With the 3-1 against Roma on Saturday it could be said that Inter have achieved two victories. On the one hand, Inzaghi’s team easily regulated one of the most complicated matches of this decisive final cycle for the Scudetto, on the other hand they also gave a great demonstration of strength and maturity in the long-distance challenge against Milan. Inzaghi’s team, after an unhappy period, has returned to combine the most peculiar characteristics of its style of play with the needs of a single match, combining them with the great individual peaks of some of the team’s technical leaders, such as Brozovic, Perisic, Calhanoglu and Lautaro. He was not taken for granted against an opponent who seemed very solid and in great shape before this match.
Roma struggled to create opportunities
Mourinho’s match plan seemed ambitious from the outset. His consolidated 3421 this time had particularly offensive tints, with Mkhitaryan paired in midfield together with Sergio Oliveira and El Shaarawy from the first minute together with Pellegrini behind Abraham. On the left wing, the young Zalewski was chosen once again, increasingly at ease as a midfield winger. A structure that, combined with a very aggressive attitude during the pressing phase, guaranteed the Giallorossi a huge advantage over ball possession in the first half, but little else. Inter’s pressing strategy, which started the game fairly cautiously while maintaining an average center of gravity, was in fact sufficient to limit Roma’s actions built from below.
Inter’s 5-3-2 was transformed by bringing Lautaro into a more secluded and lower position to the left of Dzeko, while to the right of the Bosnian Barella climbed forward. The aim was to orient themselves in the ball zone on the three central Roma, while, a few meters behind, Calhanoglu and Brozovic had to keep ready to go out on Sergio Oliveira and Mkhitaryan. Inter’s initial approach to pressing, aimed more at not making the opponent progress than at forcing him to make a mistake, led Roma to manage the ball for most of the time without this however implying a greater attacking danger. Often, when the ball reached Zalewski on the left, Inter were good at tightening the possible passing lines towards Sergio Oliveira, who was the first reference for the exit to the defenders, and so the young winger found himself forcing plays along the line. unproductive (with the exception of a large number of Abraham on Skriniar in the very first few minutes of play).
For this reason, Mourinho tried to invite his team to have more patience with the ball, asking Smalling to stay wider on the right so as to facilitate the circulation of the ball to go from side to side and advance the action. Roma still struggled to find outlets that led directly to dangerous actions but at least had the merit of not throwing away too many balls.
The situations in which Roma managed to get up with possession, forcing Inter to lower themselves, were those in which they managed to find Pellegrini’s stitching movements. The Roma captain, moving with great freedom, could find more comfortable receptions and allow the team to breathe. All this, however, was not enough to create clean scoring opportunities, even for a great defensive match for Inter, both in terms of collective participation and for the over-the-top performance of the defenders, in particular De Vrij who, struggling with an uncomfortable client like Abraham, he played perhaps one of the best games of the season.
How Inter took the field
The aggressiveness of Rome, however, was clear above all from its attitude during the pressing phase. Abraham and El Shaarawy climbed on De Vrij and Skriniar, Pellegrini on Brozovic, and the two outside midfielders had to be ready to climb forward on their respective opponents. But the most particular nuance of this plan was the climb forward that brought Mkhitaryan in aggression on Dimarco, thus leaving Calhanoglu to the marking from behind by Mancini, who in doing so left the two defense companions in numerical parity against the two strikers of Inter. .
Mkhitaryan’s pressure movements towards Dimarco were accompanied by Mancini’s climbing forward on Calhanoglu, but the implementation was more problematic than expected. Above, first it is Lautaro who gets down, with Mancini kept busy by Calhanoglu and Sergio Oliveira too far away to absorb. In the second image, however, we see how Mancini arrives late on the Turkish.
This Rome plan did not have the desired effects. It is possible that the strategy was to initially leave Dimarco free to attack him in the second place with Mkhitaryan (who in fact started from the midfielders’ line), to then force the play on Calhanoglu and count on Mancini’s ability to advance to create counterattacks. In reality, however, Inter have never suffered from this circumstance, and indeed have managed to manipulate the pressures of Mkhitaryan and Mancini on more than one occasion, bypassing them with triangulations and forward runs by Dimarco, but more generally arriving to gradually adapt its construction structure to the needs that arose. The positions of Skriniar, De Vrij and Dimarco stretched a lot in width, emptying the center of the field to make sure to exit using the match movements of the midfielders, who however continued to maintain a certain fluidity of rotation, even considering that Brozovic was practically man-made by Pellegrini.
Inter’s plan was to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Roma defenders in his favor, searching for space in depth with direct verticalizations, but not before having somehow accentuated the opponent’s pressing by consolidating possession and playing on the usual positional fluidity that has characterized the Nerazzurri since the beginning of the season. The aim was to create open ball situations as smooth as possible to allow the keeper to observe and choose the ideal movement of the players attacking the last line, taking advantage of the quality of his defenders under construction and the dynamism of the outsiders.
Two examples of the central rotations aimed at giving time and space for the launch in depth.
Inter’s desire to be direct was clear right from the start, but despite this, Inzaghi’s team did not give up on the position swaps and rotations that they usually use in the course of more prolonged positional attacks.
In the images above we can see the variety of Inter’s offensive solutions to overcome Roma’s defensive attitude: the possibility of taking advantage of Dimarco’s precise throws towards Perisic; the direct verticalizations on Dumfries (who tended to tighten his position), sometimes accompanied by unscrupulous advances by Skriniar; the quality in the verticalization of Calhanoglu; and finally the three-way rotations on the left, one of Inter’s most frequent patterns this season, this time with Dimarco taking the place of Bastoni and coordinating with Perisic and Calhanoglu to mess up the opposing scoring (the latest images show the action leading to the great shot of the Turk from the trocar).
As in any game, some episodes could have changed the course of things and in this sense Roma were not lucky. A few moments before suffering the 1-0, Mourinho’s team could have taken the lead on a Mancini header during a fine free kick kicked by Pellegrini, and perhaps they could have made better use of the corner kicks they had. earned thanks to a couple of restarts obtained in the best moment of his game, that is the central part of the first half. But from the moment Inter managed to find the advantage, with a beautiful action that blew Roma’s aggressive pressing thanks to the extraordinary speed of execution and the tight insertion of Dumfries, everything seemed to go for the Nerazzurri downhill.
An action that encompasses most of the good things that Inter can offer this season.
After the advantage, Inter increased the pace in pressing, attacking with more men in the ball area and further breaking the rhythm and the safety of the Giallorossi, whose offensive possibilities have definitively been extinguished. Not surprisingly, the doubling goal came thanks to a combined ball recovery by Brozovic and Calhanoglu on Pellegrini. Once recovered the ball, Dimarco verticalized towards Perisic, this time in a tighter position, who then found the external overlap of Brozovic, who had continued his run laterally after the contrast with Pellegrini. An action that summarizes not only the moment of overwhelming power of the Croatian midfielder, but also his ability to recognize the ideal spaces in which to move according to the needs of each single action, without role constraints.
In the second half, Mourinho tried to give a shock by reversing the positions of El Shaarawy and Pellegrini and those of Mkhitaryan and Sergio Oliveira. The intention seemed to be precisely to remedy the difficulties encountered due to Inter’s ability to circumvent the opponent’s pressing on the left, thus choosing to leave more space on the right. A move that was immediately about to give the goal that would have shortened the distance to Roma. Just to the left, after just 30 seconds in the second half, on the development of a second Abraham-Sergio Oliveira ball, Pellegrini discarded De Vrij by going away from the right winger. Arriving at the bottom, however, the Roma captain was unable to serve El Shaarawy due to a large diagonal from Dimarco.
Despite Roma’s attempts to react, Inter consolidated their advantage by finding the 3-0 goal after just 7 minutes, and was able to manage the rest of the game with serenity, continuing to propose their game of rotations in the ball area and accompanying Roma slowly out of the game. Mkhytarian’s 3-1 goal came too late to be able to actually reopen the games, but it must be said that Roma remained mentally inside the game even after the last changes – the ones that usually turn players’ concentration off again. before the final whistle.
Ultimately, Rome, while choosing a courageous approach, was unable to stand up to an opponent who proved capable of manipulating the opponent with the ball like no one in Serie A. Mourinho’s plan, however sensible , did not deal with the quality of the Nerazzurri’s dribble, and with an unequal comparison between the defensive qualities of the Giallorossi and the offensive qualities of Inter. In short, the Roma defenders were unable to save the day with high-level plays.
In short, Inter was the strongest team. After a negative phase that lasted several weeks, the principles on which Simone Inzaghi worked throughout the season are bearing fruit in the most delicate period of the season, enhancing the characteristics and interpretations of his players.