Nicolo Barella will be out for at least one month following the injury he sustained in the Saturday’s win, according to a report from Italian media outlet Sky Sports Italia today.
“I heard a crack in my knee,” Barella said on Saturday. He now requires keyhole surgery that is likely to keep him out for a month.
Barella’s injury really, really stings. He was up-and-down early in his Inter run, but Barella has improved in the past few weeks after he subsumed more of the conductor role with Stefano Sensi stuck on the sideline.
Inter have had a big issue with Vecino’s positional issues and how they conflict with Romelu Lukaku. It was hoped that Sensi would return and partner Barella in midfield, which would have been a cleaner, better fit. That won’t happen now.
The next question is this: Should Conte change shape?
Given the number of injuries, it’s arguable that Conte should shift back to the 3-4-3 he ran during his Chelsea days.
In that shape, Inter have all number of options and questions and possible problems and possible answers. They could rotate with a front three of Lukaku, Lautaro and Lazaro — a quick-running trio who could interchange and drag defenders all over the place. On it’s own, that sounds awfully exciting.
The problem with that, of course, is whether you want Lukaku pinned along a sideline. I’ve written a bunch about how Lukaku likes to peel onto the right hand side. But that’s when he’s starting centrally. Starting out wide changes the geometry a little. Would he be the same battering ram making diagonal runs? Or would he be isolated in the middle?
Add to that: do you trust a defensive base of Vecino and Brozovic? Yes and no. Brozovic has consistently been isolated as Inter’s pivote by the two central midfielders playing either side of him. Having a player parallel to him could help. But do you really, really trust Vecino to hold his positional discipline? I don’t.
You can talk yourself into a 3-4-3 quite easily. Inter will play the same style regardless.
The other option is to swap Barella for Borja Valero like-for-like and maintain the shape and style Conte has used all season, as he did for the second-half on Saturday. That would mean Valero, Sensi and Vecino rotating from game-to-game either side of Brozovic. Gulp. Given Sensi’s injury record, that’s a tough ask.
It’s an interesting question and you can proffer a bunch of answers. The most likely: it will change game-to-game based on matchups and who is available.
Conte is one of the very best football minds alive. He will probably find the right answers. How he navigates this pre-January/reinforcement period will likely determine whether Inter have staying power in the Serie A title race or if they’re at least a year away.