Heading into this one, Inter knew that nothing less than three points were required. Not only because it is Benevento who sit bottom of the league having only notched up ten points so far this season but because the Derby di Milano is next weekend and a loss going into that match simply couldn’t happen. Although the away side had won three of their last seven matches coming into this fixture, they have never won an away game in Serie A so the odds were well and truly against them, even with the Nerazzurri going through a rough patch of their own.
Luciano Spalletti kept with his traditional 4-2-3-1 as changes were made right across the attacking trio behind the striker. Inform French winger, Yann Karamoh was dropped to the bench for the returning Ivan Perišić as Antonio Candreva kept his place to the surprise of many. The other switch was a welcomed one amongst Interisti with Barcelona loanee, Rafinha taking the place of summer signing Borja Valero; who is yet to record a single assist this season.
Benevento manager, Roberto De Zerbi matched his counterpart in terms of formation. In fact, since the January overhaul of the squad, the Serie A newcomers have switched to a 4 at the back instead of sticking with the three at the back. A change which was likely just made to fit some of the new additions in such as Bacary Sagna and Brazilian, Sandro. De Zerbi also made two changes with new signings Guilherme and Sagna taking the places of Parigini and Venuti respectively.
The opening ten minutes were very stale for Inter as Benevento if anything had the better of the opportunities. Misplaced passes, lack of communication and seemingly, a lack of confidence was evident in the home side’s players. Something you would expect from the team bottom of the league going away to a club chasing a UEFA Champions League spot…
Spalletti instructed the front three to play closer to each other allowing the fullbacks to attack but also to force the opposition’s wide men to track back which would put them out of their comfort zone and ultimately test if they could stick with it without giving up chances.
Tactically up to the 15th minute mark, both sides were very similar, almost identical in fact. Benevento were not afraid to commit a fullback when attacking with the attacking players tucking in, just like how Inter had set up and up to this point, it was a very even game.
Candreva and Perišić continued to operate in the half space to one, offer support to Éder and two, allow the fullbacks to provide width to drag players out, thus creating gaps in behind. The image below is a perfect example of what Spalletti wanted from his players in terms of position but the execution wasn’t done correctly. As you can see, Antonio is in the half space with Cancelo out wide, ready to receive a pass. However, instead of attacking the space Letizia (Benevento LB) left as he pressured Cancelo, the pass was made inside which allowed the away side to win possession back, counter and carve out a good opportunity for themselves.
Although Éder now had more support, they were simply too far away to build up the play to get the ball into the final third. Instead of Gagliardini or Vecino collecting the ball from the fullbacks, it was Rafinha a lot of the time. This simply meant nobody was vacating the space between the midfield and defence of Benevento as all three Inter forwards were too interested in making runs in behind which isn’t a problem as they are supposed to do that to drag players and create space however in a situation like this, the only way they would receive the ball is if it goes long which really and truly means you are gifting the opposition a chance to win the ball easily. D’Ambrosio has no forward option so a pass sideways or backwards is all he can do.
One instruction Roberto De Zerbi put out was for midfielder, Sandro to man mark Rafinha should he go beyond his pivot with Viola or go between the lines of the midfield and defence. Up to this point, Rafinha was struggling to get the better of the ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers man, therefore dropping deeper to try to orchestrate attacks which as I stated before, were not working whatsoever.
Inter’s lack of a press and overall positional awareness was shambolic at times. Up to this point, the away side had created the best opportunities and yet again, they had a fantastic chance to open the scoring from one simple, vertical pass from inside their own half… That was possible due to the fact not a single Inter midfielder done one of two very important and in fact, basic things. One, none of them cut off the passing lane to the striker and two, no one put pressure on the ball carrier, this leads to literally a free pass which they took and almost scored from. I’m sure Spalletti made the players well aware that the team they were playing would look to go direct at almost every chance they got yet the whole midfield reacted in this manner? One pass broke not one, but two lines. Very poor.
Shortly after Benevento had a claim for a penalty waved away, (in my opinion wrongly) Rafinha was removed for Karamoh in order to inject some energy into the team and to put pressure on Letizia who already looked shaky throughout. A good change if it was a straight swap for Candreva but it wasn’t, instead the former Lazio man got moved into the middle which never looked like a good option.
Minutes after the introduction of the young Frenchman, his burst of pace down the right flank caused Letizia a problem and won Inter a corner which led to the opening goal. It does however beg the question, why was he benched in the first place?
Right after Škriniar opened the scoring, Ranocchia came up with a very important goal yet Benevento and in particular the manager, will be disappointed with how they chose to defend the set-piece. The high line is something difficult to execute and you have to get it spot on otherwise a well-timed dink, like Cancelo delivered, is all you need to have a great goal scoring chance. A poor tactical decision by the former Palermo manager.
Benevento also changed to a 4-3-3 with both CM’s pushing forward to provide an option since they now needed goals and with Sandro having to go off, the system had to be changed since the Brazilian’s role in the side was very specific and couldn’t be matched.
After the sending off, (Viola) Spalletti made another change with Marcelo Brozović coming on for his fellow countryman, Ivan Perišić. The fresh legs in the Nerazzurri’s attack and the fact the away side were now down to ten men meant the high press was a good option as when Bologna came to the San Siro a fortnight ago, they were down to 10 men but because the pressure wasn’t there, they managed to create chances to get back into the game and Luciano Spalletti wasn’t willing to make that same mistake again. Also, to play out of a high press, the team with the ball must show composure and quality, something they lack for this level and then if you add tired legs on top of that, playing out of danger and creating chances was almost impossible.
Something has to change, as simple as that. Whether it’s formation, instructions, new players being used such as Dalbert, Lopez, Pinamonti, Odgaard etc. Something has to change because currently, the players are playing every match, home & away as if they are already winning 3-0. No drive or ambition to go forward and create! My only hope is that with the captain coming back, it will force the others to try to match his level of work rate and ability like in the first half of the season because if they don’t, we can wave goodbye to the UEFA Champions League and possibly Europe altogether if this continues. We played bottom of the league Benevento in this match yet it was an even contest until we scored from a corner… and if anything, Benevento could’ve and really should’ve scored before we did (that doesn’t include the penalty they should’ve had). This 4-2-3-1 is fine away to Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Lazio etc but against Benevento at home, you need to be offensive, push forward, commit players but we just didn’t do that. It seems to me like Spalletti prioritises not losing before going for the win in every single match which is not right in my opinion. Overall, we were very fortunate to get a win here which is just embarrassing; I just hope and pray the Inter from 4 months ago turn up next week…