Inter deserve a great deal of credit for their impressive against Torino. The conditions were tricky: a soaked pitch, water lodged everywhere, that pretty tippy tappy, ball-working-through-the-middle-then-sprung-wide style rendered neigh-on impossible.
The team persisted. Inter’s midfield could barely string passes together. As a whole, the team completed just 72% of their passes — so tricky was it to move the ball over a flooded field. The whole physics of the sport changed: Players were slipping; the ball got stuck under feet; every touch was required to be a little bit firmer, but not too firm:
Conte had to adjust. Usually, the coach looks to gain a superiority of numbers in the middle of the pitch before working the ball wide to an open wingback or peeling striker, before the ball is flashed into the box.
Conte was forced into a new approach. Inter were more deliberated, less mobile. Gone were some of those first-time channel balls. In was some old fashioned goodness: Get the ball wide, deliver it from slightly deeper – the edge of the box – and get runners sprinting towards the goal. The angle of delivery and the deluge of bodies guaranteed good things, accentuated by the skiddiness of the ball. Whether they stuck it in themselves, the ball skid all on its own, or if it hit a defender, a good thing was bound to happen.
And it did. Lukaku’s movement was deadly. He either drew defenders to him or was able to slip away and find his own space. It took a wonderful save to deny Lukaku on the half-hour mark:
Inter’s second goal came from a similar concept: A well-worked corner routine that put the launch point (a fancy scouting term for where a cross starts) in the perfect spot, giving Biraghi a great angle to deliver a quality cross:
Watch Lukaku draw the attention of two defenders at the near post while de Vrij sneaks around the back:
Torino had three really good chances in the first half. A scoreline of one-apiece would have been fair. But they weren’t clinical enough; Inter were.
It would have been easy to say “Fuck this. I’m not up for it tonight.” But on such an important weekend for the title race, Inter dug deep and battled. They went 3-0 up thanks to a picture-perfect counter-attack, featuring a delightful Lukaku finish (he now has 10 goals in Serie A alone this campaign).
Once up 3-0, Inter went to work killing the game. For the final 30 minutes, nothing happened.
A tricky game on the road. Shitty conditions. An opponent under fire. Get in, get out. Three goals. A clean sheet. That’s the hallmark of champions.
Inter has the perfect mix of savvy veterans and young pups. On Saturday they showed their versatility. Conte demanded something different of them stylistically and mentally. His players responded. That, as much as any free-flowing win, will send the best title warning to those fellas in Turin.