Internazionale has played 25 games so far in the 2018-2019 season. After 19 games in Serie A, our beloved Nerazzurri entered this winter break at third place in the table with a record of 12-3-4, which has us five points behind Napoli and 14 behind Juventus.
Following six seasons out of the Champions League, our return to club calcio's most prestigious competition resulted in the underwhelming record of 2-2-2 and an early exit into the Europa League. Although the aggregate record of 14-5-6 in all competitions is nothing to be ashamed of, many Inter Milan supporters justifiably feel a sense of underachievement... especially given the significant summer investment by Suning to acquire seven new players in our squad's positions of greatest need.
Most supporters' absolute minimum goal for this season is still attainable: finishing among Italy's top four to qualify for a second consecutive season back in the Champions League, where a club of our stature truly belongs. However, as a sports fan born and raised in the United States, it is difficult for me not to view our current record in all competitions as 14 wins plus 11 failures to take care of business.
I share what seems to be an increasingly widespread sense among Internazionale fans that Luciano Spalletti is far too willing to settle for the slimmest margin of victory (or even worse, just a draw, like against PSV) in situations where another goal could have secured all three points. I am not yet ready to demand our trillionth managerial change of this decade, but when a "serial winner" like Antonio Conte is available, this recurring issue absolutely has to be addressed.
Although our beloved club is notorious for driving its fanbase crazy (my original username here was Pazza Inter after all), the perception that we have dropped too many points that were there for the taking is perfectly rational. Time after time, Spalletti has failed to "go for the throat" when it matters most.
Perhaps the quintessential example is last season's 3-2 Derby d'Italia loss at San Siro, when Inter were somehow winning 2-1 despite Matías Vecino's red card early in the first half. Spalletti substituted off Mauro Icardi, our talismanic captain and primary scoring threat, for Davide Santon in a misguided attempt to defend the precarious one-goal lead. As we all know too well, Juventus predictably scored twice in the final ten minutes en route to securing their seventh consecutive Scudetto ahead of Napoli.
Unfortunately, the first half of Internazionale's 2018-19 season is evidence that Spalletti did not learn his lesson from that avoidable defeat to our most hated rivals. Although I appreciate how few goals our defense has conceded thru the first 25 games, the Nerazzurri manager's single greatest flaw is that he "takes the foot off the gas" when the smarter decision would be maintaining sufficient offensive pressure to keep the opponent pinned backed. To be perfectly clear, I am not advocating an all-out-attack approach when defending a one-goal lead. That being said, a two-goal margin is known as "the most dangerous/deceptive lead in sports" for a reason. When any team is winning by only half that amount, all it takes is one lucky break for the opponent to snatch a result from the jaws of defeat. Sometimes the best defense is a perfectly-balanced offense, especially since it is impossible for the other team to score without possession of the ball.
I know that I tend to ramble sometimes, and I actually do have a life outside SB Nation, so for everybody's sake I have decided to break this post into at least three separate parts.
In Part 2, I will analyze what went wrong in our six-game Champions League group stage.
In Part 3, I will focus on the 3 draws and 4 losses thru our first 19 games of this Serie A campaign. I plan to publish both of those posts hopefully before Internazionale's return to Serie A action against eleventh place Sassuolo (6-7-6, including a 1-0 victory against us in the first league game of this season) on Saturday, January 19th.
Around that time or soon afterward, I will probably summarize my constructive criticism with actionable suggestions in a potential Part 4. Until then--Merry Christmas, Happy New Years (plus other holidays), and Forza Nerazzurri!
What do you think? Post your comments below!