So close yet so far away. That is the best way to summarize Inter’s missed opportunity to advance from the Champions League group stage after a heavy but deserved defeat at Wembley against a Tottenham side that should have scored earlier than when they did.
It was close as Inter managed to somehow to keep Tottenham at bay until the 80th minute. Mainly thanks to the two defensive pillars at the heart of the Nerazzurri defence, Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. Both players were just as good as Inter needed them to be to be able to get a result away against one of Europe’s most in form teams right now.
Sure, Skriniar made a mistake when Tottenham scored but that goal was more due to Sissoko’s fantastically skillful run prior to Eriksen scoring. Besides if we’re placing blame Danilo D’Ambrosio is more to blame as he was completely out of position to round off a night where he struggled from start to finish. Struggled yes but never gave up and should be credited for this.
No, this was a match that Inter lost right from the offset as the team was poorly balanced in midfield, just as in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Brozovic can usually carry one player as he has the ability to run for two. But today he had to play for three as Vecino was completely out of form and Nainggolan a shadow of himself.
After the match Luciano Spalletti wondered if he should have foreseen that Nainggolan wasn’t fit enough to play against Tottenham. After the first 5 minutes it is difficult to say anything than an emphatic yes to that question. The Belgian is in no physical shape to play every 3 days. So given the limitations on Inter’s squad and how poor Frosinone were, Spalletti made huge error in not resting the former Roma player this past weekend.
On the left wing Ivan Perisic was in as equally a lousy a form as his temper and general mood was in the press conference preceding the match. The Croatian winger performs much better and much more consistently for his national team than he does for Inter and has been doing so for more than 6 months. This is no longer a post World Cup hangover, it is a dip in form at best or a dip in quality at worst.
Either way the solution is not to tell everyone on the planet who is willing to listen that your dream is to play in the Premier League. That is unless your ambition is to represent Cardiff City, Burnley or Fulham in the Premier League and to be perfectly honest with this attitude and in this form it is far from certain that Perisic would even get a sniff with them. Perisic has been fantastic for Inter since joining the club, in fact for long periods he carried the Nerazzurri offensively and defensively but it may be time for everyone involved to respectfully call it quits.
On the other wing Politano showed that he is in great form as he ran his socks off. His workrate is fantastic as is his attitude and if he continues to develop like this Inter have a star on their hands. Up front Icardi was his usual self, chasing down every ball and giving Tottenham’s defenders a minor heart attack every time the ball was played. But when Inter play poorly, he is invisible at best and so he was.
When the Champions League group stage was drawn everyone counted Inter out. With one match left of the group stages Inter are on level points with Tottenham and are forcing the Premier League outfit to take it down to the wire in order to qualify. That is impressive in and of itself.
However, given that Barcelona have not only qualified from the group but have after defeating PSV secured the top spot in the group, it would be jawbreaking if the Catalans fielded anything that remotely resembles their first team against a Tottenham that are forced to win in order to go through. Therefore as such Spurs will almost certainly win which renders a potential Inter win against PSV meaningless in terms of Champions League qualification forcing the Nerazzurri would have to say Arrivederci to Europe’s top club tournament, at least for now.