Welcome to Part One of a two-part month by month look in the rearview mirror at Inter’s 2021/22 season
The 2021/22 season was seen as the dawn of a new era in Milano - gone were the figureheads of the past two years and the men who led Inter to its first Scudetto in a decade. In the place of the likes of Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku came Simone Inzaghi, Edin Dzeko, and Hakan Calhanoglu, to name just a few of the summer arrivals to Appiano. Expectations had shifted from possibly starting a title-winning dynasty to instead remaining in the top four and treading water until Suning’s financial problems eased or a new owner was found. While May ended up being a month of disappointment in the Scudetto hunt, victories in the Supercoppa and Coppa Italia would have been happily accepted back in August.
Let’s travel back to late summer when Inter’s season began and take a walk down memory lane.
The worries that proliferated in the fanbase were put to rest (or at least quieted down) almost immediately. Inter got off to a blazing start with multi-goal wins over Genoa and Hellas Verona but most important was the contribution from the new signings. Calhanoglu and Dzeko notched a goal and assist each against Genoa while Joaquin Correa saved the day with a late brace at Verona, showing that a Lukaku-less Inter wasn’t without a punch.
- 2-2 @ Sampdoria
- 0-1 vs Real Madrid
- 6-1 vs Bologna
- 3-1 @ Fiorentina
- 2-2 vs Atalanta
- 0-0 @ Shakhtar Donetsk
- 2-1 @ Sassuolo
Inter’s attack remained a scoring machine into September but defensive weaknesses started to appear. The Nerazzurri failed to keep a clean sheet in five Serie A games but led the league in goals with 22 tallies in 7 games by the end of the month. Performances also waned - it took lucky second-half comebacks to get past Fiorentina and Sassuolo after dreadful first halves. The Champions League, however, was another story. Inter conceded just one goal (a late Rodrygo winner for Madrid) but scored zero. The end result was an unfortunate home loss to Real after eighty minutes of dominance and yet another infuriating nil-nil draw against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Inter’s first real tests of the domestic season came early into October with a pair of clashes with Lazio and Juventus. The former featured a second-half collapse that added the first loss of his Inter career to Inzaghi’s record at the hands of his old club. The first of many Derby d’Italias was also an exasperating affair, as a 1-0 victory turned into a draw thanks to a late spot-kick. A UCL win over Sheriff Tiraspol and business-like victories against Empoli and Udinese meant October wasn’t all bad, though Napoli and Milan had begun to separate from the rest of the pack at the top of the table.
November was decidedly better than its predecessor. Inter recovered from its winless start to the UCL with another win over Tiraspol (the first time Inter has won back-to-back CL games since 2011) and then booked qualification to the next round with a long-awaited win against Shakhtar. Then came the marquee matches against Milan and Napoli. The derby ended all square but Inter went on to hand Napoli its first loss of the season in a thrilling 3-2 win the next week. So far, so good in the Inzaghi era.
Inter ended the year in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents 17-0 in a run of five Serie A victories. Denzel Dumfries in particular was the star of the show and put his shaky earlier performances firmly in the past. The Nerazzurri secured Winter champions with 46 points (14W-4D-1L), 49 goals scored, and just 15 conceded.
By just about any measure, the first half of the season was a roaring success - Inter sat four points clear of Milan and seven of Napoli, and had a berth to the UCL Round of 16 at long last. The attack looked as strong as ever, though a bit wasteful in terms of chances per goal but the defense had solidified since its bumpy start.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the past 25 rounds was just how much of a team effort Inzaghi’s Inter was proving to be. Eight players had five or more goal contributions - Dzeko (11g, 3a), Lautaro (11g, 2a), Calhanoglu (6g, 7a), Perisic (4g, 2a), Correa (4g, 1a), Barella (1g, 7a), Sanchez (3g, 2a), and Dumfries (3g, 3a).
At the moment, Inter seemed unbeatable.