It wasn’t always pretty, but the Nerazzurri gave their fans around the world a wonderful Easter gift with a hard-fought away win over Bologna. Here’s what we can learn from that match.
Inter’s Mentality Change
There were two main reasons this could have been considered a ‘trap’ game for Conte’s men. It had been almost three weeks since Inter’s last game, and the team had just returned from an international break. This meant they had not had a lot of time to work together on the plan to face a tricky Bologna side which has always caused them trouble. Secondly, Inter were the final match of the round and knew what an opportunity they had when both Milan and Juve dropped points. A more fragile side might have felt the pressure to extend their lead or may have become complacent knowing they still had a good buffer. Instead, we saw a professional performance from start to finish. Professional doesn’t always mean ‘great’ - there were very few clear-cut chances and we did not get to see any of the slick, vertical football that Conte likes to promote. However, we also didn’t see the defense scrambling or Handanovic having to make brilliant saves. Inter were in control for the whole match, and that three points was rarely risked. Conte may just have succeeded in his wish to remove the ‘Pazza’ from Inter.
Those Yellows Finally Came
For months Inter has been walking a yellow-card tightrope with Barella, Brozovic, Bastoni, and Lukaku all one yellow card away from a one-match suspension. For months, these guys have been absolutely brilliant at avoiding a caution and keeping themselves available. However, the streak came to an end against Bologna, with both Bastoni and Brozovic being booked in the same ten-second sequence of the match. On reflection, it isn’t a huge drama right now. These two will sit out a midweek game and return fresh to face Cagliari at the weekend. It does pose a small problem for Conte, however, as these two are integral parts of his line-up. That said, our clash with Sassuolo this season was the first time we saw Conte return to the 3-5-2 and we won 3-0 with a midfield of Gagliardini, Vidal, and Barella as a regista. Bastoni is a much bigger concern, but De Vrij will almost certainly be available and D’Ambrosio has been cleared to play too. All in all, the timing of the suspensions probably couldn’t be better.
Bastoni - The Best Young Defender in the World?
I’m not a fan of hot takes like this and I don’t watch enough other leagues to know who the other top young defenders are, but they would need to be pretty damn good to come close to Alessandro Bastoni. His explosion over the past two seasons is even more impressive than Barella, given his age and relative lack of experience. This season he has been an absolute rock in defense but is now heavily involved in our build-up in the attacking phase. Those listening to the English commentary would have heard the commentators referred to a statistic that placed Bastoni as the player who had begun the most attacking moves in Europe (or something similar). It is a testament to his improvement that fans are more concerned about his suspension than that of our vice-captain Brozovic.
A Tired Right Side
Thinking back to Inter’s best performances, all of them have come thanks to our domination of the right side of the pitch and the combined threat of Lukaku, Barella, and Hakimi. While Big Rom continues to do his thing, there are some signs of tiredness from the latter two. Both Barella (with his endless stamina and intensity) and Hakimi (incredible acceleration and top speed) make the most of their physical attributes but that leaves both of them vulnerable to fatigue which is what we may be seeing now. Neither player reached their potential versus Bologna, and perhaps Conte will need to consider some rotation for our upcoming matches in order to return these two to their devastating best.
A Chance for Sensi?
After impressive performances for Mancini’s Azzurri, it seems that Stefano Sensi is finally back to full health and could play a role in the final stages of the season. In truth, he is the most logical replacement for Cristian Eriksen in our starting 11 as the two share a number of characteristics. With Brozovic’s suspension, however, Sensi could comfortably slot in as the regista of our team to minimize the disruption to our style of play. It is a role he played back at Sassuolo and where many Inter fans expected him to play when he first joined the club. However, the decision will obviously rest with Conte, and the number of minutes Sensi gets will give us some indication of his future with the club. Losing his spot to Gagliardini is one thing, but if he is benched in favor of Vecino or Vidal (neither of which is at full fitness) then perhaps there are more question marks over his long-term future at the club.
Agree or disagree with any of the above? Let us know in the comments below