1. Lecce’s compactness hurts them
Lecce chose to defend Inter in a really low-block and put a large number of defenders inside the box. This might have been their strategy to contain Romelu Lukaku, one of the best players in the air.
Below, you can see how Lecce players crowd the box and have a five-vs-two inside the box, leaving them vulnerable to long-shots and crosses.
Kwadwo Asamoah and Antonio Candreva looked much better in their natural positions of wing-back. They both had plenty of opportunities to put in threatening crosses into the box. One of Candreva’s crosses almost led to a goal, if not for a miss by Lautaro Martinez.
Once the crosses started coming in, Lecce started stretching themselves a little more. However, they were banking on the Inter midfielders not being able to connect on their long-shots. And with the amount of space offered to Marcelo Brozovic and Stefano Sensi, it was only a matter of time before Lecce paid the price.
Defensive Issues Persist
I have to admit that I was wrong about Milan Skriniar being used as the sweeping center-back. Even with Stefan De Vrij off the pitch, it was usually Andrea Ranocchia who was tasked with bringing the ball up the pitch. Having said that, not using Skriniar as the ‘libero’ helped ensure that we would not struggle defensively on our left-side as Skriniar could cover for Asamoah.
Danilo D’ambrosio, however, looked far from convincing defensively. Oh, and Ranocchia shouldn’t be starting games over Alessandro Bastoni.
Felipe Falco found it way too easy to dribble into spaces in between the Inter defence. His combination of speed, dribbling and passing were too much for Ranocchia and D’ambrosio to handle.
There was an instance when Samir Handanovic decided to come out of his box in an attempt to clear the danger. Gianluca Lapadula, however, got the ball back. If Lapadula had kept his cool and taken a better shot, Inter could have fallen one-nill down.
New Signings Impress
Stefano Sensi had an incredible game. His ability to deliver threatening balls from set-pieces is something Inter has lacked for a long time. Add to that, his great dribbling ability. His best ability, however, is reading the game. We saw some of that against Lecce, and we expect to see more in the upcoming fixtures.
Lukaku had a slightly slow start, and made some questionable decisions on the counter. He did show flashes of brilliance. The way he brushed off his defender; The poacher instinct to score his first Inter goal; The neat flicks and leaves; The connection with Lautaro; The blistering pace on the counter - I’m sure these are just early signs of a great season that is yet to come.
ConteBall has officially arrived
There was a feeling that the team needed some time to play according to Antonio Conte’s instructions. In the match against Lecce, however, we saw many trade-mark Conte combinations. These included first-time passes from Brozovic and the neat Candreva-Vecino one-two combination.
Another key observation was the high-press that Conte employed. The interesting thing was that this high-press persisted much longer than last season. This could possibly be because of those intensive pre-season sessions under Conte and Pintus.
Below, you can see Lautaro and Lukaku ready to press the two center-backs while Brozovic is cutting off the supply to the defensive midfielder.
Inter were already one of the best pressing teams last season and are now, even better than before. The following chart talks about two advanced metrics- PPDA and DEEP.
PPDA stands for the number of short- passes Inter allowed Lecce to make in one possession. DEEP stands for the number of passes Inter completed per possession in the final third before losing the ball/ taking a shot.
It must be pointed out: one game against a promoted team is not a big and reliable sample size. However, the eye test does show the following:
- Inter will continue to use their high-press, especially against the teams that struggle in possession.
- Inter won’t hesitate to switch from a counter-attacking mentality to a possession based mentality. That’s the great thing about a pragmatic coach like Conte.
There were other small observations, including some sly tactical fouls committed by Sensi and Brozovic who were actually lucky to go off scot-free. Inter’s 18 out of their 19 fouls were committed in and around the middle of the pitch. Quite a few of them broke up potential counter-attacking opportunities for Lecce.
The Lukaku-Lautaro or the ‘LuLa’ combination gels really well
I had said in an earlier post how the Lukaku-Lautaro combination was one of the most exciting parts of the coming season. And it looks like that will be the case.
Lukaku could have been better when it came to his decision making. Lautaro had 8 shots compared to his 7 completed passes. The minute he missed that sitter early on in the game, he seemed slightly off his natural game. He needs to learn to keep his composure throughout the game.