The final game before the two week break saw Inter match up against Stefano Pioli’s La Viola at the Artemio Franchi who were coming into this on a seven game unbeaten run in the Serie A hoping to keep up with those occupying a UEFA Europa League spot whilst the Nerazzurri hadn’t won a game in the league for four games. The longest run in the league since Inter’s four games without a victory last season from 10th January until 31st January.
Spalletti made a one change from the home draw with Lazio before new year by removing winger Antonio Candreva for attacking midfielder, João Mário with the idea for the offensive João Cancelo to overlap as the former Sporting CP man would drift inside to create space. The bench was lacking real depth and quality like it has done for a while now but this was alarming. No liable Centre Back option to replace the injured Ranocchia at some point even though it was announced Alessandro Bastoni would be recalled from Atalanta. No Pinamonti with him seemingly going out on loan (which is great for his development but we have inadequate backup) and then no real quality to bring on should we need it apart from Candreva who has been terrible in recent weeks.
Fiorentina who now welcomed both Milano teams to Florence within a week opted for a 4-3-3; one of many formations the home side have used throughout the season including 4-3-2-1, 3-5-1-1 and 4-4-1-1 showing the man in charge is willing to adapt to situations if need be. Something Inter boss Luciano Spalletti has refused to do, instead sticking with his 4-2-3-1. Pioli made only one change similarly to his counterpart with the silky Federico Chiesa – who has been linked with Inter in recent times – being brought in for Gil Dias.
The match got off to a lively start with both teams being given licenses to attack however it was the men in purple who made the most of the space being given to them as they created a number of opportunities within the first ten minutes. It was mainly Argentine, Giovanni Simeone who was on the end of the chances due to his movement creating problems for Inter’s backline but he couldn’t make the most of them. Positive start to the game overall.
A common element to Inter’s game is the high press yet it was the home side who implemented this style in the opening exchanges with success. The front three were very energetic chasing after anything along the backline with the midfield backing them right up. If the ball was with Cancelo, Théréau/Veretout would press, Simeone or Chiesa would cover the passing lane into the middle and Badelj would cover the middle and vice versa if the ball went on the other side. This forced Inter into having to show composure in order to not be caught out or go long so it was advantage Fiorentina at this point.
Here Gagliardini has no space to pass forward since no one is deep enough and the options that are deep have been cut off. Fortunately for Inter, Roberto manages to hold off his man, get the ball back to Handanović to reset and get back into shape. Great press by Fiorentina nonetheless.
Fiorentina continued to be the team in control of this game, with and without the ball and one of the factors towards that was the front three being able to find space between the lines, allowing them to directly attack the defence and make runs in behind to drag players away to create space or play a ball. If the right decisions were made, Inter could’ve been one or two goals down at least.
Whenever Inter did get the chance to attack this narrow Fiorentina side, they didn’t make the most of it. In one instance, Perišić had received the ball in the left half space between the midfield and back four of the home side. This meant his usual position wasn’t being engaged allowing Santon to overlap into that area which would drag players away from Perišić. In the image below, that is shown. In the middle, Icardi and Borja Valero were up one-on-one with their men so could make runs to allow Ivan to make a through ball into either one of them or the runs would create the room for the Croat to drive into and shoot. None of that could happen since Davide didn’t make the run leading to players not being dragged out of position. One of the reasons I personally believe and have done for a few weeks now that Dalbert needs to starting at Left-Back.
What should have happened.
I for one am all for midfield movement and interchanging when it makes sense to cause confusion amongst the opposition’s backline leading to mistakes however Vecino took that to a new extreme. Inter had the ball just inside Fiorentina’s half when Vecino decided to to leave his base and make a run beyond Mauro Icardi and Borja Valero. Something one of the two mentioned should be doing or João Mário as the ball was on his side. This led to a massive gap being left which was targeted as soon as they won the ball back. Luckily, Borja Valero raced back to cover the ground somewhat. A real let off and something I’m sure Spalletti pointed out at half time.
Inter got off to a much brighter start, dominating possession as Fiorentina didn’t imply that same high pressure they did in the first half. Ten minutes in, Inter got their goal and to no surprise it was star man, Mauro Icardi with it. The goal was very simple and so was the build-up; it started from a goal kick which was played out from the back to Cancelo who linked up with fellow Portuguese João Mário down the right flank, a lovely flick back into Cancelo allowed him to dart off and be dragged down by Veretout who was out of position and it was probably the correct call by the Frenchman to take the foul and subsiquently the yellow card. From the free-kick, Cancelo whipped it to the near post with Fiorentina sleeping to allow the Inter #9 to win the header as well as the rebound. 0-1 Inter!
Fiorentina substituted Théréau for attacking midfielder Valentin Eysseric who would play more centrally compared to the man he replaced. A couple of minutes later, Spalletti also opted for a change; removing the out of form João Mário for Dalbert with the Brazilian moving to LWB, Santon to RCB and Cancelo to RWB in a very rare formation change. This signalled that Inter were happy to soak up some pressure meaning La Viola would have possession of the ball predominately with the men in white countering whenever possible. That formation change wouldn’t last long with the already not fully fit Ranocchia unable to continue past the 75th minute so Japan international Nagatomo was called to go in at RB with Cancelo playing in front of him, ultimately going back to the 4-2-3-1.
Inter’s wide men dropped deeper to make a flat 4 man midfield from the 75th minute onwards to cover potential spaces for the very attacking at this point Fiorentina.
The introduction of Babacar for Benassi in the 68th minute showed Piolo’s intent and the big man really threw himself about being a nuisance. He was targeting either Santon or the half space between Santon and Nagatomo with both being weak links compared to him in either positional awareness or size and strength. The fullbacks, Laurini and Biraghi pushed further forward to pin Inter back, especially the latter since there wasn’t anyone playing ahead of him whereas Chiesa was still playing out on the right-hand side.
Chiesa switched flanks in the final five minutes after not having much success against Dalbert. Inter also exploited the same flank with the fresh legs of Candreva who caused many problems by getting in behind the Fiorentina defence.
Fiorentina equalised through an Argentine of their own, Giovanni Simeone. The build-up was nothing Inter hadn’t been experiencing for the previous ten minutes leading up to the goal. The ball would be with Badelj in the middle of the park who would spreak the ball either left or right with Simeone, Babacar and Eysseric in or around the box so that a cross could be whipped in. In the 91st minute, one finally came off as Laurini crossed all the way to the energetic Chiesa at the back post who laid it off for Biraghi with him taking a pop shot. Luckily for them, it took a defelection and landed perfectly for substitute Eysseric who had the composure to slip in the goalscorer for a simple finish. Tactically, not much Inter could’ve done considering the tired legs and the luck involved but this is what happens when you don’t punish teams. The draw meant Fiorentina carried on their excellent unbeaten league run whilst Inter continued their awful winless form.
Inter leave Florence disappointed but on another day, they would’ve walked away with all three points heading into the winter break. It wasn’t to be but with this break, the squad really do need a to rest and re-group. Put the past couple of games behind them although in those games, there have been tough games against the likes of Juve, Lazio and of course, Fiorentina. None of which Inter; nevertheless, it isn’t good enough to go this many games without a win if we really want to cement a UEFA Champions League spot. Some positives and some negatives to take from this game, a draw the fair result. Let’s just hope some moves can happen in the window between now and the next game as well as the current players getting back to their best.