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|Serie A Special: What do Inter need to improve next season?|
With the Serie A season complete and the summer transfer season about to heat up, SoccerAnchor has decided to play Technical Director and believes Inter need to make some changes in order to improve on the past campaign's results. Danilo Pochini explains...
Inter have just completed one of the worst seasons in their recent history. Not since 1999 had they finished in 6th place in the Serie A table. Their 58-point haul over 38 matches is truly abysmal considering the squad they have at their disposal. There is little doubt that if there were an award for Serie A disappointment of the season, it would go to Inter. Things did not go much better in Europe, where despite winning their group, they crashed out in the last 16 of the Champions League at the hands of Olympique Marseille, who went on to lose 4-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.
As a result of their disastrous domestic season, Inter will start next season in the Europa League preliminaries, meaning their first official matches will be in early August. For a club that won the Champions League only two years ago, it is nothing short of humiliating. Figuring out the reasons for this debacle will be the first step towards avoiding a similar failure next season.
One could say that the appointment of Gian Piero Gasperini as coach was a mistake. Indeed, under the former Genoa coach, Inter were forced to play in an awkward 3-4-3 formation, which was not supported by the players or the president. The relationship between Gasperini and Massimo Moratti was always a problem. For example, ‘Gasp’ had expected the club to sell Wesley Sneijder and keep Samuel Eto’o, which would have favoured his preferred formation, yet the opposite happened.
Gasperini left to make way for Claudio Ranieri in late September, after failing to pick up a single win in his first couple of months as coach. Under the experienced Ranieri, the team also failed to find consistency, despite winning seven matches in a row at one point. With two months left before the end of the season, Moratti decided to sack Ranieri, and appointed former youth team coach Andrea Stramaccioni.
The 36-year-old started well, but ultimately failed in his mission to qualify the team for the Champions League as they finished sixth, mostly because of away defeats to Parma and Lazio in their last few games. In spite of this, Moratti has said Stramaccioni will stay on for next season as well.
What do Inter need now?
On paper, it did not seem a bad idea to sign Mauro Zarate from Lazio and Diego Forlan from Atletico Madrid to replace the departed Samuel Eto’o last summer. However, both players have been a letdown, as they only scored three and two goals respectively. It’s obvious, then, that Inter need a new striker, as they cannot rely solely on Diego Milito, though he did have a very good season with 24 league goals.
Napoli star Ezequiel Lavezzi has been strongly linked with a move to the club recently, and seems like a good option since the Nerazzurri are lacking a creative attacker at the moment, save for the disappointing Zarate. Siena striker Mattia Desto is also being linked with Inter, which is another sign that the club will focus heavily on the attack in this transfer campaign, though the 21-year-old does not seem ready yet to play for such a big club.
Overall, however, the squad still looks pretty strong on paper. Captain Javier Zanetti will probably have his final season with the club, and is still capable of spectacular runs at 38 years of age. On the other hand, the likes of Esteban Cambiasso, Christian Chivu, and Dejan Stankovic are starting to show their age. It’s likely at least one of them will leave the club, although at this stage it’s hard to say what their future will be. In any event, it’s clear the team need some more youth and creativity in the midfield. The signing of Fredy Guarin from Porto last January was a good start, but it’s likely that more is needed.
It would be important to keep Wesley Sneijder, arguably the highest-profile player Inter currently have. The Dutchman had a good period of form in the last part of the season, although overall he has never quite reached the level he achieved during Jose Mourinho’s triumphant last season at the club. Needless to say, Milito has to stay at all costs.
As for the defence, it’s hard to say why it has been so lacking this season. It is pretty much the same rearguard that proved one of Inter’s strong points during their Treble-winning campaign in 2010. Walter Samuel and Lucio are both 34, which is not young but also not that old for defenders. Andrea Ranocchia, 24, has also been far from impeccable, and has often had to make do with a place on the bench this season. Maicon has been easily Inter’s best performer in defence, and has scored a few spectacular goals as well. Along with Sneijder and Milito, he is the Nerazzurri’s best player and it’s vital the club keep a hold of these three players in particular.
Keeping Stramaccioni a wise move?
While the fresh-faced Stramaccioni has produced a few good results since taking over in late March, most notably a 3-1 win away to Udinese, it’s doubtful whether he is ready to face a full season as first team coach of a club like Inter. He has allegedly formed a good rapport with the players, which is no small achievement considering his age and inexperience, but his position going into the season will not be very strong, and if the team makes another stuttering start, expect Moratti to lose his patience quickly.
Things might have been different had the team avoided those defeats to Parma and Lazio and miraculously finished third, but it is exactly those disappointing results that must raise question marks on his abilities. Nevertheless, Moratti seems adamant about keeping the 36-year-old at the helm, perhaps accepting of the fact the club are going through a transitional phase where it will probably be tough to challenge for honours.
If, however, Moratti were to change his mind (not an unlikely event, considering his past), it’s interesting to consider a few possible candidates for the job. One name that’s often linked with Inter is currently jobless former England coach Fabio Capello, but he has stated repeatedly he has no intention of ever joining the Nerazzurri. Catania’s Vincenzo Montella, a former Roma star who was famous for frequently scoring against Inter, has done well this season and has been rumoured to have gathered interest from a number of bigger clubs.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has also been connected with Inter in the past, though his future will heavily depend on the Azzurri’s achievements at Euro 2012. Then there’s Francesco Guidolin, who has done extremely well at Udinese in the last two years, even managing an impressive third-place finish this season. However, he has repeatedly said he is not the kind of coach who is capable of winning the Scudetto during his time at Udine, so perhaps there are some doubts about his winning mentality.
Finally, we have Luciano Spalletti, a coach who came very close to snatching the Scudetto away from Inter in 2008 with a superb Roma team. However, he recently signed a contract extension with his current club Zenit St. Petersburg, so he’s also unlikely to change setting anytime soon. All in all, there are certainly a number of coaches who could potentially do well at Inter, and in this writer’s opinion, any of these would be a better option to keeping on Stramaccioni if the club want to get back to challenging for the Scudetto immediately.