Despite fielding outstanding players like Robinho, Ibrahimovic and [the best of them all] Pato, Rossoneri are struggling. Designed to perform and win with style, Serie A's current leaders suddenly look very slow and predictable - many AC Milan' shortcomings are hidden by their forwards goals but their midfield lacks pace and fantasy - and Mark Van Bommel's arrival doesn't help.
Inter are just the opposite. Free flowing football is this team trademark under Leonardo. The way Inter defeated Palermo and Roma explains why many years ago Pelè defined football "the beautiful game". Enthusiasm, pace, skills, saves, goals - showtime guaranteed. No ugly wins anymore at Inter. A revolution completed in few weeks.
Leo brought a change of mentality and a very bold approach towards games and opponents. Against Roma the Brazilian coach gave up the 4-3-3 formation seen at Bari, to use a 4-1-2-1-2 formation. A very peculiar diamond: two playmakers with no defensive skills at all - Sneijder was the offensive-playmaker just behind Eto'o and Pazzini, whereas Thiago Motta was the defensive-playmaker, placedjust few yards before the centrebacks Ranocchia and Cordoba - a sort of an advanced sweeper. The diamond was completed on the right by Kharja [as a forward he was a normal one, in midfield he' becoming a sensation - all credit to Leonardo] and by Cambiasso on the opposite side. This shape and these players allowed Inter to play the ball from the first pass [now it's Thiago Motta and you can see the difference] with an eye for the goal, denying vital time to regroup properly to Roma's defense and midfield. That's the main key of the abundance of goals and shots [Roma's Julio Sergio was a calamity in the first half but very good in the second]. The problem is that Nerazzurri conceded goals and shots as well and instead of 5-3 it could have been 8-5 [in the first half Julio Cesar denied two or three goals and made a superb triple-save].
Something needs to be fixed in time for Bayern. Thiago Motta is not Claude Makelele and not even Andrea Pirlo - too slow to mark, too soft to tackle, which means that Motta's defensive work is purely based on positioning but it's someone else who has to do the dirty work. So who? Kharja can become a Frank Lampard but he will never be a Gattuso; Cambiasso proved he can do the job but loves to go forward as well; Zanetti at 37 is still the most disciplined and reliable in that role but not a tackler. Leonardo's intuition to use Motta as number four instead of eight is a winning one but he needs to put alongside him a proper holding midfielder, with basic defensive duties at least against stronger teams.
This ultra-attacking approach pays off in serie A, even against serious rivals like Roma [some thanks to Burdisso for gifting a penalty and a numerical advantage in the last 30 minutes]. But it's unlikely to pay dividends against teams like Barcelona or Manchester United. A perspective which should concern the Champions of Europe.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Wesley Sneijder. After the World Cup the Dutch number 10 never looked the player admired last season. After a six months vacation he's back.
Serie A 2010-11 - Day 24
INTER: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Ranocchia, Cordoba, Zanetti; Kharja, Thiago Motta, Cambiasso; Sneijder (75' Nagatomo); Pazzini (70' Milito), Eto’o. Coach: Leonardo
ROMA: Julio Sergio; Cassetti, N. Burdisso, Juan, Riise; Simplicio (70' Greco), De Rossi, Perrotta (66' Taddei); Menez (64' Loria); Borriello, Vucinic. Coach: Ranieri
Goals: Sneijder 3', Eto’o 35', 63' pen, Thiago Motta 71', Cambiasso 90'; Simplicio 13', Vucinic 75', Loria 81'
Red card: Burdisso
Yellow card: Kharja; Borriello, De Rossi
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