Date : 28/08/2016
Venue : Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
Competition : Serie A 2016/2017, Matchday 2
The starting line ups:
Inter’s bad start to the season continued as the nerazzurri only managed to get a draw against a very passive and non-threating for most of the game Palermo side.
In contrast to the previous match against Chievo Verona in which he decided to base his tactics around the opposition and how he would eliminate any risks, Frank de Boer decided to be much more proactive this time, with one more week of work under his belt, and chose to field his team in a 4-3-3 formation.
Ballardini chose to field his team in a 5-3-2 formation, with a low defensive block and his forwards staying centrally in order to close central passing options to Banega and force him to pass and continue the build-up on the wing where Palermo’s CM and WB’s were ready to press.
On offense, the below image sums up Palermo’s strategy.
In the above diagram you can see the connections between Palermo’s players, the bigger the line between two players is, the more passes they have exchanged.
Having as their primary intention to sit back, stay compact and not concede a goal, Palermo attacked mainly via the wings or with long balls towards the two forwards.
It was a very uninteresting match in terms of tactical adaptability or in-game changes, areas in which nothing unpredictable happened. Thus below we’ll take a look on how Frank de Boer has changed Inter until now and which areas need improvement.
Considering the fact that this appearance was a product of just three weeks of work, Inter’s improvement when it came to fluidity, even compared to the previous week’s match was somewhat impressive.
Not only did the wingers interchange positions throughout the whole ninety minutes, also moving from the wing to more central areas in order to connect with Icardi, the players that formed “triangles” on each side ( near-side CM, FB and winger) moved in relation to each other, going from wing to inside channel and from inside channel to the wing depending on the player’s movement in front of them.
Above you can see how the CMs, FBs and wingers adapted their position when the ball was on or moved towards the wing in order to create triangles and connect with their teammates, in order to move the ball upwards.
These connections and opposite movements appeared also during Inter’s build-up.
Both CMs dropped next to Banega who started Inter’s build-up, freeing this way the FBs that moved higher while providing width. Width that the wingers didn’t have to provide anymore, moving thus more centrally and creating two central options for the Argentinian regista to pass to, while also forming close connections with Icardi for when they receive the ball.
Another aspect of de Boer’s game, that was obvious even from his first match as the manager of the club against Celtic, was how much more attacking minded he demands his CMs to be, especially if we compare them to their use under the more conservative Mancini.
It wasn’t rare to see during the match one or both CMs joining the attack, playing very close or even next to Icardi.
Above is a situation in which Inter tried to create 1vs1 situations against Palermo’s defense, as the ball moved to the wing, in order to take advantage of the nerazzurri player’s qualitative superiority, and also drag their opponents out of position and take advantage of the spaces created with their very close distances/connections.
Of course this was a high reward/high risk strategy by Inter’s coach as the success was based on the individual brilliance of the player receiving the ball on the wing, in order to get past his immediate opponent and then combine with his teammates, and the failure was more than probable, as by losing possession, five or six players would have found their selves behind the ball, with Banega far from an assurance when isolated in front of the defense during a counter attacking situation.
Miranda’s and Murillo’s speed together with Palermo’s lack of quality meant that a risk that most probably will not be taken against much stronger opponents, was limited.
Having changed coach with a vast difference in coaching philosophy just two weeks before the season started, also meant that it was impossible to watch an Inter side without problems in their game.
The problem that Inter seemed to have as a collective was the lack of immediate movement/spreading when the ball was moving from the one side of the pitch to the other, as the FBs (primarily Santon) and the CMs did not distance themselves quickly enough from the ball carrier, staying instead too close and making life easier for the opposition that had to cover less width and less passing options, being also more able to press two players with only some metres separating them.
Moreover, lack of speed of play and bad connections during some occasions on the wing meant that crosses arrived in the penalty area with delay, leaving four or five players static and with much less chances to get the header. This failure had as a subsequence, problems during the negative transition as many players were already behind the ball.
In terms of individual problems, Kondogbia seemed to not be able to readapt his position continuously in order to create passing lanes to Banega or his other teammates, after failed pass attempts towards his side or a pass to another passing option next to him. The Frenchman together with Medel also failed at times to provide quick support to the wings, probably because their coaches’ order was to run towards the penalty area, but as a result, left their wing players in 3vs2 situations in favor of Palermo.
Inter’s situation after the match against Palermo reminds much more of a half full glass than a half empty one. Banega’s move in front of the defense was a positive one as he provided the team with a very clean and safe build-up. The mistakes we mentioned above, together with the bad combination play in the offensive third, are all things that will be corrected as the time passes by and the players learn to move without thinking, after a bigger number of repetitions during practice. Finally, Joao Mario’s arrival means that Inter gains a player ready to help with the circulation of the ball and provide more threatening situations near the offensive third with his technique compared to the naturally more defensive minded Medel.
For more Inter and non-Inter related Tactical Analysis, you can find me on Twitter, @ThanosChelas.