“It is in general a positive season so far, although if it weren’t for a few too many draws and some injuries to big players, we could’ve had four or five more Serie A points.” Those were the words of Sassuolo coach Roberto De Zerbi as he spoke to Rai Sport in the aftermath of his side’s 2-0 defeat to Napoli in the Coppa Italia on Sunday night. Indeed, the Neroverdi can count themselves unlucky not to have kicked on from what was an extremely positive start to the campaign.
Ultimately, De Zerbi is achieving what he was brought in to do by president Giorgio Squinzi. Indeed, his main remit was to give the team a lift following the disappointment of last season, throughout which it was abundantly clear that the Reggio Emilia outfit had failed to adequately replace former boss Eusebio Di Francesco. It is fair to say that the Cristian Bucchi project seemed destined to fail from the outset, while the style of football deployed by Beppe Iachini was to the detriment of the technically-gifted young players who were at his disposal.
Generally speaking, the ex-Foggia tactician has deployed a 4-3-3 formation since taking charge in the middle of June last year. Despite the fact that Benevento were relegated – the writing was on the wall long before De Zerbi was appointed midway through the 2017/18 campaign – he received many plaudits for his possession-based, attacking football. Though it took a year, he has proven to be an ideal successor to the aforementioned Di Francesco, considering the pair share similar principles in terms of how the game should be played.
With talents such as Domenico Berardi, Federico Di Francesco – son of Eusebio – and Kevin-Prince Boateng to choose from, De Zerbi tends to set his team up in a very fluid attacking system. In turn, this gives his opposite number very few reference points on which to base their own approach which can sometimes result in defenders being unable to mark one particular attack-minded player. Stefan de Vrij and Milan Škriniar must avoid being caught out by this when the two sides meet on Saturday night, or Inter could be left reeling from yet another defeat against their so-called bogey team.
Looking back on the first meeting on the opening day of the season, it is clear that Luciano Spalletti’s side must take a much more determined approach. If their performance is anywhere near as passive as it was in August, then there is no doubt that they will find themselves in trouble. The reintroduction of de Vrij, as well as Kwadwo Asamoah, should help to provide the team with the balance it was lacking throughout the second half against Benevento at the weekend. This Inter side knows it can score goals, especially at home, but staying concentrated in order to keep the back door closed will be crucial to their chances of securing all three points against the visitors.
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