After guiding Inter to their first trophy in eleven years, Antonio Conte made the shocking decision to part ways with the club. The Italian was at complete odds with the board and it was only a matter of time before he left the club. Conte left Inter as a winner as he guided them to their first Scudetto since their treble during the 2009/10 season.
Conte enjoyed two dazzling seasons with Inter as he delivered a winning mentality and put the Nerazzurri back on the map. He revitalized Romelu Lukaku’s career, converted Milan Skriniar from a back four into a back three, and had his team playing fluid football. In a season where Inter were dealing with a financial crisis, Conte managed to keep this team afloat and remain competitive.
Replacing a manager such as Conte was not an easy task, given the circumstances that Inter encountered. Money was limited, they were forced to sell marquee players and needed to be inventive through free transfers and swap deals. While all this unfolded behind closed doors, the bigger question was who would be able to replace Conte?
Merely days after Conte’s departure with Inter, the Nerazzurri acted quickly and promptly. After 22 seasons, Lazio manager, Simone Inzaghi, decided to leave the only club that he’s known in his career. Inzaghi signed a two-year contract and became Inter’s new manager.
One of the most talked about managers in football has been Inzaghi and what he accomplished with Lazio. Will the Italian be able to replicate what he achieved with the Biancocelesti at Inter?
Prior to Inzaghi becoming Lazio’s new manager, this club lacked a clear identity and struggled to finish near the top of the table. Their best finish in past seasons before he was appointed manager was under Stefano Pioli during the 2015/16 season, when they finished in third place. Season after season, Lazio struggled to compete with the likes of Inter, Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli.
When Inzaghi was appointed manager of Lazio in July 2016, that was no longer the case as they managed to become competitive against the bigger clubs. During his five-year tenure, Lazio won a Coppa Italia, two Supercoppa Italianas, and returned to the Champions League after 13 seasons. Inzaghi qualified for the European competitions in five straight seasons with Lazio.
Although Inzaghi won with Lazio, he did so with limited depth in his squad. Lazio Sporting Director, Igli Tare, has failed in the transfer market in past seasons as he hasn’t been able to sign the right players to improve Lazio. Aside from money not being well-spent, the Roman side has a small budget at their disposal which has made it difficult to improve their squad.
Inzaghi relied on players such as Patric, Bastos, Jony and Wesley Hoedt, who arrived on low transfer fees and managed to get the best out of these players. Aside from not strengthening the roster, players such as Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto arrived to Lazio at a difficult point in their careers. Inzaghi played a key role as helped turn their careers around and they are now some of the best players at their respective positions. Immobile has been a consistent goal scorer and Alberto has been key in setting up their offense.
The relationships that Inzaghi created at Lazio shouldn’t go unnoticed. These players developed loyalty and respect towards their manager, which allowed Inzaghi to get the best out of his players on a consistent basis in past seasons.
Like every manager, they have their strengths and weaknesses. With Inzaghi, his reluctance to rotate his squad became a serious issue last season. He overused the likes of Alberto, Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Joaquin Correa, which hindered their performances as the season progressed. There were situations where he used injured players over those who were fitter. Against Fiorentina, he elected to start Alberto, who was nursing an injury and Manuel Lazzari, who had a fever and this resulted in a 2-0 loss.
While Lazio do not have the depth in their squad as Inter does, his inability to use his bench players against weaker opponents was an issue. This strategy would have alleviated their playing time and allowed them to be more productive in the latter part of the season. It remains to be seen how he will use his bench at Inter as they have stronger options. Inzaghi had his preferred players and was often reluctant to trust other players.
Aside from struggling to rotate his squad and using the players that were at his disposal, he rarely used his Primavera players. A reason could be that Lazio’s youth system needs major improvements and they don’t have many players who could make an immediate impact. However, Raul Moro and Nicolo Armini are two players who have often been disregarded and should have been given an opportunity, specifically in their final match versus Sassuolo last season.
Inter have some young exciting prospects in their system and it will be interesting to see if Inzaghi elects to try any of them. Given their financial situation, this could be a good option for Inzaghi. He has used the 3-5-2 formation in the past five seasons and Conte used the same formation so this should make it relatively easier for Inter’s players.
Inter acquired the right man to replace Conte and the club is off to a great as they have already won a Supercoppa Italiana under Inzaghi. The club was limited in adding players in the past two transfer markets considering their financial constraints, yet Inzaghi has a winning mentality and did a great job with limited depth at Lazio.
Inzaghi has his hands full with what Inter is at the moment, however, the Italian has endured much greater and this will be another challenge that he can overcome.