Date : 07/05/2016
Venue : Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
Competition : Serie A 2015/2016, Matchday 37
The starting line ups:
Roberto Mancini chose a starting eleven that included Samir Handanovic under the Goal posts behind a defensive line that consisted of Miranda, Juan Jesus, Nagatomo and D’Ambrosio. In front of them Felipe Melo and Kondogbia were responsible for offering them protection, leaving the front 4 more free to attack, Brozovic and Perisic from the wings and Jovetic with Icardi in central areas.
Marco Giampaolo on the other side started with Pelagotti as the GK and Zambelli, Tonelli, Costa and Mario Rui in his defense. Leandro Paredes played in front of them as the regista with Zielinski and Buchel in either side of him and some metres in front of him. Up front Saponara played behind the attacking duo of Maccarone and Pucciarelli.
Empoli came to Giuseppe Meazza with the intention to play their own way, in a 4-3-1-2 shape as always.
On defense, the Tuscans pressed high up the pitch (an example of how they pressed can be seen below) with the intention not to let Inter build up from the back, managing to keep hold of possession for big periods of time during the match.
This high pressing combined with their very compact diamond shape, forced Inter to play primarily through the wings and to find big spaces only in transition (and in two such occasions also scoring both their goals).
Inter’s defense and its’ problems
This diamond shape and the small width that Giampaolo’s team have on offense, was what actually shaped Inter’s way of defending for this match.
Playing in a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 shape would have meant that the two Inter CMs, Melo and Kondogbia, would have been constantly found in situations in which their opposition would have had numerical superiority in the spaces where they defend, such as 4vs2 or even 5vs2 if Saponara or one of the forwards dropped to receive the ball.
Thus Mancini to eliminate possible situations like the above mentioned, decided to ask from his wingers and Jovetic to protect their two teammates by quickly closing on them when the opponent was building from the back, surrounding this way Empoli’s diamond midfield and creating 5vs4 situations in their favor (before they fall on a more of a flat 4-4-2 shape deep in their own half).
The fact, however, that Empoli have two very good players when it comes to resisting the opposition pressing in the name of Saponara and Paredes, their very small distances that improve their connections and three players playing up-front like Saponara/Pucciarelli and Maccarone that can all take advantage of a midfielders blind side to receive the ball behind him, meant that the need for good defending, with quick transitions, concentration and the will to move constantly instead of staying passive was of huge importance for Inter.
And these elements above were exactly what Inter was lacking, especially when you look at players like Jovetic and Brozovic who were responsible for ruining their team’s defensive shape many times.
Let’s take a look at some of these situations that occurred during the match with the help of the below videos:
Jovetic here has a very simple thing to do. He has to press the opposition CB, while covering Paredes with his “shadow”, in order to close the passing lane towards the Argentinian regista and force the ball to go to the other CB which Icardi is pressing, or to a less dangerous area of the field such as the wing and the Empoli left FB.
As you can see though, he was unsuccessful. He starts the pressing run in a slightly wrong angle (as Icardi sees that he starts his run towards the other CB) and gets caught unprepared when the CB controls the ball before the pass, turning slower than needed and enabling his opponent to find Paredes.
Here the Montenegrin is again at fault, for being too passive. As the ball moves from the centre to the wing and then back again at the centre, Empoli make one of their usual movements during the build-up, when one CM drops next to Paredes in order to receive the ball. Jovetic instead of moving two or three metres behind and between the two players in order to be in a position where he can press either one of them if needed, stays passive and unbothered before deciding to cover Paredes’ passing lane. Empoli of course had no problem with that as Buchel received the ball free and managed to attempt a dangerous pass between the lines.
Here both Jovetic and Perisic can be given the blame. With Icardi behind him, the Montenegrin had the opportunity leave the marking of Paredes to the Argentinian and move towards Zielinski (no17) in order to pressure him and not allow him to make a vertical pass but a pass back to his defense or the wings. Instead he stays with Paredes leaving Zielinski free and his teammate Kondogbia in a 2vs1, as Saponara happens to be behind the Frenchman. Kondogbia decides to press Zielinski, who passes behind him to Saponara who, with Perisic never covering that area as he theoretically is supposed to, receives the ball free.
Again, an avoidable mistake happens. As the Empoli CB receives the ball back, both Brozovic and Jovetic stay much more focused to the ball carrier than what is going on behind them and next to them, never returning to their positions on time or positioning their bodies correctly, leaving a free passing lane to Buchel to receive the ball.
Brozovic here, is only focused and ready to press the Empoli FB, a good logic only if your teammates press every time correctly and it is a given that the ball will go there. However, Kondogbia is not on time in his pressing run towards Maccarone, the Italian turns and passes behind the Frenchman, in an area where Brozovic was supposed to cover if not solely focused on the FB.
It was a match without many tactical thrills, between two teams that did not present us anything new in terms of their style of play. It was also a good reminder, of how important in today’s football (as shown via the videos), are forwards who know how to defend and press, but also of some of the areas where Inter need to improve if they want to compete with the big guns and not only dream for a third place finish.
For more Inter and non-Inter related Tactical Analysis, you can find me on Twitter, @ThanosChelas.