Inter’s annual winter of discontent

by | Feb 28, 2022 19:01

With Inter going through the worst moment of their season, Richard Hall asks whether Simone Inzaghi’s men may have overperformed in the first part of the campaign.

In fairness, it came late this year, but Inter’s annual misery continued as the frost stuck to the ground and the winds bit hard. If you frequent San Siro at this time of year and look at those grey rising pillars, it can feel bleak. The wind gathers and circulates around the ground, offering little mercy for those wanting to get inside. Just as seasons come and go. It seems Inter will never change as, for whatever reasons, the Nerazzurri always fall foul in the winter. This time the trip to Genoa confounded it as the dismal draw asked questions of their Scudetto ambitions.

The final game of last week’s action saw Napoli fall down as they failed to beat Cagliari and instead limped to a draw. Milan then took up the mantle but again fell short on Friday as Udinese were undoubtedly ready for the challenge and held them to a draw. This offered Inter a chance to get rid of the winter blues and beat Genoa telling Serie A that this was a blip and not a capitulation. Instead, the lacklustre display simply echoed the message that the Nerazzurri faithful already knew. They looked tired, didn’t create enough, had no zip to the play, and were not clinical once again.

The draw is not catastrophic, yet it is damming. Inter lie second to Milan and Napoli with a game in hand and are only two points behind, yet there is pressure. Juventus are seven points off the title and shouldn’t be written off. Inter indeed had an incredibly hard run in January and February with games in the league, Coppa Italia and the Champions League, but the fixtures against Sassuolo (lost) and Genoa (draw) were supposed to be where they could recoup points and move forward.

Inter: Inzaghi failing where Conte succeeded

Perhaps, Simone Inzaghi has overperformed. Let us not forget that many thought Inter were lost at the beginning of the season as Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi walked out, leaving a huge hole in the Scudetto squad. After all, Antonio Conte had predicted that the club’s fiances’ impact would have an effect and this also saw him leave. Instead, Inter have been superb, resilient and arguably much more expressive in their play, but this month may see them running out of steam.

The positive note is that Inzaghi is getting every last bit out of his players, albeit there is no cutting edge. Let us not forget last year, when Conte used his trump card (forced on him, of course) and reintegrated Christian Eriksen into the squad to give creativity. Inzaghi has no such luxuries, yet he is still getting a tune from this squad and is challenging for a Scudetto that many considered an impossible task at the beginning of the campaign. Had he been able to strengthen with more abundance in January, then this may have been a different story.

The situation, however, does smell of seasons past. Winter is not a kind season to Inter and they also suffer from the curse of clinical finishing. Mauro Icardi may be a dirty word in Milan, but he was lethal and yet not many would admit to missing him. Lautaro is being heavily criticised in the Italian media, yet he surely can’t be asked to pick up the slack from Romelu Lukaku’s departure. This was down to Edin Dzeko. The former Roma star did well in the first part of the campaign, overshadowing the now Chelsea striker. On the other hand, the veteran has only scored two goals in his last nine Serie A games and the Nerazzurri are starting to be affected by their strikers’ goal drought. Edin needs to be used wisely and it seems more and more evident that every game with him is unsustainable.

Perhaps the analysis for Inter is that, after the financial constraints came in, they have done immensely well to keep punching so far above their weight. Yes, they still have one of the best and deepest squads in Italy, but after losing players, they have been hampered and therefore, the title race was always going to be closer. Maybe now is a time for reflection and understanding that for Inter to perform on three fronts at this level is an achievement. Yes, this is another winter of discontent, but maybe it should be seen differently. Perhaps this should be seen as the Nerazzurri fighting hard whilst under-resourced and, actually, the fans should be proud rather than frustrated.

@RIchHall80

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