Up until Christmas last year, Inter were a real force to be reckoned with as they topped the Serie A table regularly since the start of the season but after the turn of the year things went sour. Inter wold lose 9 of their last 18 games and ultimately ruined their chances of getting back in the UEFA Champions League after a number of years’ absence. Amongst those 9 defeats was the crushing and simply embarrassing 3-0 derby defeat with Milan. Against the teams around them Inter were shockingly bad losing to almost all of them in the second half of the season, barring Napoli, whom they very impressively dispatched 2-0 on home soil. The Nerazzurri had to settle for a fourth place finish and a spot in the Europa League group stage in the end, some 13 points adrift of third placed Roma. Granted, it was an improvement on the season before but there’s always going to be a big “what if” connected with this season. What if Inter never collapsed after Christmas, would they have qualified for the Champions League or even challenged for their nineteenth scudetto? Almost undoubtedly, but then again, this is Inter.
Champions League qualification has to be the goal
Too many years have passed since Inter last featured in Europe’s premier competition and in those years’ mediocrity has settled in. It looks even more likely than last season that those years will be put behind the club after some shrewd signings. Champions League qualification has to be the goal from the word go. Inter being Inter can’t afford not to have it any other way and not doing so will only lead to another season of disappointment.
Inter will also play in the Europa League this term and the goal there has to be to go all the way and win the competition which would secure them passage into Champions League should their Serie A season not go as well as they may have planned.
Inter have the perfect opportunity to get plenty points on the board at the early stage of the season. Firstly, they travel to Chievo Verona in what should be a guaranteed win. Their home debut follows the week after against Palermo, whom Inter have a real chance of battering and getting confidence flying high. The following week they play relegation favourites Pescara in what should be another easy win. So far so good, right? Their first big test comes on match day four when they host reigning champions Juventus at the San Siro and a draw against them definitely couldn’t be sniffed at. Inter then face Empoli before closing out their first six with a game against Bologna.
Their closing six fixtures are nowhere near as kind as their opening six. First up, a trip to Florence to face Fiorentina awaits on match day 33 before they face Napoli which could prove to be a top two or top three decider. A game with Genoa then follows before Inter play host to Sassuolo whom they really struggled against last term, falling both times to a Domenico Berardi inspired side. On the penultimate weekend they’re in the capital to face Lazio before ending the season at home to Udinese.
The famous Derby della Madonnina will be played again this season and Inter will be out to make amends after the aforementioned 3-0 gubbing in the most recent meeting. The first meeting comes on match day 13 and the return derby comes on match day 32.
Ins: Antonio Candreva ( Lazio - £18m + bonuses ), Cristian Ansaldi ( Genoa - £5m ), Gianluca Caprari ( Pescara – £3.8m ), Ever Banega ( free transfer ), Caner Erkin ( free transfer )
Inter have added extremely well and addressed the numerous problems the side had last term. The signing of Candreva gives Inter an outlet on the opposing wing to Ivan Perisic and he’s most certainly an upgrade on the players playing there, and failing, last term. He won’t solve all the problems, but he solves a lot of them. In recent years, the full back position hasn’t been a strong point for Inter since the departure of the likes of Maicon. The additions of Ansaldi and Erkin strengthen this area for sure but they are by no means world class. Ever Banega’s addition speaks for itself. The Argentine has won two straight Europa League titles and oozes coolness on the field and showcased it with a fine assist in Inter’s pre-season game against Tottenham.
Outs*: Cristiano Biraghi ( Pescara - £3.4m ), Diego Laxalt ( Genoa - £3.4m ), Juan Jesus ( Roma – loan )
*plus five free transfers of lesser known players, three released, 19 loans and two expired loans in Adem Ljajic and Alex Telles.
Inter have done superbly well of keeping a hold of their side and getting rid of those quite simply not good enough – Don’t get me wrong, there is still some deadwood but there’s still time to get rid of them namely Andrea Ranocchia. It comes as no real surprise that Inter never renewed the loans of or retained Ljajic and Telles who despite glimpses, weren’t worthy to wear the shirt no more. Juan Jesus' loan can be looked at like so. He was never going to consistently start this term, just like last season and he could soon find himself even down the pecking order at his new club having only really been signed as cover for injuries to their more likely starting centre-halves. Should he perform when given his chances, Roma have already agreed a fee to turn the move permanent which will let Inter invest in their side.
Makings of a top 2/3 side
Inter definitely have the ability in the squad to finish in the medal positions but whether or not the ability on paper transpires onto the pitch is another thing. The aforementioned kind start to the season definitely allows them a little lee-way in terms of ironing out the mistakes against lesser opposition while still winning but they could be in for a rude awakening when they face Juventus on match day four.
In goals, there is no question about it, Samir Handanovic will start. The Slovenian won so many points for Inter last term with some stellar performances and will be a very important cog in the team again this year. Last term he managed 15 shut-outs which was only bettered by Gianluigi Buffon.
Inter’s central defence pairing is one of if not the best pairing in the league with Jeison Murillo and Miranda. The pair played a huge part in Inter’s first half of the season performance and put in many fine performances afterwards but ultimately weren’t as great as the first half. Inter are well covered with full backs but it’s unlikely that anyone barring Ansaldi and Erkin will start there on a regular basis other than perhaps Danilo D’Ambrosio.
Inter have a rather solid midfield on paper. Geoffrey Kondogbia showed what he was capable of at times last term and can only improve further this season. Marcelo Brozovic, should he remain is also a fine talent. Ever Banega is no doubt Inter’s star central midfielder and a large number of assists from him over the course of the season is to be expected. Out wide, Inter will have Perisic and Candreva starting and that is as good as guaranteed. They do perhaps lack a little depth out wide with Jonathan Biabiany the only out and out winger who can come in in their place(s). A star defensive midfielder would also go a long way in helping Inter achieve their ambitions.
Up top, club captain Mauro Icardi will bring goals guaranteed. The Argentine was the 14/15 season top scorer with 23 and netted 16 last term. The summer has been dominated by reports linking him with a move away to Napoli but asides from perhaps more money, which Inter – despite the Suning takeover – still don’t really have, he knows what he’s getting with Inter and they’re equally as capable to fight for the scudetto as Napoli are now they’re no longer gifted with the goal scoring exploits of Gonzalo Higuain.
Icardi to lead by example
Mauro Icardi’s performances could well be the difference between Inter improving on last season. The 23-year-old has no problem in finding the net and has a very impressive goal record at Inter managing a goal just under every other game. The scary thing with Icardi is his best years are still ahead of him and a return back into the Champions League and playing in it regularly could be what Inter need to keep a hold of him for those years.
The De Boer era at Inter starts now
For most of the summer, Roberto Mancini was reportedly unhappy with Inter’s transfer policy and rumours persisted that he’d leave and the situation really boiled over when the club was touring the US however a few meetings later, everything seemed fine until similar reports starting doing the rounds again. On Monday the 8th of August, Inter and Mancini parted ways by mutual consent. Frank De Boer’s name was instantaneously linked with the job and he was just the man Inter would appoint hours later. The Dutchman left Ajax in the summer after six successful years that brought the Amsterdam Arena side four more league titles and was ready to take a year away from football to allow the right opportunity to arise but this opportunity appears the perfect one given how quickly he was appointed. There will be a change in Inter’s style of play when De Boer is in the dug out with a more possession based approach likely and with a midfield well capable of picking a pass, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Will they meet objectives?
Inter should meet objectives this term. Despite the change in the dugout, the squad that lead Serie A for long stretches last term is still largely intact and has only been strengthened further. Vintage Inter performances are what are needed this term with all players willing to die for the shirt and Inter will reap the rewards playing like so.