Serie A is officially back. So are Pazza Inter! Following a rather harsh exit from the Coppa Italia at the hands of eventual winners Napoli, Inter returned to league action for the first time since late February against relegation battling Sampdoria.
A smart victory over Claudio Ranieri’s side could and probably should have been more straight forward but the 2-1 score line with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Midweek saw the visit of Sassuolo to San Siro and as usual the Neroverdi weren’t going to roll over for Inter.
Sassuolo extended their excellent form at the Meazza by holding Inter to a 3-3 stalemate in an exciting game in which they led through Francesco Caputo and then pegged Inter back twice, the latter coming in injury time through Giangacomo Magnani.
The game’s main talking point was a horrendous miss from Roberto Gagliardini at 2-1 which would surely have ended the contest in Inter’s favour at that stage.
Inter found themselves on the road in their third fixture back in the form of a tricky trip to in form Parma.
A laboured first half saw Inter fall behind thanks to a great finish from Ivorian trickster Gervinho.
Following some smart substitutions from Inter assistant boss Christian Stellini, who was deputising for Mister Conte due to his suspension, allowed Inter to sneak a 2-1 win following late goals from defenders Stefan De Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni.
In the three games that have been played over the past a week, here are the five things we learned about Inter since their return to Serie A action.
New Wingbacks Are So Desperately Needed This Transfer Window
At the time of writing, it seems academic that Inter will be able to complete the signing of Moroccan full back Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid for around €40million.
Hakimi has been a hit with Borussia Dortmund during time on loan there over the past two seasons and also managed to bag a couple of goals against Inter in the Champions League this season.
For Inter to sign Hakimi is a massive coup and statement of intent. In the right sided defensive slot Inter have truly never replaced Maicon and this season it has been abundantly clear that a quality player in that position is a difference maker.
Valentin Lazaro didn’t impress enough in his limited chances on the pitch before his loan to Newcastle, Antonio Candreva started the season reborn but has slowly slipped back into his old ways and Danilo D’Ambrosio is better suited as the right side of the back three.
Although Hakimi looks a done deal, Inter must strengthen the left side too.
Ashley Young has been better than expected since the veteran’s arrival from Manchester United in January. Kwadwo Asamoah can’t stay fit and looks like that inability to stay fit has seen him cast out of Antonio Conte’s long term plans. Cristiano Biraghi flatters to deceive and seems to struggle against pace like Gervinho displayed on Sunday evening.
Robin Gosens of Atalanta has been mentioned as a €30million target following his excellent season with La Dea this term. With the right side seemingly addressed Inter would be best served looking at the left also.
Lautaro Martinez Off The Boil
Since the resumption and in the latter weeks before the stoppage, Lautaro Martinez looks distracted.
The endless rumours and flirting from Barcelona towards him seems to have effected his performances on the pitch.
His touch has alluded him and he has looked much less of a reliable goal threat.
The sooner Barcelona make a serious offer which matches his release clause or forces Inter’s hand it seems that Lautaro will stay put.
Inter need him back firing on full cylinders if they are to make an outside charge for the Scudetto.
Inter Need Depth In The Middle Of The Park
Inter have spent a lot of money over the last twelve months, bringing in quality players like Nicole Barella, Romelu Lukaku and Christian Eriksen.
However, with the investment being on individuals, the squad lacks depth to advance in Europe and win the Scudetto comfortably.
Without Marcelo Brozovic or Nicole Barella able to start in the midfield, Inter looks far weaker.
Roberto Gagliardini is yet to have a run in his three years at Inter that has convinced anyone that he should stay at the club in a side aiming for Scudettos. Matias Vecino will always been well thought of for his ability to score in big games but he lacks pace and guile in the role. Borja Valero is simply too old and out of contract at the end of the season and Stefano Sensi has barely been seen since his excellent start to the campaign was halted by injury.
Sandro Tonali seems to be the name on everyone’s lips and he would certainly be a good investment. It is clear however, that Inter, in order to make plusvalenza if nothing else, need to move on the likes of Gagliardini and Vecino to upgrade them for better players.
The Issue Of Diego Godin
The arrival of the Uruguayan last summer did cause some debate. Signing a player of his experience and pedigree was a coup on paper but it’s always going to be a gamble given his age.
Since the return it has been highlighted that Godin simply can not operate to his maximum in a back three.
Playing in a back four as one of two centre halves would no doubt suit him but it is asking a lot of him at his age to get up and down as a wider centre back in a three.
Stefan De Vrij and Milan Skriniar are Inter’s best two centre halves and Alessandro Bastoni is getting better game by game. Perhaps trying to move Godin on in the summer for a younger more versatile player such as Nice’s Malang Sarr could help.
Ponderous And Lacking In Tempo
A good way to describe Inter’s attacking play since the restart is to label it ponderous and a little tepid.
Without Marcelo Brozovic to transition them forward from defence to attack and some sub par displays from the wing backs, Inter look too laboured in attack.
Christian Eriksen still has to convince that he is the man to be Inter’s creative force but there was a glimmer of hope on Sunday night when his replacement Alexis Sanchez upped the tempo.
Sanchez’s arrival onto the pitch at the Tardini gave Inter some more impetus. The laboured slow build up play was much more direct as the Chilean helped speed up the play by linking up with Victor Moses who had a hand in Bastoni’s winner.
Conte has a nice fixture list in front of him and starting with Brescia on Wednesday he must encourage his players to move the ball quicker in the final third. Using the likes of Sanchez and Moses will aid this as Sunday proved a little bit of an injection of something different can win tight games.
Inter aren’t dead in the Scudetto race but if they are to make an unlikely late surge they need to attack games with pace and on the front foot. Mister Conte, use your squad!