Date : 23/10/2016
Venue : Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
Competition : Serie A 2016/2017, Matchday 9
The starting line ups:

Inter left Bergamo and the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia with another defeat, their third straight in this season’s Serie A, after an on target Mauricio Pinilla penalty late in the second half. It was another disappointing performance by Frank de Boer’s team, that are now standing eight points behind third placed AC Milan and ten behind league leaders Juventus.

First Half

The first half was primarily influenced by Atalanta’s way of defending, that in usual Gasperini fashion included a 3v3 man marking in the central areas of the field.

As you can see in the above image, Gasperini ordered his three midfielders , Freuler/Kessie/ Kurtic to man mark the three Inter midfielders depriving the Milanese from central options in the build-up phase.
Thus, Inter were forced to move the ball to the FBs who were quickly pressured by the opposition WBs and the near the ball forward who moved to pressure them from central areas.

This, combined with the fact that there was no movement from the midfielders to avoid their marker and support the ball carrier and the fact that even when one of the two Inter wingers or Icardi dropped deeper, there was still a 4v2 or 3v2 numerical superiority in favor of Atalanta, restricted enormously Inter’s offensive power during most of the match.

The fact that the nerazzurri of Milan were also almost never able to break the immediate pressure that Atalanta applied during transition, and the lack of ways to take advantage of the distance between the defensive and midfield line during those phases, didn’t help either.

Inter’s defensive problems

Inter’s passive 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 was meant to close spaces and passing lanes in order force the Bergamaschi in a harmless circulation of the ball, however in this case, the reality proved to be different, as Papu Gomez relentlessly searching for spaces in the left wing and inside channel was managing to continuously create passing lanes for his teammates to pass to and continue the attack from a more dangerous position, that usually enabled him to cross. An area which Atalanta were very strong, having a target man like Petagna inside the penalty area, but also Kessie or Kurtic making runs from deep and Conti running on Santon’s blindside near the far post.

Another factor that proved decisive in Inter’s failure to stop the Atalanta build-up, was the lack of timing and “distance calculation” when the wingers(Eder and Perisic) pressed the opposing CBs (LCB and RCB).

Bad pressing from the Inter wingers, combined with coordinated runs by the Atalanta players meant that space was created at the wing or the inside channel where Gomez, primarily, could drop and receive the ball.

De Boer finds a solution and Gasperini responds

With the first half ending 1-0 in favor of the team from Bergamo Frank de Boer was in need of a change (tactical or of personnel).

Consequently, he ordered J.Mario to drop next to Medel during the build-up phase in order to give another passing option to the CBs, but also to leave space higher up the pitch for Perisic to move into, from the wing(just like in the image below).

Seeing the potential danger, as now Perisic had the opportunity to receive the ball in front of the Atalanta defense with the opposition midfielders far from him, and Icardi and Eder in proximity to combine, Gasperini responded, ordering Gomez to defend the left inside channel, cutting thus the passing lanes towards the Croat, with Petagna marking Murillo and forcing Handanovic to initiate the build-up only via Miranda, restricting Inter’s offense on the right side of the pitch with the option to either make a long ball, or pass to a ready to be pressed right FB.

Inter proved unable to continuously create dangerous situations for Berisha to deal with, as Atalanta was becoming more passive when on their defensive third and lacked their intensity in applying pressure during the final stages of the match. On the 88th minute Pinilla converted a penalty kick that a very sloppy challenge by Santon had previously given away.


After another disappointing performance, the third straight defeat was something much less than unexpected. The end of the world hasn’t come for Inter, if we consider the third place as the season’s target. For Frank de Boer, however, the unfortunate reality is that the problem is not only one of individual quality or of tactical nature, but includes roots that are born straight out from the top of the hierarchy of the club, an area which he cannot directly affect positively and a place that may even decide that he can no longer keep on being the nerazzurro coach if those negative results continue.

For more Inter and non-Inter related Tactical Analysis, you can find me on Twitter, @ThanosChelas.