History teaches us to be cautious
Two wins (three if you count the Coppa Italia) without any goals conceded, one must go back to the 2003-2004 season with Hector Cuper on the bench to see such a good start from Inter. Back then the wins were against Modena and Siena at home (2-0 and 1-0 respectively). That was the third season for the Argentinian coach nicknamed ‘Hombre vertical’ for his tough no nonsense character (ring any bells?) , that summer he also got the signings he most desired ( Kily Gonzalez , Van der Meyde and Luciano ) after yet another spring of broken dreams and bitter disappointments ( the elimination from the Champions League semi-final derby with the future European champions AC Milan after two draws) . After that good start the downfall started, on the 6th match day a heavy derby loss was suffered with the first Italian goal of a certain Kaka and a draw at Brescia , pushed Moratti to fire one of the technicians he loved and respected the most, but who was unable to propose an organized football and withstand the pressures of a fan base exasperated by the constant failures.
It is wrong to make comparisons with this current season and the 03-04 season because of the differences in players, money spent and our ambitions back then , but if there is a lesson from the past is not to be excessively excited about those six points in the standings.
When Inter had a dissappointing US tour in pre-season many fans were quick to criticise and start being negative about the upcoming season, but I made an article inviting fans to remain calm and look at the many positives of those losses and keep faith in what Mazzarri is doing. Now I write this article to invite some of you to keep your feet on the ground and not to make too many large claims. I am not saying this because I am negative but simply because I don’t want us to face the disappointment we felt from last season after being realistic contenders up until December.
I have a great faith in Mazzarri and he has done a great job in his first few months and the thing is even after all the signings the team has remained pretty much the same; in 180 minutes of football only Campagnaro has started the matches out of all the new signings. However he has had to work very hard to get this point, after all after having conceded over 100 goals in the last 2 seasons a lot of work had to be done to regain some solidity and compactness. At the start Samuel was quickly lost to injury, Dragovic was not brought in, and many setbacks were suffered in the United States. This did not deter our sergeant Walter, he rolled up his sleeves to transform Ranocchia into a reliable centre back in the middle of the back three, he relied on the experience and physicality of a defender as pure as Campagnaro at his side and spending much time with the often distracted Juan Jesus on the other side . Ahead of them he has placed Cambiasso almost exclusively in function of breaking opposition attacks (often too deep because of his lack of mobility). The added physical capabilities of our players mean everyone is able to keep pressuring opponents and track back whenver needed, on whole creating a balanced and solid team that is harder to break down.
However not only has our defending improved our attacking has also improved massively. Our build ups are a lot more organised and we are able to break ultra defensive teams like Genoa instead of having to wait for luck or relying on individual magic (no reliance on Cassano *cough Stramaccioni cough*). You can clearly see movements being carried out in matches that have been memorised in training. And if you think about it all this attacking prowess coming when we still lack our biggest attacking weapon. Mateo Kovacic.
The young Croatian was sidelined for much of the summer meaning he was not able to get used to the movements and tactics required by Mazzarri, so he will need a bit of time to integrate into the team. I am fascinated to see if Mazzarri can really turn him into the decisive attacking midfielder he wants.
The goals and assists from our 2 wingbacks are also no coincidence, Mazzarri has always said how much he relies on his wingbacks; at many points of our match both our wingbacks will find themselves in the opposition box. Jonathan and Nagatomo are not world class players, but with hard work and patience in a balanced and organized team they can repeat the exploits of Dossena , Maggio and Zuniga because they have athleticism and personality. It was good that we did not spend money for over priced players such as Isla and Basta who even at their best are not much better than the wing backs we currently have.
On the subject of Jonny and Naga, these 2 along with Alvarez are the perfect example of Mazzarri’s individual work with players to improve them. All these 3 players who have been under performing and inconsistent have an added edge to their play now. Alvarez has an added determination and decisiveness that he has always lacked, he is now a team player that is willing to track back and put in a shift, his defensive side has also improved, proved by the countless amounts of time he has tackled and recovered the ball in his first outing, he still has those breaks in games like all those misunderstood South American creative players, but when he turns it on he is worth the ticket price alone; he must be allowed to have some freedom to move around and touch the ball, as clearly he seems to perform better as a left centre midfielder rather than second striker because of the added time and space given in the middle of the park. I hope you fans will be more lenient and forgiving with him when he has his off days because he will be a vital player for us this season.
Jonathan now finally looks like an athlete, he is able to run up and down the wing for the full 90 minutes and plays with real confidence in his ability with a grittiness when defending helped by having a beast like Campagnaro just behind him. He was an easy target for the boos of the San Siro crowd often last season, but now he is become somewhat of a fan favourite.
Nagatomo was always a model athlete, he always gets the top results when fitness tests come around but he struggles tactically, plus the tactical confusion under Stramaccioni did not aid him at all; now he has been given clear tactical indications and seems a little bit more confident defending (although his partnership with Juan Jesus still needs improving).
In terms of transfer market, unlike many Interisti I think Branca and Ausilio have done a good job this year, bringing in many young players and keeping the outlay low. My main worry is in the defensive midfielder position where a hard tackler like Fernando would have been useful, but Mazzarri seems to be content on relying on Cambiasso, Taider and Mudingayi.
Overall Mazzarri has done some terrific work under the technical and tactical disasters suffered under Gasperini, Ranieri and Stramaccioni. Us Interisti can finally watch a team that runs their asses off for 90 minutes and plays with balance and determination. The biggest test for Mazzarri is coming now in the form of Juventus, now it will be time to judge the changes in the team and see whether we truly can be title challengers. For now I would be perfectly happy to reach 3rd place and get back in the Champions league.
What do you think fellow Interisti? What are our realistic aims? Can we beat Juve? Let me know below!