Coppa defeat could hasten the end for Stramaccioni

Posted by Mike Whittaker

What was I expecting from this second leg Coppa Italia semi-final game against Roma? In truth, I was expecting a defeat. After all, Inter have lost their last three league games in a row, and are missing over half of their first-team squad through suspension and injury - the sad fact of the matter is that the Inter players missing at the moment would make up a decently strong team on their own. When you consider the bad time the Nerazzurri are going through, Roma's 5-3 aggregate win isn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been, and on the night, the score of 2-3 was a fair result considering the performance put in by Inter and Roma throughout the 90 minutes.

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The game started very well for Inter, regardless of their lack of confidence from recent results and events. They began the game looking like a team that wanted to fight for the win. Just 21 minutes into the game the enthusiasm the Nerazzurri were showing was rewarded with one of the best goals I've seen from the team all season. Jonathan brought the ball forward playing quick one-two's with several of his team-mates before Tomasso Rocchi played a clever back heel to tee up a perfect shot for the star of the play to strike into the bottom corner. Yes, I was as astounded as everyone else to see the usually useless wingback Jonathan make such a spectacular play and then blast home the opening goal of the game.

This is exactly the sort of style Inter should be playing week in and week out; fast one touch football with their players retaining possession by quickly passing the ball, then instantly looking for space to receive the ball back. The only players that should even be attempting any sort of dribbling are those with the skill to not instantly lose the ball, players like Mateo Kovacic, Yuto Nagatomo and even Ricky Alvarez.

Judging the game purely from the first half performances, it would be safe to say that Inter deserved to go through to the final, but as the old cliché goes "it's a game of two halves" and unfortunately for the Nerazzurri the second half saw the team's defensive frailties once again exploited by their opponents. In the end even Ricardo Alvarez's consolation goal ten minutes from the end did nothing to convince anyone watching that Inter deserved anything but defeat.

Apart from the usual problems at the back, Inter's biggest flaw was the obvious lack of firepower upfront. Too many times we witnessed the home side make great plays up into the final third of the pitch, only to see the attacking player with just one solitary target for a cross. This target came in the form of Tommaso Rocchi, who found himself crowded out by the Roma defence every single time. I know this is mainly down to the injury crisis that has plagued the team recently, but surely by now the Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni should've thought up an alternative plan to make sure his team has the capability to score goals?

I will get to the subject of Stramaccioni shortly, but first I want to focus on another point and the positives of this match. Firstly there was goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who although he conceded three goals, he also made at least two world class saves to ensure the final score wasn't too embarrassing for his team. My only real criticism was the ease in which Roma drew him right over to the far post when Mattia Destro secured his second goal of the game. Of course this wasn't really all down to Handanovic's positioning, but as well as no one marking the ex-Nerazzurro striker, this lapse in concentration from the Inter keeper left the Roma youngster in acres of space with plenty of time to tap home his goal to secure a brace.

The stars of the Inter team are the same two who have drawn plenty of praise from everyone watching in the last handful of games - Alvarez and Kovacic. These two have been outstanding just lately for the Nerazzurri, and for me are the main reason Inter achieved an impressive 90% pass completion stat in this match.

Alvarez has faced heavy criticism in the past, but recently his confidence and vision has been boosted considerably. Once again he was man of the match, due to his technically skilful runs and willingness to commit himself when being challenged. This resurgence by the Argentinean has again been rewarded with yet another goal to his tally, and with him finally showing some of the talent and skill that gave me high hopes for his career when he first joined the club, I'm struggling to see a reason why the club would want to sell him this summer.

Kovacic is of another level completely. One word that sums him up: sensational. This is a big claim for a player who has only been at the club a few months and is only 18 years old, but watching his confidence, skill on the ball, vision for passes and reading of the game I am not surprised that he has succeeded in breaking into the first team so soon. The lad has a very bright future ahead of him, not just at Inter but on the world stage too.

The more I watch this teenager play the more I am convinced he has the talent, maturity and ability to become one of the world's best midfielders and wouldn't be surprised if in years to come his name is being mentioned in the same breath as some of the all time greats. Yes, I do think this lad could be that good. I just hope Inter keep hold of him and build the team around him instead of cashing in, as they have so often done in the past with talented youngsters, one of which incidentally punished the Nerazzurri in this very game with a brace.

So what of Stramaccioni? Will he keep his job at the end of the season? I can now almost certainly say there is no chance of Massimo Moratti retaining the young coach for next season. In fact, after seeing his team concede a massive nine goals in their last three home games I would not be surprised if the 37-year-old is sacked before Sunday's game against Parma.

What Moratti's next move will be is anyone's guess, but I wouldn't like to be in Strama's shoes at the moment. If he is sacked I would be good to see Walter Zenga given a chance at the helm, he has now gained some good experience and most importantly he is a devoted Interista so will strive to do what is best for the team he loves.

On the subject of the team we love, it was saddening to see (so called) Inter fans leaving the stadium with 20 minutes of the game still left to play. To me it seems obvious that although the team appreciate the support when they are winning, it is through hard times like these that the players and everyone involved in the club really need the support of the fans.

This support will be especially important in the final six games of the season, which will be against some difficult opponents who all have the potential to beat Inter and leave the Nerazzurri looking up at the final European qualification places. Remember Interisti - Non Mollare Mai - Never give up!

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