politano to run into and stretch the defence before delivering crosses to Icardi but for some odd reason they could not take advantage of this. By the 60th minute, Perisic and Politano’s influence on the game was visibly waning, Keita Balde’s pace and dribbling ability would have been helpful on the left flank, from where he could cross or cut inside and shoot with his favoured right foot. Instead, Spalletti chose to bring Candreva on, a guy who has about 0% crossing accuracy. When Keita Balde did enter in the 72nd minute, Harry Winks replaced Lamela and they were defensively more stable.

Miscellaneous observations:

  1. Milan Skriniar is the ideal utility man, incredible performance at right-back. Give him that new contract already.
  2. Icardi steps up when we most needed him to.
  3. As much as I dislike Vecino as a starter, he does have a knack for scoring important goals.
  4. Politano should be in the starting XI, without question. Great work-rate and some of the turns he made in the first half were just incredible.
  5. Did not expect us to dig out a victory like that, maybe we can go upto the Round of 16 and hopefully even further.

What do you think? Post your comments below!

Forza Inter!