To absolutely nobodies surprise, Luciano stuck with the 4-2-3-1 however he was forced into two changes with D’Ambrosio and Miranda being side-lined through injury meaning Ranocchia and Nagatomo came into the team. Brozovic was the other player dropped but not through injury, just for being in awful form; replacing him was the returning Joao Mario. Some fans have been crying out for Spalletti to change formation or at least the style due to being found out by weaker opposition in the past few games but that wouldn’t be the case unfortunately.
Another new boss in charge of opposition in recent weeks, this time former Milanista and now manager, Gennaro Gattuso. The former hard tackling defensive midfielder hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts in charge unlike Massimo Oddo at Udinese and Giuseppe Iachini at the Neroverdi who both earnt wins over Inter. The Milan head coach stuck with a 3-back formation for his opening two fixtures which was being used when Montella was at the helm however a draw away to pointless Benevento in absurd circumstances and a 2-0 defeat away to Croatian side HNK Rijeka in the UEFA Europa League saw him change to a 4-3-3 to which they have been slightly more successful.
A cagey opening 20 minutes as the first shot on target in the game arrived in the 18th min with neither side really looking to get off to a bad side leading to both sides sharing possession of the ball with no real threat going forward, preferring instead just to play it safe, understandable in the circumstances given that the two teams came into this match in bad form. One thing that was clear to see from the get-go was that Bonaventura was deployed out wide to help track the runs of the attacking Joao Cancelo whereas Suso was given more leniency with him only having to take care of the not so offensive Nagatomo.
Milan’s wide men would often drop to form a 5-man midfield with pressure only being applied by the player who was on the same side of the ball causing Inter to struggle to break through as easily as they would like.
This was working effectively since Inter’s forward four were too far away from Vecino or Gagliaridini to link up the play. Out of the four, Joao Mario should be coming slightly deeper to collect the ball as shown with the highlighted space and then driving but he doesn’t seem to have the confidence to attempt that at the moment and some would question if he truly has the capabilities to play such a role successfully.
On one of the rare occasions the Portuguese midfielder did actually play his position and collect the ball from deeper to start an attack, he decided to not advance with the ball even though there was clearly space to drive or pass into however he chose to pass backwards, restarting again! This was a common theme throughout and has been for the past few games; Lethargic. Milan were there for the taking but the low confidence in individuals led to no penetration.
Inter continued with their high press, this time forcing Leonardo Bonucci, who was error prone all night, into a mistake with Joao picking up the ball in their box however not for the first time, he was unable to make the correct decision leading to Abate dispossessing him with any issues. Instead, he should’ve made the simple pass into Mauro who could’ve had a pop shot or tried to find Candreva on the opposite wing.
Something I feel Inter didn’t exploit often enough was the pace of Cancelo against Bonaventura. One example of then they did was in the 39th minute with Candreva drifting inside attempting to drag Rodriguez out of position meaning Cancelo could have the free space outwide. On this occasion, it didn’t amount to anything but in my opinion, if it was attempted a bit more, it might well have worked since the Milan #5 wouldn’t have been able to stay with Cancelo all night.
Tactically, things stayed the same from both managers, Milan sat in and Inter would try to keep the ball with no attacking intent. The Nerazzurri were just too slow to get anything going and to me it can’t be a fitness issue since we’re not in Europe unlike the men in red and black so what’s the excuse? I can possibly understand it for Candreva and Ivan since they are told to press high and track back but even still, the build-up was at a snail’s pace all game which isn’t going to cause any team problems. A real shadow of the opening 16 matchdays.
The first huge chance of the match simply fell to the wrong man. It all started with Milan pressing high for really the first time in the game and Inter getting a bit fortunate with a long ball and then Vecino nicking the ball from the young Locatelli allowing an Inter breakaway. Milan has a good defensive shape but that couldn’t stop a great ball from Matías to Icardi who unselfishly headed the ball down to Joao Mario who missed one of the sitters of the season.
Only 5 minutes later, the Rossoneri missed a chance on par with Joao Mario’s miss! The ball started out wide with Suso who as expected with his silky footwork, drifted past two players before whipping an awkward cross into the box which Samir fluffed at falling straight to Bonaventura who missed a sitter. Both sides let off now. From this moment on, Suso was found a lot more with Kessie making forward runs to drag players away which caused problems with Suso hitting the crossbar with an attempt and later on in extra time, one of his many crosses picked out the substitute Patrick Cutrone to finish putting the home side 1-0 up.
Borja Valero was introduced in place of the lacklustre Joao Mario in a like for like change which changed nothing since he also couldn’t bring that spark. 10 minutes later Brozovic came on for Gagliaridini and he moved into the role Borja was occupying but like the previous two, he didn’t bring a cutting edge that a team needed and what is expected of an attacking substitute. Maybe Karamoh should’ve been used instead with his pace and tidy footwork?
With both teams tired, spaces were always going to open up causing errors meaning the game opened up a bit more but both defences coped with the pressure to begin with. In the 100th minute, Luciano put Eder into the game just like in the previous matches Inter have been behind in but like Valero and Marcelo, he made no impact on the game. 4 minutes later, Milan scored the only goal of the game through substitute Patrick Cutrone via a Suso cross as I mentioned before was being targeted by Gattuso with Kessie making a forward run.
After this, AC sat in and wasted time like any team in their situation would and Inter pushed for the equaliser which never, ever looked likely to arrive and that was it, our TIM Cup run came to an end.
I said it last week and I’ll say it again, the quicker a true, creative playmaker can be brought in, the better! We’re seriously lacking a serious threat in the #10 position meaning Spalletti is instructing the players to go wide often and cross, leading to teams being able to tactically contain Inter with relative ease including Serie C Pordenone, albeit against our second-string team. We have one of the most lethal strikers in the world yet we’ve only managed a single goal in 5 matches? Says it all. Although Luciano doesn’t have all of the necessary tools to do what he would like tactically, he now has got to think about a formation change or at least a serious back up plan, not just throw on Eder and Karamoh to go more attacking because the 4-2-3-1 seems to be stale.