Conte’s men made it 10 wins in a row against a Sassuolo side that hadn’t lost at San Siro for quite a few years. Here are some takeaways to go along with the three points.
You Have the Ball, We’ll Take the Points
Following the Inter’s Champions League win over Bayern in 2010, Mourinho famously responded to a question about his team’s lack of possession with “Let them take the ball to Munich, we’ll take the Cup!” (or something along those lines). Fast forward to yesterday and Inter’s critics are jumping up and down about the fact that Sassuolo had 71% possession and Inter ‘didn’t play football’. Boo-hoo. In truth, this is how Inter’s most successful sides in history have played football. A strong defence and ruthless counter attacks are a part of the club’s DNA, and this Inter is executing it to absolute perfection. It’s not easy, either, as it takes hours of work and concentration to build a defence so strong that it can withstand not having the ball for 70% of the match. Earlier this season Conte tried to appease the tiki-taka crowd and we were blasted for conceding too many goals. Criticism will come no matter what you do. I’m sure the team would rather be criticised from the top of the ladder, than at -11.
I wrote last week that it would be interested to see how Conte dealt with the absence of Brozovic, and I hoped we would see Stefano Sensi return to the starting 11. Alas, it was Bobby Gags who got the start and we had to wait until mid-way through the second half until Sensi made an appearance. His performance seemed to split opinions - some people were excited, others underwhelmed. I’d say it was perfectly reasonable. Sometimes he looked a bit lost, but there was one flash of brilliance which earned him the compliments of Conte and reminded me of his performances last year. There was also a tough 50-50 ball which he went into - a sign that perhaps the mental roadblock is coming down. Either way, the fact that he was able to get through a significant chunk of game-time without further injury is something that should please all Interisti.
Still No Vidal?
It’s been a couple of weeks now since Arturo Vidal had minor surgery on his knee and he’s been on the bench for the last two matches. Yet, the man Conte brought in to bring experience to the side has yet to make an appearance in two very close matches. It’s even more interesting as Conte has made a number of midfield changes in these matches, and has preferred Matias Vecino on both occasions - a man who hasn’t played all year. Barella will be missing against Cagliari, and so there will be another opportunity for Conte to return the Chilean to the line-up. If Vidal remains low in the pecking order for the rest of the season, however, Inter may need to decide if it’s worth spending 6m a season on a player who is no longer considered essential.
Darmian to the Rescue
No Bastoni or Kolarov meant that someone new needed to step into the back three, and it was Darmian who finally got the nod. He hadn’t played there so far this season, Conte has preferred him as one of the wingbacks, but he put in a very respectable performance. I feel like this has been a bit of a pattern for the Italian this season. No one really expected much and perhaps the fans expect him to fail, but he’s serviceable every time he steps onto the field. He actually reminds me a lot of post-Spalletti Danilo D’Ambrosio. He’s nowhere near good enough to be a starter, but he can do a decent enough job in quite a few positions. He won’t get much fanfare if Inter do win the Scudetto, but he’s been vital to cover the various holes that have appeared during the season and deserved his medal as much as anyone.
This doesn’t technically relate to the Sassuolo match, but rather an overall observation of the club in the past few weeks. Everyone is aware of Suning’s challenges and the fact that they are in ‘desperate’ need of cash given they are unable to move their funds out of China. We’ve seen lots of rumours about how they’re eager to sell, need an investor to save the day, or that we’ll have to offload have our team - I have no idea how much of that is true. However, when you look at the club (both on and off the field) they do not appear like a club in crisis. The performances are exemplary, the coach is (for once) smiling and making jokes, star players are renewing their contracts and the club just launched a huge rebranding campaign. Us Interisti know what its like to see their club in crisis, and this certainly isn’t it. With the talk of a desperate Suning slowly subsiding and silverware looking increasingly likely, the future is looking bright for the Nerazzurri.
Agree or disagree with the above? Let us know in the comments below!