Antonio Conte finds the winning formula with Inter

It may have taken Antonio Conte two seasons at Inter, but the veteran tactician appears to have found the winning formula in Milano. The Nerazzurri have been in emphatic form in recent months and have since run away as title favorites. With both Milan and Juventus struggling for form, Inter is now well on its way to its first Scudetto in 11 years – but how have they got here?

Initially, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta backed his manager heavily in the transfer window. The likes of Nicolo Barella, Romelu Lukaku, and Achraf Hakimi were all brought in and remain crucial pieces to the puzzle. That being said, it still takes a manager to put it all together.

Conte has toiled with a number of different lineups and setups before finally establishing his winning formula. The veteran tactician has since gone with Stefan de Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni, and Milan Skriniar at the back, offering the side some much-needed stability. The trio possesses an interesting blend of experience and youth and are all capable of playing from out from the back.

Beyond its staunch backline, Inter boasts one of Italy’s best midfield units. Conte has a number of options on the bench including Stefano Sensi and Arturo Vidal but appears to have finally decided on his best lineup. The former Azzurri boss deploys Marcelo Brozovic from the deepest role and flanks him with Christian Eriksen and Nicolo Barella.

The former was almost on his way out in January but has since undergone a resurgence of sorts. Eriksen has played a crucial role for Inter in recent weeks, adding creativity between the lines. Brozovic is tasked with sitting back and dictating the tempo, while Barella is Inter’s all-action midfielder. The former Cagliari man is a constant menace in the final third and is always looking to combine dangerously with Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.

Moving forward to the attack. Inter’s one-two punch of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez is among the very best in football. The Belgian international has taken his game to another level under Conte and enters the final stretch of the season in sensational form. Martinez, on the other hand, is arguably playing the best football of his young career, stringing together a number of positive outings together since the turn of the new year. The duo possesses the necessary speed, power, and skill to unlock any defence and could very well prove to be the difference for Inter.

An article on Conte’s Inter would not be complete with a brief discussion on the wingbacks. Hakimi marauds the right flank at will, tormenting defenders, while Perisic’s improvement as a left wingback has been notable. Both wingbacks offer Inter the stability and creativity they need from the wide areas.

With Juventus in a transition season, the title is very much Inter’s for the taking. The Nerazzurri have been the best side in Italy this season and have shown no signs of slowing down. When Inter initially brought Conte in, the goal was to dethrone Juventus. With just 14 games left, the Italian tactician is set to deliver.

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Antonio Conte’s European woes continue

When Inter was drawn into Group C alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Shakhtar Donetsk, it was quickly labelled the group of death, and with good reason. Zinedine Zidane’s men may no longer have Cristiano Ronaldo, but were just coming off a La Liga triumph, while the Bundesliga side boasts one of Europe’s most dynamic frontlines. Shakhtar, by contrast, has always demonstrated they can compete, regularly qualifying for the knockout stages.

Regardless of the tough opposition, Antonio Conte’s men entered the group as favourites to progress alongside Real Madrid. The Nerazzurri possess a resolute backline, including the likes of Samir Handanovic, Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij, and can count on Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez for firepower.

Nicolo Barella’s progression has helped them significantly in the middle of the park, while Achraf Hakimi’s summer arrival offered Inter some much-needed quality from out wide. Despite this, Inter has struggled to get its European campaign off the mark and are currently staring down the barrel an early exit. Antonio Conte’s side are languishing dangerously at the bottom of Group C, winless after four games, and will need nothing short of a huge turnaround to progress.

Beyond winning its last two games, Inter will need some help around Group C, giving them an outside shot of qualifying to the knockout stages. While Inter’s struggles have almost definitely condemned them to an early exit, they are indicative of a greater pattern at play: Antonio Conte continues to falter in Europe’s elite competition.

Dating back to his days at Juventus, the veteran tactician has struggled in the Champions League, failing to make deep runs into the competition. As it stands, Conte’s European record is nothing short of abysmal: 11 wins, 12 draws, and 11 losses for a 32% win ratio. At this level, that is simply not good enough.

Inter has invested significantly in moulding its roster to fit Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 and has since been left empty-handed. Dethroning Juventus may be a step too far, but even then, the Nerazzurri were unable to muster a serious title threat, faltering at crucial stages last season. The Bianconeri are largely a side in transition and have demonstrated their own vulnerabilities in recent seasons, yet Inter could not capitalize.

Beyond their struggles to contend, Inter’s recurring issues in the Champions League are concerning. Should they fail to qualify, that would be three consecutive group stage exits for them, two of which have come under Conte. While Group C is understandably difficult, Inter can do much better than two points from four games.

In many ways, Conte’s outdated 3-5-2 has cost them. Gian Piero Gasperini has since revolutionized the back three, urging his men to go forward and has shown the rest of Italy that a little courage can go a long way; a lesson Conte has not learned.

The former Azzurri boss has not adjusted his conservative setup, despite its clear limitations as it relates to the Champions League. Inter’s buildup play has become far too predictable and easy to defend against. Rather than committing another man forward, Conte persists with his 3-5-2, with Inter struggling to create regular chances.

The case of Christian Eriksen is another concern. Conte has failed to integrate the former Spurs maestro into his eleven, reducing him to a supersub. The Danish international would add some much-needed quality in the final third and inject some fresh ideas into the side, but alas, he doesn’t fit Conte’s 3-5-2. Despite featuring rarely, Eriksen continues to make an impact with Denmark on the international level, dictating proceedings in the final third. The midfielder is rumoured to be on his way out from Inter once the window reopens.

As Inter heads into a crucial stretch in the season, it may be time for Conte to reevaluate his roster and for the first time in his career, adapt. Inter can ill afford a trophyless season, let alone another early Champions League exit. As unlikely as it may be, Conte would be wise to shake things up and inject new life into his Inter side.

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How Inter could line up with new summer signings

Internazionale have been busy again this summer, with Arturo Vidal’s arrival from Barcelona on Sunday being the sixth new face to arrive at the San Siro this summer.

The Italian giants also have a number of players back from loan spells last season, including Ivan Perisic, Joao Mario, Valentino Lazaro and Radja Nainggolan, though whether they will be moved on permanent before the close of the transfer window remains to be seen.

Mauro Icardi’s sale to Paris Saint-Germain has given Antonio Conte increased transfer budget to build a side capable of challenging for the Serie A title this season.

€40 million has been spent on Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid. The pacey right-back has impressed on loan at Borussia Dortmund over the past two seasons that it was a surprise the Spanish giants moved him on.

Alexis Sanchez spent last season on loan from Manchester United before making his move permanent in August at the start of August.

Midfielders Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi have joined from Cagliari and Sassuolo off the back of good campaigns in 2019-20. Inter then signed experienced left-back Aleksandar Kolarov from AS Roma.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 29

Atalanta: Ruslan Malinovskyi is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Josip Ilicic is not 100 percent after an ankle sprain but he is at his coach’s disposal. José Palomino is out with a thigh injury. 

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen remain out with thigh strains. Andrea Poli will miss up to ten days with a thigh pull. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg) and Jhon Chancellor (thigh) will be back in mid-July at the earliest, Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) is out until December. Continue reading

Serie A Injuries and Suspension Report – Round 28

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic returned from an ankle problem in the last game, thus they have nothing else to worry about.

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen will be out for a while due to thigh strains.

Brescia: Jhon Chancellor (thigh) will miss another one. Andrea Cistana is not close after repairing his peroneal tendon during the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 25

Thomas Strakosha: since they scored twice against Inter, Lazio now boast the best statistical defence in the League with their 21 conceded goal. Genoa are improving, but the Biancocelesti back-line is a good bet for this round.

Milan Skriniar: Inter instead have not looked the same defensively sans Samir Handanovic between the sticks. Perhaps the captain will be back on Sunday, in any case the Sampdoria clash could be the right one for them to bounce back and Skriniar is an ex-Blucerchiato.   Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

Atalanta: a clean bill of health for the Goddess, but Musa Barrow and Roger Ibanez have not been called up because they are about to transfer.

Bologna: Blerin Dzemaili will be back after missing one with the flu, Ladislav Krejci is inching closer to recovering from a knee bruise. Gary Medel suffered a hamstring strain and will miss three weeks. Stefano Denswil has been ruled out. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana and Sandro Tonali are suspended. Alfredo Donnarumma and Emanuele Ndoj are expected to return after skipping one with muscular ailments. Daniele Dessena is almost ready after a malleolous fracture.

Cagliari: Fabrizio Cacciatore picked up a thigh problem that will force him to sit out the upcoming game, likewise Federico Mattiello. Luca Ceppitelli (foot) has yet to be cleared, while Alessio Cragno, even if he is not ready to play yet, has been called up for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery.  Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 17

Samir Handanovic (7 points): few good performances out of goalies in this round, but only two teams, Atalanta and Inter, managed to keep a clean sheet. Nothing out of the ordinary, but the Beneamata captain was slightly busier than the colleague in the game versus Genoa, which managed to take a couple of shots, differently from Milan on Sunday.

José Palomino (5 points): the Goddess defenders dominate the role and it is the Argentinian centre-back who gets the nod representing all of them, as he did a masterful job in holding in check both Rafael Leao and Krzysztof Piatek, despite their very diverse skill-set. He had a sloppy start of the season, but he has righted the ship recently. Continue reading

PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Inter is a fixture not to be missed

A game not to be missed on Sunday as Inter visit the Stadio Artemio Franchi for the latest meeting with Fiorentina, a side who have repeatedly caused problems for the Nerazzurri in recent seasons. Indeed, La Viola have won three of their last six – and two of the last three – home games against the Milanese giants, a record they will be looking to extend this weekend.

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Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 15

Luigi Sepe (7 points): just four clean sheets in this round and two of the goalie combined that with a key save on a penalty, Parma’s one and Brescia’s Jesse Joronen. However, the Finnish international was also booked, so the unheralded #1 of the Ducali gets the nod by default. Antonio Mirante had a terrific outing in relief, denying two clear-cut attempts by Lautaro Martinez and Matias Vecino with superb dives and one-handed saves.

Cristian Ansaldi (6 points): Torino conceded late, but Ansaldi still paced all defenders with his contribution on the other end, as he set up Simone Zaza’s goal with a great cross after a delightful action down the left wing and scored in the second half by picking his way to the box centrally and slotting it home from just outside of it. Continue reading