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SoM Staff Roundtable: Early Returns on the Inzaghi Era

FC Internazionale Travel To Kiev Photo by Mattia Ozbot - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

With the second international break of the season upon us, we thought it would be a good time to step back and see what we’ve learned from the first two months of Simone Inzaghi’s reign. We share our takeaways on everything from the new signings to how Inzaghi differs from his predecessor Antonio Conte.

US Sassuolo v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

What have been your main takeaways from the first nine games of Simone Inzaghi's tenure, both good and bad? Any big differences from the Antonio Conte reign?

Michael: It has been very stable on paper, even if the matches themselves have felt very unstable at times. We are playing higher lines with more free-flowing attacks that are fun, but the counters going against us do give me heart attacks. The danger from set-pieces has only gone up which is also great. We are scoring more goals but also letting more in. Inter are one of the few domestically unbeaten teams left in Europe and are just behind Milan and Napoli who have managers that tend to start seasons exceptionally well then struggle to adjust. Besides the goals against, I can’t really complain much. There is still time for the Champions League campaign to be salvaged and we are where we need to be in Serie A so far. It is also still important to remember that this is still technically a transition period. Things will only improve as players’ understanding of Inzaghi’s system becomes better.

David: So far, so good. Four wins and two draws are probably more than anyone expected from the first six Serie A (as for Europe, well, at least we know that’s not a problem directly linked to him) games of the Inzaghi era. Wins at Fiorentina and Sassuolo shouldn't be taken for granted and the high-scoring wins against lower opposition are a sign of what this team is capable of, along as a major morale booster. A point against Atalanta is no cause for concern either and Sampdoria has the potential to be a tough customer on its day. The attack is working nicely so far and compensates for the loss of Lukaku’s presence with a more fluid style of play. The Lautaro/Correa partnership hasn’t impressed yet but I have hopes it’ll turn into something special. Dzeko has surpassed my expectations, and though I don’t think he’ll keep up this pace, the Bosnian can be a reliable contributor all season. The only worry so far is in defense. Inter’s kept just one league shutout all season and is frequently susceptible to conceding a high quantity of high-quality chances. In some ways, this reminds me of Conte’s 3-4-1-2 experiment at the start of last season. Inzaghi however is certainly going to take a different approach to solving Inter’s defensive quandaries and I’m excited to see what he comes up with and how the team evolves as his style becomes more natural.

Josh: Frankly, I’ve been surprised by the ability of this Inter team to come out of the gate so well in Serie A. The Champions League results notwithstanding, I’ve been impressed with the guile of the team thus far. The good news is, like both Michael and David mentioned, is we’re only a small portion of the way into the Inzaghi era and you’d expect some of the mistakes they’ve been forced to come back from would get better. I’ve loved watching this Inter team and despite some of the trip-ups so far, I’m optimistic for the future.

US Sassuolo v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Have your expectations changed at all compared to the start of the season?

Michael: Not really. I think winning the league and getting out of the Champions League group are still attainable objectives. As long as the defense is sorted and the strikers score reliably, Inter should be right there all season.

David: Pretty much everything Michael said. Anything less than a trophy (and no, the Supercoppa does not count) is probably going to feel like a disappointment. I’d love a deep run in the Champions League too but I’m not holding my breath on that.

Josh: At this point, I expect this Inter team to compete for the top spot in Serie A. At the start of the season, I hadn’t expected that. I also expect them to get out of the group in the Champions League despite the off start.

FC Internazionale Press Conference & Walk Around Photo by Mattia Ozbot - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

How has Inter dealt with the absences of Lukaku, Hakimi, and Eriksen in your eyes? What players have stood out? Has anyone disappointed?

Michael: Everyone that has come in has been serviceable. They just have to be utilized in the correct ways, which are a little different. Denzel Dumfries is the most natural replacement for the hole he has filled. He just still needs some time to polish his skills. Hakan Calhanoglu is a very controversial player so far, with Interisti and Milanisti alike enjoying taking shots at him. To me he has been decent in a new, deeper position and will improve as he continues to learn the mezzala role. His set pieces have singlehandedly gotten us back into matches already. Edin Dzeko has looked tired and old at times, but is coming up huge with goals. He just needs to be rested and the times he is put into matches need to be chosen wisely. Joaquin Correa has been a disappointment due to his lack of minutes through injury. Hopefully as we see more of him, he will justify the move in bringing him over.

David: The Lukaku sale got the most attention but I’d say Inter has missed Eriksen and Hakimi to a greater extent up to this point. Dzeko has been a beast but needs to have his minutes managed more and more as the season goes on. As long as he’s playing 90 minutes a week at most Inter has a lethal weapon at its use. As Michael said though, he can be a liability on short rest. Calhanoglu and Correa are still settling in and it’s way too early to sell any of their stocks just yet despite a rocky start. Dumfries has a ton of raw talent and reminds me a lot of a wrecking ball when used correctly but I’d give Darmian the start in big games for now.

Josh: I don’t have much to add here on top of what Michael and David said. The only thing I’ll say is I’ve been very surprised that Dzeko still has this type of play in him. If they do manage his minutes correctly I’ll be fascinated to see if he can hold this type of form for the remainder of the season.

US Sassuolo v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

What do you want to see from Inter after the break? Any weaknesses for Inzaghi to fix?

Michael: I just want to see some secure defensive performances. Hopefully some better management of Dzeko’s minutes as well. Inzaghi really has to get the job done against Sheriff Tiraspol.

David: Like Michael said, shoring up the defense has to be Inzaghi’s number one priority. Leaking this many chances is recipe for disaster. I want to see more of Denzel Dumfries and Joaquin Correa too. Dumfries is far from a finished product and it’s worth remembering that Hakimi didn’t adapt immediately to Italy either. Correa lit things up on his debut but hasn’t done much since. A strong run of form from the Argentine would also give Inzaghi more ability to manage Dzeko’s minutes and get the best out of the ex-Roma striker.

Josh: Simply put, less strange lapses in judgment. There just seem to be random moments where the tactics of the team fall by the wayside. There are still adjustments being made and learning to happen, so hopefully, that comes with time.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Lisa Guglielmi/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

By the time the next international break makes its unwelcome appearance in November, where will Inter find itself in domestic and continental play? The bolder the prediction the better.

Michael: Top of the table. Derby winners. On six points in the Champions League.

David: A pair of wins in the Champions League would be nice! That’s probably a bit too much to ask for though considering recent history. I’d be very happy going unbeaten against Lazio, Juventus, and Milan but 5 points is a more realistic goal. As long as Inter’s close to the top of the table and still in UCL contention, I’ll be satisfied.

Josh: Domestically I’d expect them to be at the top of the table or within a point or two. As for the Champions League, I’d be pretty frustrated if they don’t get two wins in a row against Sheriff. Although I’m sure Madrid fans would tell me I’m a fool.