Welcome to Part Two of a two-part month by month look in the rearview mirror at Inter’s 2021/22 season
The first half of Inter’s 2021/22 season went as well as anyone would have hoped in August, but unfortunately the smooth stretch of road was just about to end. Despite holding the Winter Champions title with a four point lead, the second half of the campaign wasn’t going to end in title glory, though a pair of cup trophies helped ease the pain of defeat.
- 2-1 vs Lazio
- 2-1 vs Juventus (Supercoppa)
- 0-0 @ Atalanta
- 3-2 vs Empoli (Coppa Italia)
- 2-1 vs Venezia
The weekly blowout victories that made December so enjoyable were nowhere to be found after the new year. 2022 began with a postponed fixture at Bologna before Inter earned revenge over Lazio in a tense win. Emotions heightened even further in a Derby d’Italia Supercoppa, but an Alexis Sanchez extra-time winner clinched the first trophy of Inzaghi’s Inter career. Despite a pair of such important wins to open the month, Inter’s performances failed to impress and the Nerazzurri ended up needing late winners to get by Empoli and Venezia. The warning signs of a winter collapse were there, though Inter still sat four points clear in first by the time the dust settled on January.
- 1-2 vs Milan
- 2-0 vs Roma (Coppa Italia)
- 1-1 @ Napoli
- 0-2 vs Liverpool (Champions League)
- 0-2 vs Sassuolo
- 0-0 @ Genoa
The run of late winners proved to be unsustainable rather quickly; Inter was instead given a taste of its own medicine in the Derby della Madoninna, as a quickfire Olivier Giroud brace late in the second half gave Milan the victory and flung the title race wide open. Inter struggled to mentally rebound from such a crushing defeat, going on to a three-game winless run in the league. To make matters worse, Inter’s return to the Champions League Round of 16 fared all too similarly. Liverpool had the series all but wrapped up thanks to a pair of late goals after prolonged stretches of positive play from Inter only for the final pass or shot to go begging. Defeat to Sassuolo and a draw to Genoa put the capital ‘c’ on Winter Crisis, and Milan edged in front with a two-point lead. If you wanted one stat to explain the nightmarish February, just take a look at this. Across the Sassuolo and Genoa games combined, Inter took 50 shots and totaled 4.5 expected goals (via fbref).
Oh yeah, did I mention there was a grand total of zero goals scored?
- 0-0 vs Milan (Coppa Italia)
- 5-0 vs Salernitana
- 1-0 @ Liverpool (Champions League)
- 1-1 @ Torino
- 1-1 vs Fiorentina
With the exception of a 5-0 thrashing of then-last placed Salernitana, March wasn’t much better. Inter scored three goals in the remaining four games and failed to get a single contribution out of a rapidly aging Dzeko. His strike partner Lautaro didn’t fare much better, though he did manage to get a Champions League goal added to his CV with a rocket into the upper ninety at Anfield. The Nerazzurri’s 1-0 win in England was the highlight of the month and could have been so much more if not for Sanchez’s momentum-killing red card. Instead, it was another what-if moment in a season that was becoming all too full of them.
Inter had now picked up a mere seven points in seven games since the derby defeat to Milan, who sat six points ahead of the now 3rd-place Nerazzurri. Draws against Fiorentina and Torino had given Napoli the chance to move three points clear, while Juventus lurked only one point back.
- 1-0 @ Juventus
- 2-0 vs Hellas Verona
- 3-1 @ Spezia
- 3-0 vs Milan (Coppa Italia)
- 3-1 vs Roma
- 1-2 @ Bologna
Inter’s winter crises and withering title hopes were boosted with a gritty away win at Juventus and combined with dropped points from Milan, the race was back on. But before we could fully get into the sprint to the finish, the Nerazzurri got a direct shot at Milan in the Coppa Italia. The good guys dominated leg two, swiping Milan aside 3-0 en route to the final. With such a momentous result behind its sails, Inter eventually drew within two points and had a now-infamous game in hand. The less said about what happened on that unfortunate night at the Renato Dall’Ara, the better. The end result was that despite a victory-filled month and a complete reversal of the winter crises, one mistake meant the Scudetto sat squarely in Milan’s hands.
Inter managed to recover from the mental deflation inspired by Radu’s howler, scraping victories that were closer than they should have been over Udinese and Empoli in the lead up to the Coppa Italia final. Simone Inzaghi’s side made sure 21/22 was a success no matter what with a wild 4-2 win over Juventus, handing the Old Lady its first trophy-less season since 2011. The league was significantly less dramatic - Milan handled its remaining matches with the air of champions and took home the title with Inter a close second.
There’s a number of moments that you could point towards as the reason Inter didn’t win the title (the five minute collapse in the derby, Radu’s error, the run of seven games with only seven points, etc), but the constant theme in all of this were the gaps in Inter’s squad that were brutally exposed in the new year. The lack of a clinical striker showed up when just about every attacker went into a prolonged goal drought, subpar depth reared its head thanks for the wear and tear of a long season and especially when Brozovic missed a handful of games. At the end of the day, though, credit has to go to Milan. Despite dealing with as many obstacles as Inter, the Rossoneri had that way of winning no matter what that champions do, just like Inter two years ago. As much as it hurts to say, they’re deserved victors.
Next year, however, it’s time for revenge.