Inter Milan, an 18-time Serie A winner, has had very little success of late.
A ninth-place finish last season has put it out of European contention for the first time in 15 seasons. The club’s faithful fans, Pazza Inter (Crazy Inter) are a disgruntled lot and its maverick president Massimo Morati might be the chief architect of this downslide. New boss Walter Mazzarri (from Napoli) is Morati’s seventh managerial appointment in the last five years.
Mazzarri, 51, takes over from Andrea Stramaccioni promises an immediate change in fortunes. “Impossible is not a word that exists for me,” he says. “We finished ninth last season, but I feel we have enough quality to surprise everyone this year. I’ve always achieved the targets I’ve been set. I think the players should trust me and we can try to fulfil our potential on the pitch.”
The Italian tactician, credited with the re-emergence of the counter-attacking 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 systems, has had success reviving dysfunctional clubs. But he will face a tougher time at Inter, with the domineering Morati always hovering around. Players too might be less open to his tactical changes, which demand a higher work-rate. Known to be a hard taskmaster, Mazzarri is also very possessive and rigid about his favoured systems. He, however, disagrees and says: “As for the formation, 3-4-3 and 3-4-1-2 are two systems that I’ve used for a long time, and I change them during the week without people realising, to gain an element of surprise. At Napoli, I switched to a 4-3-3 at times during games as well. Those are the three formations which I’ll use.”
Defence will be his area of concern, as Inter conceded 57 goals in the Serie A last term (second worst defensive record), and Mazzari has brought in Hugo Campagnaro, from Napoli to offer solidity there.
The 33-year-old is expected to shoulder the defensive duties alongside the fast-paced Juan Jesus and centre-back Andrea Ranocchia (who might yet leave Inter).Veteran Esteban Cambiasso is expected to play as a shield ahead of them, while Fredy Guarin operates slightly forward.
Ezequiel Schelotto and Alvaro Pereira will play down the flanks with Mateo Kovacic occupying the crucial attacking midfielder’s slot. New arrival Ishak Belfodil (support striker), with his pace, will be a critical ingredient, while counter attacking, and a fit-again, Diego Milito will be a perfect match for the goal-scoring No. 9’s role.
The presence of strikers Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio (if he stays) will provide variety in attack, and Mazzarri will have no difficulty in introducing a three-pronged hammering rod if the situation demands. “I’ll have different counter-measures that we can take when opponents adapt to our game. Last year, when I switched to a different formation, we won nine games in a row. There’s a lot of study involved in modern football and you must be ready to change when the situation calls for it.”
The manager, here, surely has the right credentials and ideas for Inter but he can deliver only if Morati gives him a free and extended run…