Not too long ago Inter Milan, under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, were Europe’s best. One of only a few teams to beat Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, it seemed as though Italy had a brilliant representative in European club football, which had received not only continental but also domestic acclaim. Things have changed however. City rivals A.C Milan have taken the mantle as the top team in Serie A and in Europe, last seasons humbling defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 combined with a disappointing start to this campaign against Trabzonspor, indicate that Inter Milan are seemingly a long way of the pace.
Circumstances however suggest that such a poor start to the season is down to more than early season rustiness. Massimo Moratti undeniably took a gamble when he appointed Gian Piero Gasperini this summer. Although impressive in a spell with Genoa, and on a relatively small salary, he was chosen ahead of other candidates such as Bielsa, Hiddink and Capello. After his start to the season it is fair to ask whether he has the ability to control a big club with big egos. Recent years at Inter Milan have once again underlined the brilliance of Jose Mourinho, as several managers in a short space of time have tried and failed to fill his boots. Italian footballing oligarchs are famously ruthless should things begin to turn sour. Gasperini will not have much time to save his job. Defeats in the Italian Super Cup against A.C Milan, in the Serie A against Palermo and now against Trabzonspor mean the clock is ticking.
Gasperini can be commended for attempting to place his own stamp on the Inter side, but the changes don’t necessarily play to Inter’s inherent strengths. Gasperini has favored a 3-4-3 formation, yet this has placed more pressure on the athleticism of aging defenders such as Walter Samuel, Lucio, and Javier Zanetti. Going forward there are problems too. One of the best strikers in the world, Samuel Eto’o, has been sold to plug a financial hole, and although Gasperini may have had little to do with this, the choice of replacements are questionable. Mauro Zarate, of Birmingham City fame, had been exciting for Lazio but remains untried at the highest level. Will he be able to cope with the pressure of leading the line of one of Italy’s biggest club? Their other replacement is Diego Forlan. Impressive at the World Cup, but he is also into his thirties now and cannot be seen as a long term solution.
In addition to this the ongoing Wesley Sneijder saga which continued over much of the summer will only have had an unsettling nature not only for him but also on the rest of the Inter Milan squad. Gasperini’s tactical scheme does not necessarily accommodate a free roaming playmaker of Sneijder’s ilk, which is unfortunate as he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. It would seem naive should a side not play to their already established strengths.
Admittedly three poor games is not enough to sack a manager, yet for a club like Inter it must surely begin to make them consider the direction they are headed in. A crisis could be a premature conclusion at the moment, but they are seemingly going backwards.
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