Following Friday’s frustrating Europa League final defeat against Sevilla, 2019/20 is now consigned to the history books for Inter.
A season lasting nearly a full calendar year due to the coronavirus outbreak has brought plenty of highs and lows for Interisti around the globe.
Here at SempreInter we have had a go at breaking down what we have learned from Inter during Antonio Conte’s first season in charge. We’ve picked our key players, key performances and tried to summarise the highs and lows, whilst offering a final grade summary.
Antonio Conte’s Impact On The Club
What we have learned from watching Inter is that the 3-5-2 of Antonio Conte has brought the best out of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Martinez was largely understudy to Mauro Icardi before the latter went AWOL last term, but this year he has really stepped up to the plate.
We have covered Lukaku in depth almost every week and that’s largely down to his excellent goalscoring prowess. Linking up with Lautaro and leading from the front, the big Belgian has largely made Inter fans forget about the club’s previous number 9.
Another player who has really benefitted from Conte’s management is Alessandro Bastoni, who has grown game by game into one of European football’s most promising ball playing defenders.
Conte’s Achilles heel however has been his inability to keep his frustrations to himself.
A number of post match interview outbursts have threatened his relationship with both the club’s hierarchy and the fans.
Rants after the club’s Champions League exist bemoaned the lack of investment, which was quite staggering given Inter spent over €100m in the summer window, and his other rants targeted the club for not protecting him enough in the media.
In all, Antonio Conte has gotten the best out of a number of the first team squad. His system has brought about the best football we have arguably seen in nearly a decade. However, in order to make sure he’s at the club this time next year, the rants have to stop.
The Real Standout Performances
The highlight of Inter’s season has to be the 4-2 derby victory after being 2-0 down at half time.
The Nerazzuri looked dead and buried at the interval following goals from Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic but a second half fight back produced one of the comebacks of the ages.
Firstly a slick volley from Marcelo Brozovic shifted the course of the game before goals from Matias Vecino and Stefan De Vrij reversed the score line.
Romelu Lukaku added the icing on the cake and produced the season’s iconic celebration with him removing his shirt and putting it over the corner flag, before offering it to his fans.
Inter seem to have the number of their crosstown rivals at the moment and this edition of the Madonnina Derby was an all time classic.
Another game worth mentioning is the emphatic 5-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semi final.
Inter ran riot against the Ukrainian side and the manner of their performance, given its pure ruthlessness, made it arguably their strongest 90 minutes all season.
Such a shame it couldn’t be replicated in the final.
For the second successive season, Inter found themselves drawn in a Champions League group alongside Barcelona.
For the second successive season, Inter couldn’t beat them and finished third in the group meaning that they dropped into the Europa League.
With the money spent and hype of returning to Europe’s elite competition, Inter lost themselves in the moment and a poor draw at home to Slavia Prague cost them dearly.
Throwing away a lead away to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park also proved to be the final nail in the coffin as Inter dropped into the B competition.
Whereas last year they found themselves cut off by an energetic Eintracht Frankfurt who boasted a gluttonous front line of Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic, Inter breezed their way to the final.
A thumping of Bulgarian champions Ludogorets set them on their way before the Covid-19 enforced break which was then followed by wins over Getafe, Bayer Leverkusen and then Shakhtar to book their place in the final.
A see-saw final saw Inter take an early lead before finding themselves 2-1 down thanks to a Luuk De Jong double.
A Diego Godin header levelled things up going into the half time interval, ending one of the most frantic first 45 minutes in Europa League history.
The second half was much more pedestrian, with both sides seemingly taking a breather.
Inter had the lion’s share of possession but simply couldn’t break Sevilla down and subsequently paid the price.
A Diego Carlos overhead kick was turned into his own net by Romelu Lukaku in the 78th minute, handing Sevilla the win and breaking Inter hearts in the process.
Getting within a whisker of silverware again, especially in Europe, gives Inter hope and shows progress. However, a victory in the final would’ve assured them an easier Champions League group for next term but a place as the third seed again beckons.
Finishing The Serie A Just One Point Behind Juventus
Yes that one point behind situation is a bit of a misnomer as Juventus lost three of their last four games after they’d already won title, but the title race this year was closer than almost any in recent years.
With Napoli falling away this term, it gave somebody new a chance to challenge.
Armed with summer recruits, Inter and Antonio Conte set about charging for the title and the start they made left fans purring.
A 4-0 drubbing of Lecce on match day one left the league on notice and Inter were to top the table for the majority of the season’s first quarter.
However, their inexperience of title knowhow ultimately bit them as they suffered their first defeat with Juventus coming to San Siro and leaving with a 2-1 win.
A number of costly draws saw Inter fall behind the Old Lady with frustrating games against the likes of Lecce, Cagliari and Parma seeing them drop points.
Lazio’s amazing unbeaten run saw them push their way into the title picture and when the sides met in February it promised fireworks.
Ashley Young hammered in his first goal for Inter to stun the Olimpico and give Inter the lead but ultimately some weak goalkeeping from Daniele Padelli led to Ciro Immobile equalising from the spot and Sergej Milinkovic Savic sneaking a win for his side.
The following match day saw Inter hit the Allianz Stadium looking for one last chance to peg Juve back.
Again however their lack of title know how and big game bottle saw them go down 2-0 and effectively end their title hopes.
After the resumption of Serie A following the coronavirus stoppage, Inter were nearly flawless.
Big wins over minnows Brescia and SPAL gave the side hope of catching Lazio and Juve who were dropping points as they struggled to hit their pre lockdown form.
Ultimately however it was Inter’s inability to turn draws into wins with frustrating draws against Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Verona costing them dearly.
In summary, just being in the mix for the title was excellent for Inter as it’s something that hasn’t happened in nearly a decade. Next term Inter should be better served to hold a stronger challenge and to do that, the draws must stop.
Overall Grade For The Season: B-
Inter’s second place finish was their best in a decade. Their run to the Europa League final brought back nostalgic memories from yester year and the emergence of Romelu Lukaku as their new hero made it a season to remember.
Antonio Conte, backed by Beppe Marotta and Steven Zhang, has built a platform for Inter heading into next year where they should be in a position to make a more prolong stab at winning the Scudetto.
Should Inter be able to see off games against mid-table sides and add some depth to the striking and wing back departments, they shouldn’t be too far away.
Finger’s crossed Inter are given a kind Champions League group as they will want to make up for their early exits in the past two seasons and avenge their Europa heartache.
A great season but Inter will feel a sense of so near yet so far, their advantage is in the fact they know what they need to fix going into next year.