Tactical Analysis – Inter 2 – 1 Bologna: Victorious At Last

February 15, 2018 15:00
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Heading into this one, almost every Interisti knew that anything other than a win would be a new record of 9 matches without victory in the league. So, a win was the absolute least expected to one, not break that unwanted record and two, to get back on track with the goal of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. Bologna, managed by Roberto Donadoni, had only been able to pick up 6 points from a possible 24 in their previous 8 matchdays. Coincidently, the same amount as the Nerazzurri. 


The 4-2-3-1 was re-introduced after a number of draws using the 4-3-3 and after last week’s awful display against Crotone where they were able to neutralise Inter with no real problem, a change was no surprise. The only changes being Dalbert out for Portugeuse, João Cancelo as D’Ambrosio moved over to left-back. Once again, an indication that the manager wasn’t willing to push too much forward. The only other change, and a positive whilst surprising one, was young French winger, Yann Karamoh taking the place of the very out of form Antonio Candreva.

The former Italian national team manager, Roberto Donadoni, opted to match Walter Zenga who’s team put in a great display at the San Siro just a week ago. A move which Crotone did with huge success last weekend so it is clear to see why Bologna tried to replicate that. Multiple changes were made to the starting XI off the back of the defeat last week at home to Fiorentina as González, Orsolini and Di Francesco replaced Helander, Donsah and Destro respectively. 

First Half: 

Inter got off to the perfect start by scoring within the first 2 minutes of the game. It was a well worked goal at that with spaces being utilised to perfection, something that was non-existent in recent weeks. When the ball arrived at Karamoh’s feet after making a good run, he was relying on his teammates to make the most of the space on offer. Step forward, Marcelo Brozović. The Croat made a bursting run from midfield to underlap Karamoh with his man ball watching, a basic mistake even at amateur level. This allowed for the ball to get played to the byline for a cut back with Éder darting towards the near post. A great move with players exploiting space very, very well. 1-0 Inter!

In the opening 10 minutes, whenever Inter weren’t in possession of the ball, they would become really narrow and compact. Clearly showing that they wanted Bologna to attack down the wings or if they attempted to go direct, it would be very unlikely that a pass would break any lines.

Just like other teams this season, Bologna pressed Inter high and in numbers trying to win the ball back further up the pitch with players already in position to attack however the Rossoblu didn’t execute it well at all. In the image below, you can see a 5v5 situation right outside of Inter’s penalty area which is good as it will lead to the ball carrier going long. Now, the players not involved in the press need to push higher up in order to close the gaps and not allow a counter should the ball be kept. Bologna didn’t do that and got lucky in the process.

5v5 situation.

5v4 counter if Karamoh managed to control the ball. 

Something Spalletti instructed was for Ivan Perišić to form a 3-man midfield. Now, this might sound very odd and I thought the same when I first saw it, however it makes sense given the fact it is Karamoh out on the right-hand side and not Candreva. Luciano recognised that Yann does not offer the defensive stability that Antonio does so he adapted as all top managers do. So, if Vecino pressed out wide to Masina or Poli, Inter’s #44 would form a pivot with Borja Valero in the midfield so that Borja isn’t left exposed and space is covered adequately. The same went for the other side, if Mbaye or Džemaili had the ball on Inter’s left, Perišić would press whilst Vecino would shuffle across to form a pivot. This worked very well to cover Karamoh’s flaws whilst allowing him to shine as he did. A great tactical move by the boss, something he has seemed to lack lately. 

At this point, I am getting sick of saying it every week in these analyses so I can only imagine how frustrated Spalletti is with individual, sloppy errors leading to goals and ultimately lost points. This time, the usually reliable Milan Škriniar made a huge mistake however it is to be expected at his tender age of 23 in the position he plays. In this situation, he should’ve taken a touch or passed first time to the goalkeeper who would’ve had time to pick out an option yet he gave a poor pass to Miranda who had 3 men ready to pounce. I’ve seen a lot of people slate Miranda for this goal but he should never have received the ball, let alone a bouncing one. After that, Miranda sliced his clearance (he could have showed a bit more composure to take a touch but it was in a much more difficult situation compared to his partner) leading to former Inter player, Rodrigo Palacio pouncing to score. An annoying goal to concede but something the Slovak will learn from, I’m sure!

Both teams were going at each other after the equaliser leading to a more open contest than maybe some expected and this allowed Inter to have a few decent chances, including two penalty appeals, with the best falling to Ivan who just couldn’t find an end product to the despair of Inter supporters at The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and as well as all around the world but good signs from the home team heading into the second 45 minutes. 

Second Half: 

João Miranda, who made an error which led to Bologna’s equaliser, was substituted at the interval due to a suspected thigh injury with January signing Lisandro López taking his place. Inter started the half off very brightly, winning a number of corners which caused Roberto Donadoni’s men a whole load of problems and if it wasn’t for a poor finish from D’Ambrosio on one of the corners, the men in black and blue would be in the lead again. 

Something Spalletti changed at half-time was Ivan Perišić’s position; instead of playing slightly deeper to form a 3-man midfield, he was now playing in the same left half space but a lot closer to Éder. This allowed D’Ambrosio to exploit the space left on the wing which he did well in fairness to him considering he isn’t known for his attacking qualities. However, Bologna were very poor in their organisation with players not holding their positions which opened up gaps to exploit. The image below is a perfect example; Ivan has dragged Mbaye into a centre backs position leaving a huge gap as both central defenders mark one man. In this particular attack, Inter were very unlucky not to have created a clear-cut opportunity. 

Finally, after weeks upon weeks of slow, lethargic play from seasoned professionals such as Candreva and Perišic, it was the 19-year-old, French youngster Yann Karamoh who stepped up to the plate, had a go and got the reward. He was the one who decided to take on, one, two, three men and then have a crack on his weak foot from outside the area in his first start in Serie A. If that doesn’t make the two I mentioned in particular think about their performances and how embarrassing they have been, I’m not sure what will and to top it off, that goal now means Karamoh has more goals in the league this season than Candreva… 

Shortly after, some Bologna players were evidently frustrated, particularly Mbaye who got himself sent off for two bookable offences within 5 minutes. The second of which could well have been a straight red for a reckless challenge on the injury prone, Rafinha. So, due to that their system had to be tweaked with Poli dropping into right-back leaving a flat midfield. Something Inter and Spalletti should have been joyous about as having the man advantage in the middle of the park should’ve allowed Inter to dominate the rest of the match. 

In the 73rd minute, match winner Yann Karamoh was taken off for Gagliardini as the whole San Siro applauded him for his wonderful display. The change signalled that Spalletti was keen to secure the victory and winning the midfield battle was key to that hence adding another central midfielder into the mix and removing a wide, attacking threat Karamoh. This led to Inter moving through formations depending on the passage of play so it could have been a 4-4-2, 4-1-2-1-2, 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3. 

Even though Inter had the numerical advantage in midfield, they really didn’t make the most of it which was particularly poor since the Rossoblu had pushed their wingers further forward in order to apply pressure and also provide options in the final third so there really was no excuse for Inter to not occupy the spaces well enough to keep the ball however that was exactly what happened which led to Bologna being able to string a handful of attacks together.

For me, Éder has to drop back instead of making the run he does or Gagliardini has to run into the space in front of him so Rafinha has a simple pass to retain possession.  

Inter really struggled towards the end and in all honesty they only have themselves to blame, the players clearly had nerves having not won a game in two months but even still, to struggle against this Bologna team with 10 men and a 2-man midfield is awful but fortunately they got away with it. The away side killed the game for themselves when Masina got sent off for a terrible challenge on Lisandro López. All in all, Spalletti got it correct tactically for the majority of the match but in the final minutes, he could possibly have ordered his team to follow better instructions in order to not be in a place where a second Bologna goal could’ve been a real possibility. 


Overall, it was a much-improved performance from the Nerazzurri compared to last week for example so we can only hope that the team can build on from this with a win away next weekend at Genoa who will be no pushover. If that can happen, another win against bottom of the league Benevento at home must happen and if it does, 3 wins in a row heading into the big one would be absolutely fantastic! But like I said, a much-improved performance. My only concerns were Inter’s inability to see out the game properly and also the injuries to both Miranda and Perišic. People can say what they want about Ivan but right now, in this campaign, he is a very important player and without him things will be even harder so I hope they are both fit for next weekend. Onto Genoa we go!  

Mitchell Hayward
By Mitchell Hayward