After the very convincing home win against Cagliari, the Nerazzurri travelled to another relegation threatened side in the form of Chievo. Rolando Maran’s side hadn’t won in four matches so they were in desperate need of points to steer clear of the drop with games running out. Simply put, Inter had no choice but to win this fixture otherwise their season-long goal of UEFA Champions League football next season would be all but over.
Only one change was made from last weekend and it was a forced one as Roberto Gagliardini went down with an injury which could see him miss the remainder of the season. A massive blow to Spalletti since he held such a key role in the midfield but he will have to decide seemingly between Valero or Vecino for his spot and in this match, it was the Spaniard who got the nod. The rest of the team and formation remained the same.
The Flying Donkeys made two changes to their side after their 0-0 draw away to SPAL in their last match with Bani and Cacciatore coming in for Gamberini and Depaoli respectively. The system remained unchanged with Cheivo looking to stay compact and frustrate Inter whilst catching them on the counter.
The men in yellow got off to the better start with them having decent spells of possession, creating a few good opportunities and even hitting the woodwork. This was a huge let off for Inter who finally seemed to wake up after around 10 minutes but this is not what you expect from a team fighting for a top four spot.
Maybe the loss of Gagliardini was showing to begin with and those who are used to being around him just needed to adjust slightly. However, the Nerazzurri did eventually get into the game and began to cause problems. One area Spalletti clearly looked to exploit was the left-hand side with Perišić trying to play on the final man as often as possible whilst Rafinha operated the left half space (Giaccherini’s position who is the offensive midfielder).
Perišić can be seen here exploiting the gap in Chievo’s defence with the RWB not goal side and the RCB is wrong footed and not positioned well at all which gives the #44 a great advantage on them both. In this instance, Brozović delivers the ball slightly late leading to an offside call however this remained a common theme.
As soon as Inter got a foot hold in the game, they really began to dominate and go on the offensive, forcing Chievo back thus making counter attacks more difficult. Like Cagliari, Inter’s opponents yet again played with three centre backs so Spalletti instructed the wingers to tuck inside to force one-on-ones with the fullbacks supplying the width if needed.
With this setup, it led to Inter attacking whilst creating one vs one situations, especially on the right-hand side with Cancelo who has a fantastic delivery, usually. This worked really well since man-for-man, Inter are the better team and therefore keeping the ball and creating chances became easier.
Spalletti’s men had to make the most of the spaces to cause disruption amongst the different sectors of Chievo. They did this by occupying the space between the lines of defence and midfield to provide options but also to drag players out of position and therefore creating space for runs to be made.
Inter’s attacking midfielders are all in behind Chievo’s midfield which forces the defenders to focus on them which means the ball can be worked from the left to right (to Cancelo) whilst gaps open up in the middle and the options would be there. To add, this deep compact block and the lack of pace up front meant Inter were comfortable committing numbers in the opposition’s half.
Spalletti made a key change in the second half which changed the way in which the game was being played. That change was to take Karamoh off for Santon and in the process switching to a more defensive five at the back formation. This set the alarms off to Chievo that Inter were content with their 65 minutes worth of work and the lead they had however that is always a dangerous game to play at this level and so it proved to be.
Santon is not an offensive fullback at all and with Inter deploying a 4-man midfield, it was harder to find options further forward to keep the ball. This ultimately leads to possession being moved either sideways or backwards which is a lot easier to defend compared to the system which was used to start the match and which put Inter two goals ahead.
With the fullbacks now pushed further forward for the men in dark blue, Chievo’s front two could cause a lot more damage and spread the back three so long as the midfield line of Inter could be broken; and it was on a few occasions. Luckily for Inter, the skill set of their centre backs (especially Škriniar) bailed them out.
Valter Birsa manages to break away past Brozović and he puts himself in a great situation where he has three very good options. He chose the option to the left and it was defended well however if Cancelo and Santon where fullbacks in the previous system, this situation is a lot harder for the ball carrier to make an advantage of since there are more men behind the ball.
Vecino looked incredibly shaky when he came on but that was to be expected considering how long he hasn’t played regular football for however that really played into Chievo’s hands. Their 3-man midfield pressure against Inter’s two allowed for the ball to won higher up the pitch and for attacks to be put together and eventually, the men in yellow got a goal back but it was too little, too late for them.
In a match where Inter had to win, they did. As simple as that really. It wasn’t pretty at times and we weren’t at our best, far from in fact but at the end of the day, we left the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi with all three points heading into the massive Derby d’Italia next weekend. Gagliaridini was certainly a miss and it will be interesting to see what Spalletti does against Juve to try to get some sort of dominance over their midfield. Brozović will have to be at the absolute top of his game to even match what Pjanić will offer. Back to this match, I feel Spalletti made the wrong decision switching to a more defensive system as it just allowed pressure. I understood the idea but I felt we were in control and therefore why change? We got the win though and that’s the most important thing. Onto next Saturday for one of the most important and toughest matches of the season!