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Serie A Preview! The Big Eight Download: 10 Years After a Treble Winning Season, Can Inter Rediscover European Pedigree?

Inter is going to play a lot of defense next year, but can their attack sustain itself if they lose Icardi? Will Conte be the coaching answer or just another man in a long row of sacks?

Much like AS Roma last week, Inter Milan has a number of personnel decisions to make going into next season. They currently have 26 players who could see a decent portion of time in the first team. The Mauro Icardi situation still has not been resolved. His destiny at Inter could greatly affect the team’s ability to put the ball into the net in 2019/20. The one thing that will not be up for debate is how defensive Inter will be. The addition of Diego Godin, another year of progression from Milan Skriniar, and the ever-steady Stefan De Vrij should be the backbone of one of the best defenses in Italy. Those three men should be able to stop most challenges that come their way.

One of the largest stories out of the San Siro next season is Inter’s new coach, Antonio Conte. He is one of the top coaches in Italy and his tactics cannot be argued with. His use of constantly moving wing-backs helps create a dynamic offense and wide coverage in defense. Conte’s 3-5-2 formation was a strong structure at Chelsea and for the Azzurri, however, he has an issue selecting players. Consistently, Conte would confuse fans of the National team by his team selection. His tactics would usually make up for it though, as he was able to win games with limited rosters.

Conte is a strong tactician and Inter should improve greatly next season, but they could have a cap at 3rd place. Conte is one of the premier coaches in Italy and will be able to flex his tactical ability next year and surprise teams in Europe and in Serie A.

The Goalie

Not even a question who the starter is, Samir Handanovic. He saved their season in the final game against Empoli, which came after a string of strong performances. Handanovic is now 35 though, which is getting old for a goalie. A replacement for Inter would not be a bad idea, however, Handanovic is the undisputed #1 next year. He is one of the better goalies in Italy, and some of the heroics at the end of last year cemented that. He’ll be behind a better defense this upcoming season so expect his clean sheets to go up, and his expected goals against to drop. If he continues to save at the same rate, he did last season then scoring against Inter will become a tall task. The defense will be the strongest part of Inter next season and having a goalie who will stop shots at a well-above-average rate will stop Inter from allowing goals.

The Defense

Inter has three high-quality center backs in Skriniar, De Vrij, and Godin. De Vrij may have had a down season, however, that is not indicative of his quality. In terms of rating the player, one down year should not define the ability of the player. Skriniar just turned twenty-four, he may still progress, however, he is hitting his physical peak very soon. Expect him to adapt with intelligence, which I think he does possess. If he can read the game better, then he will be able to stop attacks without making tackles. Skriniar still struggles with some ball playing issues at the back, especially under pressure. Juventus and Napoli would purposely press him when he had the ball because he struggles with passing out of danger. Skriniar has a high passing percentage but cannot break a press.

Godin is the new man at Inter and he will add the necessary quality to play a 3-5-2. He will bring more experience to the squad and a strong defensive partner on the right side of the backfield. He has been of high quality for years now and played one strong game last season as Atlético Madrid tried to knock out Juventus from the Champions League. Atlético did have issues against higher quality opponents last season but Inter will not struggle this way with Godin.

Miranda is the backup for this trio, and he is fine, he just is not anything to really be excited for. He is older, the least able of the four, a fine backup but nothing more. He’ll be good for rotation but not a lot else.

The Midfield

The Midfield is the largest question for Inter next season. Nicolò Barella should start at left center midfield. Marcelo Brozovic or Stefano Sensi will start at center defensive midfield. Sensi may play right center midfield, so could Nainggolan, who was not well last season. Radja could easily bounce back from last season but concerns over injuries and now age should continue next season. Radja Nainggolan is better in a three-man midfield and a switch to a 3-5-2 could help his struggles. Roberto Gagliardini, Borja Valero, João Mario, and Matías Vecino will all see time as well. Gagliardini should see the most time because of his age. There is a possibility where the two most common midfield next season are Barella-Brozovic-Sensi or Gagliardini-Vecino-Nainggolan. Mario could see some time, but his place in the team seems tumultuous at best. Valero is too old to be counted on consistently this season.

The first midfield will see Barella as an attacking option and a pivot up the field. He is an attacking box to box player that can easily create a pass or become another runner. Sensi played three different positions at Sassuolo, but his main craft is a defensive box to box player. Brozovic will continue to be the defensive stopper in this midfield setup. There is a solid mix of ability and youth in this midfield. It will not be the top midfield in Italy, however, it will grow and should easily be sufficient. The backup trio will be more offensive than the starting unit, however, it will have more experience. That may help in the mentorship of the younger players but is not enough reason to start. Nainggolan is probably the one who should see the most time with the starters to just understand who he is now.

Danilo D’Ambrosio, Matteo Politano, and Antonio Candreva will split time at the right wing-back spot, but it should be D’Ambrosio’s role. Candreva may see more time than people are expecting him to next season. Politano would be the most attacking of the three, and D’Ambrosio will be the most defensive.

Dalbert and Kwadwo Asamoah could see time at the left wing-back spot. Dalbert is younger and should see time there. Asamoah playing wing-back is a tricky issue because he has gotten older and the amount of running required is a lot to ask of a thirty-year-old, let alone one with his injuries. Dalbert is a quality player and can provide a good amount of defense for Inter on the wings next season.

The Attack

Mauro Icardi is the best attacker on the roster right now, however, his time at Inter seems numbered. Icardi is a poacher style striker, who needs a small amount of service to be able to score. He is one of the best finishers in Italy and whatever team he plays for next season, if they control the off-field issues, will be very happy to have him.

Lautaro Martinez is the second-best attacking option for Inter. He is more of a ball progressing style of the attacker and is more likely to take on a man. He is a worse finisher but is a good complimentary piece to Icardi. He will be able to open space for a poacher type with his movement.

Inter does have an attacking depth issue as these are the two possible first-team strikers. They need more depth at this position.

Politano could play as a support striker, and as attacking depth, next season. He would not be a first-choice player as he is not an adept finisher, but he could provide benefit by generating different movement. He will swing wider than either Martinez or Icardi, however, his central play will be worse. He would be the third option for the two striker spots.

If Icardi leaves and Lukaku comes in then Inter will have a higher work ethic, better pressing striker. He does not finish as well, but he will provide a different dynamic to the Inter attacking. He had a down season last year, but if he does come, he should receive more service and better support. This is all if he comes.

The Prediction

Inter should spend next season vying for 3rd. They might be able to challenge for 2nd, however, Napoli and Juventus strike me as too good for anyone to catch in their current set up. Ivan Perisic could easily see himself out of the first eleven next season, and maybe on a different team. Selling players of Perisic’s ilk will help finance depth in other positions, as in attack. The midfield is a place of the question for Inter. If deployed correctly then it will let the young players develop and provide a lot of quality.

The defense will be the most impressive part of Inter next season. The lack of goals allowed by Inter next season could help propel the team into a secured Champions League spot earlier in the season.

The issue is that Conte may play players who are not at this caliber to secure a Champions League spot. His tactics are phenomenal, but player selection could determine how Inter does next season. Playing the wrong midfielders or a wrong center back could define the season for Inter. His 3-5-2 should prove to be successful and Inter should be a Champions League qualifying team next season. There are quality and a much better coach for this team next season. Expect them to succeed in most games they play next year

Forza Rossoneri