After taking a break for a season, Antonio Conte came back and took over at Inter. From the first impressions, his team is firing from all cylinders. So, let’s dive into it and check out how Conte set up his team in the first match of the season.
Inter lined up in expected 3-5-2 formation. Asamoah as the left wing-back and Candreva as the right. The basic idea was to overcrowd the middle and open up space on the flanks for (mostly) Asamoah to attack. This was made possible by couple of factors; quick changing of the sides by Brozovic, good movement to drop back when needed by Candreva who also sent out bunch of excellent diagonals towards his partner in crime on the left, Asamoah, and most importantly, Vecino joining up Lukaku and Lautaro in Lecce’s last line of defence to put even more pressure to the defense. This resulted in Lecce’s defense being locked down into their own box, and it’s no coincidence that three of 4 Inter’s goals came from outside the box, with the 4th one being the rebound from the shot outside of the box.
There were a couple of occasions where Inter were caught out. For example, when both Candreva and Asamoah drove into Lecce’s box with Vecino, Lukaku, and Lautaro already being there, there was a lot of space behind them to exploit.
In situations like these, especially early in the game and not chasing the result, Candreva must stay back, hunt down second-balls and protect the team from a potential counter-attack. As the direct result of this, Lecce creates their best opportunity of the match, partly due to Sensi’s lack of aggressiveness in defending the counter. While he looked very good going forward, Sensi still has to work on his defensive positioning in transition, and maybe even more important, bigger aggressiveness in duels.
While Candreva and Asamoah showed that they have a lot to offer in attacking sense, there were a couple of occasions where both of them weren’t positioned well in various phases of the game. This is highly exploitable for teams with quick and wide wingers. Sensi will also have to work on his duel play as he will be expected to close down spaces for counter-attacks, covering left wing-back. The potential signing of Arturo Vidal from Barca could make all the difference in the world, as the Chilean is an energy bomb who seems perfectly suited for Conte’s style of play. It’s no coincidence Vidal was a crucial player in Conte’s Juventus a few years back. It will be very interesting to see how Barella fits in, given that he built his reputation as an all-around presence in the midfield.
In this particular match, Vecino didn’t do much aside from moving into the Lecce’s final third to open up space for wing-backs. Statistics back this up as he only had 31 touches with the ball (compared to Brozovic’s 129 and Sensi’s 71). Vecino will have to find a way to get more involved in the play, as he could be the replaceable part of the midfield as the season wears on.
We cannot talk about this Inter without mentioning the front two – L&L – Lautaro & Lukaku. The duo already seems to be developing chemistry. There was more than one occasion where Lautaro dropped back, pulling his defender and opening space for Lukaku.
Conte used Lukaku for offensive transition a lot. When Inter was defending, Lukaku’s task was to drop deep and wait for the ball. Once he got it, it was Lukaku’s job to carry it throughout the pitch into the final third. As expected, the Belgian thrived in this role and provided a lot of danger. Granted, some of the decision-making wasn’t right, but that could be attributed to getting to know his teammates more than anything else.
Finally, an important part of every 3-5-2 system are, obviously, the centre-backs. First and foremost, they were rarely asked to create themselves. Brozovic (more often) and Sensi (less often) dropped back to organize the play from deep areas. The most important task for the back three was to pop out on time. Left and right center-backs, Skriniar and D’Ambrosio were given the freedom to go high and break up Lecce in possession whenever they got near the halfway line. Both of them were quite successful at this, as well as covering for Candreva and Asamoah when necessary.
It’s gonna be very interesting to see how Alexis fits in as the potential partner to Lukaku. On paper, it should be a good fit. Alexis likes to receive the ball to feet, while Lukaku prefers to have it in the space to attack into. It doesn’t make sense to make any United comparisons, as the roles intended for the players are very different than the ones in Manchester.
Mark of the great coaches is that you can see their signature on the team right away. This aspect is glaringly obvious with Conte and Inter. The team is well-suited for Conte’s needs, although the Icardi situation is still making things uncertain. It’s easy to see why Conte wanted Dzeko so badly, as the Bosnian would be able to replicate Lukaku’s contribution to the team. It also seems as if the team needs more muscle in the midfield, so don’t be surprised if Inter goes for another midfielder by the end of the transfer window. From the impressions of the first match, and his excellent performances last season, it seems as if Brozovic is the one who will be running the show on Meazi this season. He’s covered a lot of ground, dictated play and tempo from deep, while doing a lot of work off the ball, too.
Conte’s Inter is already exciting to watch, and it’s only going to get better as the team gets accustomed to the new system.