, September 09, 2021

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How will Simone Inzaghi change Inter for defence of Serie A title defence?


  •   3 min reads
Inter Milan Lukaku replacement
Inzaghi is up for the task of replacing Conte at Inter. Samuel Golay/EPA.

They say you should always leave them wanting more, but the nature of Antonio Conte’s exit as Inter manager just days after leading the club to their first Italian title in 11 years left a bitter taste. While the 52-year-old had delivered on his brief tenure at the San Siro, there was a sense that Conte was building towards something even bigger.

Then, all of a sudden, it was over.

Inter, however, hope their development over the last few years is far from over. Indeed, they are counting on new manager Simone Inzaghi to build on what Conte left for him despite the financial concerns that forced his predecessor out. It won’t be enough for the Nerazzurri to win just one Scudetto; they must back it up.

Inzaghi, of course, is one of Serie A’s best coaches in his own right. He might not have the collection of titles and honours that Conte boasts, but the 45-year-old restored Lazio as a force in Italian soccer in recent years and appears ready to take the next step in his own managerial career. Inter have provided Inzaghi with a platform.

To improve on Conte’s team, Inzaghi might have to get creative. The Inter squad he has inherited is weaker than the one that surged to the Scudetto last term, with Achraf Hakimi sold to Paris Saint-Germain and star striker Romelu Lukaku joining Chelsea after two sensationally prolific seasons in Italy.

Hakan Calhanoglou has arrived from AC Milan in a shock move with 21-year-old centre back Zinho Vanhueusden also signed from Standard Liege, but Inter appear weaker than they did a few months ago, explaining why Conte felt he could take the club no further. This is the task Inzaghi has taken on, though.

“This change is the motivation that they gave to me,” he said at his unveiling, explaining why he wanted to leave Lazio for Inter. “I found people here at Inter who made me understand that they wanted me at all costs. I know there will be difficulties because we will have the Scudetto on our chests to defend, we will do everything to defend it.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Inzaghi still has plenty to work with in his new job. Christian Eriksen, assuming he can recover after his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, and Calhanouglou are both capable of playing the Luis Alberto role in the centre of the pitch that was so important to Inzaghi’s Lazio side.

There are tactical similarities in how Lazio played under Inzaghi and how Conte’s Inter played. Most notably, the 52-year-old favoured a back three with wing backs. He might have to find a new right wing back after the departure of Hakimi, but Inter are reportedly keen on Barcelona’s Emerson Royal, who could surely perform that role.

Lukaku’s sale, however, will now force Inzaghi into something of a tactical rethink such was the Belgian’s importance to the way Inter play in the final third. Lautaro Martinez will have to continue his stellar play without his fellow frontman, while veteran Alexis Sanchez may be expected to step up despite being somewhat past his prime.

Rumours have flown of the likes of Atalanta's Duvan Zapata or Roma's Edin Dzeko joining Inter Milan, but nothing has materialized as of yet.

While Lukaku does need to be replaced, Inzaghi won’t have to rebuild the Nerazzurri from scratch. Instead, he has been given a head start on his own tactical blueprint. For this reason, Inter have made the best of a bad situation.

One of the biggest differences between Conte and Inzaghi is in the way the former almost always favoured experience while the latter has a track record of bringing through youth. This could be news for the likes of Andrea Pinamonti, Ionut Radu, Eddie Salcedo and more who previously had their pathway into the Inter first team blocked.

Serie A might be more competitive at the top end this season than it was last season, when AC Milan were Inter’s only real competition for the Scudetto. Not only have Stefano Pioli’s side strengthened over the summer, Juventus have re-hired Max Allegri, a man who knows how to win league titles while Roma now have Jose Mourinho at the helm.

But those writing off Inter after the exit of Conte, who is still without work, might find themselves surprised by how Inzaghi keeps the club moving forward. He might not change a great deal at his new club, but that may be exactly what the Nerazzurri need right now.

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