It’s only been five games and they had a fairly easy schedule to start the season, but no matter which caveat you want to add, there’s no doubt Inter couldn’t have had a better start to the season in Serie A. In addition to the results on the pitch, cross town rivals Milan are in a full blown crisis, Napoli suffered a deflating home loss to Napoli and Juventus has shown some cracks in their armor.
But can Inter sustain this success? Let’s rank the reasons why it’s likely they will:
Singular focus on Serie A
The home draw to Slavia Prague in the Champions League, the easiest match of the group stage is either part of the plan to “pull a Napoli and punt the Champions League” or a potential blessing in disguise to give Conte’s squad a better chance at a deep scudetto run. Should Inter be eliminated early in the group stage, they can put all their eggs in the Serie A basket earlier into the season.
Team can improve thanks to Valentino Lazaro and Alexis Sanchez
So far Inter have received a significant boost from their new additions. Stefano Sensi is arguably so far the most impactful new player on any Serie A team, Barella is living up to the hype of his substantial transfer fee after being eased into the starting lineup slowly, Lukaku has been decisive even when he doesn’t score, Godin has shown why he’s considered one of the best defenders of his generation and Biraghi played well in his first start against Lazio.
In the coming weeks we could see Valentino Lazaro get into the right wing back rotation and Alexis Sanchez will try to regain his Arsenal (or Udinese form) while giving a breather to the starting strikers. Lazaro was a fairly significant investment for the club, so look for Conte to try to turn him into his new Victor Moses, while Sanchez is a great low risk/high reward investment.
Lazaro and Sanchez will bring more depth to a team that has already had to use some of its backups this season. D’Ambrosio has played as a center back and rotated with Candreva on the right wing, Asamoah and Biraghi are both starting caliber players at left wing back, while Vecino has limitations as a player his physicality and nasty streak make him a good compliment to Sensi, Barella and Brozovic
Politano can be a deluxe version of one of Conte’s favorite players Emanuele Giaccherini. The former Sassuolo winger has a knack for making an impact off the bench and he can play in multiple roles in Inter’s current formation. Even much maligned Ranocchia was useful at the start of the season while both De Vrij and Godin nursed injuries.
Conte and Marotta
Inter has won countless August and September scudetti in recent years. They are often called the winners of the summer transfer windows and/or get off to a fast start only to collapse in epic fashion before the season even gets to its second half. But because of the changes at the top, there’s ample reason to believe things will be different.
Beppe Marotta brought a Juventus like business approach to Inter. Rather than coddling Mauro Icardi last season, he was publicly stripped of the captain’s armband and was shipped out of town along with Nainggolan and Perisic, two players who also brought numerous distractions. Marotta hasn’t been afraid to speak publicly during difficult moments (maybe something Milan’s current directors can learn from) and has taken the pressure off Conte by handling tough situations head on.
Marotta built a team in Conte’s image and now the former Juventus and Chelsea manager is in the conditions to succeed, the focus is on the group of players rather than individual stars and there’s plenty of quality through out the squad.
In recent years I’ve described Conte as the type of manager that takes a team from A to B- someone you want to take over when your club has hit rock bottom. It will be interesting to see if he can now take the foundation Spalletti built to the next level- after his recent experiences, odds are he will. One thing that Conte has clearly already improved Inter on is defeating provinciali types- in recent years, the nerazzurri squandered numerous points against the bottom table teams and so far have won those matches convincingly.
While Serie A is certainly no longer a league focused on catenaccio, the old adage that offense wins game and defense wins championships is often still true. Last season Inter had the most clean sheets in Serie A and they added a blue chip player in Diego Godin to fortify a strength, Handanovic has continued to look brilliant this season- particularly in the match against Lazio- and both D’Ambrosio and Ranocchia have responded well when called upon. Conte will also likely ease in Alessandro Bastoni in his center back rotation after his positive season on loan at Parma.