Welcome to our Nicolo Barella 2020/21 report card. As part of our post-season coverage, we’ll be dishing out grades and analyzing every Inter player’s season.
Position: Center Midfielder
Games Played: 46 (41 starts, 3,733 minutes)
What went right this season?
Judging how good any given defense or attack are is a rather straightforward affair; just look at the goals scored/conceded and how they stack up against the rest of the league. The midfield department, however, has no golden metric of comparison. Even so, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t see Inter’s midfield as the superior unit in Serie A. Nicolo Barella is the most-talked-about member of the Nerazzurri’s midfield trio, and deservedly so. The Italian built off a hugely impressive debut campaign in Milan to become one of the best midfielders on the peninsula and guide Inter to its Scudetto.
Barella became a key cog in Inter’s build-up play and transition into the attacking phase. The Nerazzurri could sit back in its own half but still threaten offensively thanks to Barella’s speed to drive forward and vision to create attacks. He had the most progressive passes towards the opponent's goal and into the penalty area, and was third in shot creating actions (2.66 per 90), passes into the final third, and dribbles attempted. Barella’s final third product also took massive strides of improvement. The 24-year-old’s ten assists were the second-highest total on Inter and he scored timely goals against Cagliari, Juventus, and Fiorentina.
Barella’s constant energy was present off the ball as well and he had some of the most defensive interactions on Inter. Barella was first in pressures (668) and tackles (77) and had the 4th-most interceptions and blocked passes.
Here’s his season heatmap via sofascore. Barella never stopped running on the right flank and dominated that half of the pitch at his best.
All three of Barella’s goals were superb but it was his strike against Juventus that stood out the most. The ball from Bastoni and Barella’s first touch and finish were picture-perfect and gave Inter one of its biggest wins of the season.
INTER 2-0 JUVENTUS!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 17, 2021
BARELLA BLASTS HOME! pic.twitter.com/EOGumTYV5h
What does he need to improve on?
As the season drew to a conclusion, Barella’s impact waned and the effects of fatigue took their toll. Inter won’t have the luxury of a stress-free month of May often so Simone Inzgahi will have to find a way to get the best out of Barella for the entirety of the season. Having Matias Vecino fit will help, as the Uruguayan can offer depth for the 24-year-old and is a similar type of player.
What role will he play in 2021/22?
Despite plenty of Inter-related transfer rumors, Barella’s name has largely been out of the headlines. He seems certain to stay in a Nerazzurri kit and be a key part of Inzaghi era.