Inter still casting for a consistent no.10

joao-mario

Inter have had a pretty satisfying start of the season: propelled by one of the best statistical defences in Europe, they have collected sixteen points in six games. They have convincingly defeated Fiorentina, Roma and Spal, while they escaped with a win thanks to late goals against Crotone and Genoa. They dropped points only in the Bologna match, where they salvaged a tie with the help of a penalty.

Their game plan is fairly simple and relies on a strong defence, captained by Joao Miranda and Milan Skriniar, stupendous goalkeeping by Samir Handanovic and on the plays by Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi upfront. The two aces have taken part in all their twelve goals so far but two, which came on two corner kicks and were scored by Skriniar and Danilo D’Ambrosio. It is an old-fashioned style, but it works.

In the last three weeks, they have not performed as well: Serie A coaches are very prepared and knowledgeable, so it does not take much for opponents to figure out a team, especially when it becomes predictable. Nerazzurri still managed to pull out two wins, but they were visibly not as explosive and efficient as in the first few fixtures.

They have not been able to find the right no.10 to field behind Icardi and fixing this issue would add an element of surprise and variety that would lift their offence. They have tried Joao Mario, Marcelo Brozovic and Eder in that position: the Portuguese international has been the best performer, but he flopped badly against Bologna and tends to disappear within the 90 minutes: he might be best used as a weapon off the bench. His assist total has been boosted by set pieces. Brozovic quickly faded. Eder always provides a spark, but he is very offensive. Borja Valero did not last long there, as he was immediately moved back to help the build-up of the actions and might also lack the necessary dynamism at this point of his career.

The position is critical for Spalletti’s scheme and could be extremely productive: Radja Nainggolan was permanently moved to this role last season after years of heavy defensive duties and tallied 14 goals and six assists. They have Matias Vecino on the roster, who is the most comparable to the Belgian star as they are both very muscular, energetic and have robust shooting. Spalletti might try him there in the future, but right now he is more needed in the holding position because Roberto Gagliardini is struggling a little bit and the other center midfielders at their disposal are not as physical.

Once Joao Cancelo returns from injury, the coach might experiment with him as right winger and Antonio Candreva in the hole, a position he used to occupy early in his career before flourishing on the flank with Lazio. The youngster Yann Karamoh is another appealing option on the right. Unless somebody steps up and takes the reins, that could be the last try before ditching the position altogether and moving on to a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-2-1. At least until January, when the transfer market re-opens and they could decide to invest in the only position where they have shown a real weakness.

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