Inter Milan’s struggle to gain relevance

Zaid Khan

Games with an undertone of antipathy are difficult to call, with previous form ceasing to be a parameter based on which you can decide the outcomes of such matches.

The stage was set for the Milan derby at a sunny Guieseppe Meazza, where the two Milan outfits played out an enthralling game which ended in a 2-2 draw (somewhat controversially). Inter went two goals up in the first-half, courtesy of Antonio Candreva and captain Mauro Icardi.

However, Milan ploughed on and were back in the game, thanks to Alessio Romagnoli’s 83rd-minute deflected effort. Vincenzo Montella’s men continued probing and were finally rewarded, as they grabbed a dramatic equaliser in the seventh-minute of added time, with Cristian Zapata’s goal being deemed legitimate by the goal line technology system.

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Naturally, Inter came out of that draw worse off and are now languishing in 7th spot, two points and a place behind rivals Milan. You could potentially compare both the Milan outfits to two ends of the same spectrum. One is brimming with optimism because of their new ownership and a worthy manager, whilst the other is enduring one of their worst ever seasons, after changing three managers within a year

Source: Guardian
Zapata scoring the dramatic 97th minute equalizer.

The predicament which Stefano Pioli’s men find themselves in is absolutely damning for Interistas, who had expected their team to mount a serious challenge for a Champions League spot.

To rub salt into their wounds, the fact that Milan have managed to perform at a level which Inter haven’t been able to achieve this season is more displeasing, given the fact that they have spent a fraction of what the Nerazzurri have.

It’s no secret that after winning the landmark treble in 2010, Inter have been on a constant downward spiral. Erick Thohir’s ownership didn’t bring about any significant change in their fortunes either, but their sale to the powerful Nanking-based Suning Group of China was expected to spark a resurgence.

Suning had lofty ambitions for Inter and vowed to spend heavily in the transfer market in order to bring quality players to the club.

However, nine months into their ownership, Inter are still visibly struggling to put together any sort of challenge for a Champions League spot. All of this, even after a substantial cash inoculation by Suning and the presence of some ridiculously talented players in the squad suggests that the blue side of Milan is still battling to gain relevance.

Although the Chinese giants have spent a humongous €174M in acquiring players of an improved calibre, they cannot stop there. An elongated period of poor recruitment, the inability to replace the huge names which were synonymous with the club and a constantly changing backroom staff since 2011 has resulted in Inter ending up with a significant number of mediocre players – some of which do not deserve to wear the blue and black jersey.

There are gaping holes in the squad which still need to be plugged, with the full-back and centre-back spots being the one’s which need to be addressed emphatically.

Attaining a place in Europe’s elite club competition is of paramount importance to the Nerazzurri for multiple reasons. Firstly, the undeniable monetary benefits that come with it help the club go after footballing luminaries by casting the lure of playing alongside Europe’s elite.

Secondly, and most importantly, for a club like Inter who in essence are fallen giants, this could be a radical stimulus which can spark a recrudescence and bring about a shift in mentality in the minds of its players. Given the clubs illustrious history, the Champions League group stages should be their natural habitat.

Since that hasn’t been the case for the past seven years now, mediocrity has creeped within the entire club, including the minds of their players. Being among the elite naturally induces you with a will to perform beyond your threshold and go toe-to-toe with them.

This gradually brings about a change in how players approach games, perceive situations and perform, knowing that a great deal is expected of them now than it was earlier. Ensuingly, this results in a mental metamorphosis – something which Inter stand in need of at this moment in time.

Pioli started his tenure at Inter positively, winning games and ingraining a positive attitude within the squad. Although, the results in the past month or so have soured and their performances against tough opponents like Napoli, Roma and Juventus have been questionable.

Pioli’s tactical errors and the players’ attitude (and in some cases self-implosion – read Marcelo Brozovic’s stinker against Sampdoria) have been questioned by incensed fans and today’s derby collapse will only add to their growing list of concerns.

It won’t be an exaggeration to state that players like Mauro Icardi, Antonio Candreva, Brozovic, Ivan Perisic and Joao Mario are capable of performing way better than how they have been in the past month or so.

Maybe it’s true that they’ve been worn out by playing catch up to the rest of the league after the Frank de Boer debacle early on in the season. As a result, they are clearly exhibiting a lack of application and effort on the pitch. Irrespective, the stars of this side have to get their act together for the remainder of the season because as things stand, Inter are in a very precarious position.

Their season is fizzling out quickly, and the prospect of landing a Europa League spot is looking increasingly implausible. The six games that linger are going to be instrumental in determining the futures of Pioli and a lot of his players, with Suning expected to spend huge bucks in the summer window this time, too.

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