Date : 20/11/2016
Venue : Stadio San Siro
Competition : Serie A 2016/2017, Matchday 13
Inter’s Stefano Pioli era started with a 2-2 draw against arch rivals and neighbors AC Milan in one of the most entertaining derbies we have seen in the last few years.
With a new manager at the helm once again for Inter, this derby della Madonnina became much more interesting from a tactical point of view as the nerazzurri implemented some ideas different from what we had got used to see.
The first obvious change regarded the way Inter pressed but also how they reacted after possession was lost.
In contrast with De Boer’s more passive defending, that included sitting in a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 shape, with the lines close together, minimizing the space at the central areas of the pitch, Inter were now much more aggressive in their attempts to destroy the opposition build up phase.
Above, you can see an example of how the nerazzurri tried to stop Milan’s attempts to build-up from the back by implementing their pressing.
Now let’s look at it, more analytically.
After the ball had reached one of the two AC Milan CBs, Icardi’s task was to initiate the pressing, arching his run towards the direction of the sideline in order to force his opponent towards it. By doing this, he was immediately depriving the ball carrier of any passing options on the other side of the pitch. Meanwhile, Joao Mario’s task was to mark Locatelli with Kondogbia or Brozovic and the opposite side winger, marking the two opposition CMs, as the remaining Inter midfielder was positioned as a DM in front of the CBs.
It was also noticeable how the ball side winger, responsible for marking the opposition FB was moving in front of his direct opponent in order to prevent the ball carrying AC Milan CB from moving upwards and be forced to make a long ball.
Another area in which Inter changed, was the phase of transition from offense to defense.
You can see from the video above how aggressively and collectively the nerazzurri tried to regain possession immediately after the ball was lost by pressuring the opposition.
Of course, in order to implement this kind of pressing consistently after different periods of possession, a structure needs to be installed during the attacking phase.
Above is the structure in which Pioli’s Inter were positioned during their possession phase. Notice how Kondogbia and Brozovic stayed primarily outside of the penalty area in order to be ready to impede any counterattacking attempt, and how the two FBs were positioned in respect to the opposition Wingers.
However, this idea couldn’t have been perfect in its implementation, as Kondogbia and Brozovic made some mistakes that put their side in danger.
Mistakes that had to do with keeping the right distances in relation to the penalty area and to where the opposition central midfielders were, and especially in the case Brozovic some defensive technique problems (such as sticking to the ball receiver’s back too early and allowing him to use that contact to turn around).
For example, above, by focusing on Kondogbia’s movement at the start of the video you can quickly see how he moved needlessly too close to the penalty area, not fixing his position in order to be able to apply pressure in case Kucka or Bonaventura received the ball immediately after.
Inter on offense
Milan’s passive defending inside their own half (combined with Inter’s abovementioned immediate pressure after the ball was lost), led to the nerazzurri spending big periods of time with the ball on their feet.
During build-up, the two FBs were giving width while Kondogbia and Brozovic were creating a double pivot in front of the two CBs, and were responsible for circulating the ball as quickly as possible or penetrating with passes the first opposition line.
Candreva and Perisic moved centrally and closer to Icardi, leaving space on the wings for their respective side’s FB with which they combined with coordinated movements.
Another variation of Inter’s build-up, included J.Mario positioned centrally with Perisic closer to the wing, an area where it was easier to receive the ball and confront a defender in a 1vs1.
The Portuguese’s role was once again fundamental for his team, despite the fact that he played in his third different role this season (after playing as a CM and a DM, he was now on a free role behind the striker).
The ex-Sporting Club man, was moving constantly when Inter had possession, towards the side of the ball, helping with the circulation and trying to create connections. His presence on the left wing especially was very important, as he was creating with his movements temporary 3vs3s or 4vs4s, allowing Perisic to either receive the ball in a 1vs1 situation where due to his quality had the advantage over the Milan diffenders, or get unmarked more easily.
He was also very important when it came to his team changing the side of the ball, dropping deeper next to the DM in order to receive the ball and help Inter’s possession progress.
Finally, he also became part of the double pivot next to Kondogbia, when Pioli decided to overload the spaces closer to the penalty area by bringing Jovetic in.
The new managerial era, started with a draw against one of Inter’s biggest rivals, leaving a lot of positive signs (transition structure, more free flowing offensive movements) but also some negative ones(two goals that were partly result of big technical mistakes) and a lot of curiosity as to how Inter is going to perform in the next very important matches.
For more Inter and non-Inter related Tactical Analysis, you can find me on Twitter, @ThanosChelas.