As published on Football Italia
This summer has been witness to some of the most interesting transfer developments in the history of the game. In England, 12 out of 20 Premier League clubs have broken their club transfer records, from Manchester United to Burnley. On the continent, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Juventus have continued to pick pocket their domestic rivals to maintain their respective hegemonies. Meanwhile, clubs like Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have bought brilliantly, just about maintaining a semblance of unpredictability in their leagues.
However, while there have been clear winners and losers across leagues, no club has had as intriguing a window than Internazionale. Even discounting the arrival of Frank de Boer to replace Roberto Mancini, Inter have brought in serious talent in the shape of Ever Banega, Antonio Candreva, Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa, and João Mário. These arrivals have been complicated by the need for defensive cover, especially as Juan Jesus has left for European football at AS Roma.
Frank de Boer’s team has started the season in abominable form, with a 2-0 loss to Chievo Verona and a 1-1 draw against Palermo. In those matches, the Dutchman has favoured a 4-3-3 formation, with Mauro Icardi leading the line. While the first match could be considered frustrating for the Argentinean striker who received no support, he definitely fluffed his lines against Palermo. Despite being one of Inter’s more talented players, he probably fears for his position with the arrival of Gabigol.
On the wings, a combination of Ivan Perišić, Candreva and Citadin Eder have been used. While the latter two started the first match, Candreva was dropped for the returning Croat against Palermo. However, the ex-Lazio man’s performance off the bench in the match was spectacular for a player still getting used to his new team. The introduction of João Mário, the spectacular Portuguese midfielder, will probably cause Eder to drop out of the manager’s first team plans.
However, with the continued presence of Stevan Jovetić in the squad, Mário could also be deployed in midfield. After all, he played so well there during his nation’s European Championship victory in the summer. This change would also significantly help an ailing Inter midfield, which has largely been overrun during the early portions of the season.
On paper, a trio of Banega, Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia should provide enough steel and silk to overcome most other sides, but de Boer’s usage of the players has been baffling to say the least. By deploying the ex-Sevilla man at the base, he has wasted Banega’s creative attributes while also severely misunderstanding Kondogbia’s and Medel’s abilities. This is especially confusing considering Inter have a severe shortage of creative midfielders, and an overload of defensive midfielders. They even have the overrated Felipe Melo on the bench.
With Yuto Nagatomo injured, the defence largely picks itself, which can be construed as either a good or a bad factor depending on your viewpoint. However, de Boer still has some interesting decisions to make for Inter’s next game against Pescara away, in a match they really should be winning. He could stick with the failing 4-3-3, with some minimal personnel changes, or he could revert to a 4-3-1-2 that could possibly add a real edge to his team.
The defence remains adequate if not particularly great, with Samir Handanović in place to mop up any mistakes. In midfield, a trio of Kondogbia, Banega and Mário could replicate the efforts of the Portuguese midfield at the European Championship. Icardi could maintain his captaincy alongside Brazilian wunderkind Gabigol up top, with Perišić in a free roaming role behind them. Admittedly, this does tend to ignore the mercurial talents of Candreva, but the Italian winger and Jovetić could provide Inter with the necessary tactical alternatives if an opponent’s defence proves to be stubborn.
These tactical and personnel changes would require a certain amount of courage on the part of de Boer, but he can take inspiration from Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. Medel and Candreva can consider themselves unlucky to find themselves on the bench, but sometimes the team has to come first.
While the 4-3-1-2 does promise to provide more tactical solidity to protect the back four, as well fitting round pegs in round holes, it is a risky tactic. After a summer of preparing for a 4-3-3, de Boer has found himself with a team that may not be entirely suited to the formation. With Inter still chasing a quality fullback, they should not rely on width for creativity, but rather play to their strengths in the center of the park.
Luckily for de Boer, he has an international break to figure out what his legacy at the San Siro is going to be. Inter’s team sheet for their match against Pescara should give us an indication of what we should expect from them this season.