Zeman gives Inter an attacking masterclass

Posted by Don Nerazzurri

One of the most anticipated matches of the 2012-13 season came in just the second game week with two of the most attack-minded teams in Italy going head to head. It really was a battle of the tacticians with new boy Andrea Stramaccioni taking on the coach who at 65-years-old is nearly twice his age, Zdenek Zeman.



The game ended Inter 1-3 Roma and if you didn't see the game you would think from that scoreline that the Roman side ran rings around Inter in front of their home crowd. This however wasn't strictly true, if you take a look at the match stats you can see that Inter were actually the more dominant of the two sides in terms of possession and shots on goal. Over the 90 minutes Inter held on to the ball for 53% of the match and managed a respectable 21 shots on goal, of which only six were on target though - finishing is obviously an area that needs work for Inter. Where Inter really lost out in this match was in aerial battles but when you consider how short the majority of the Nerazzurri players are that isn't really any great surprise.

So how did Roma manage such a convincing win against Inter?

The win, in my opinion, simply was down to tactics and style of play. Stramaccioni started in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Cassano as a second striker but also dropping back in to an attacking midfield position to give the squad their usual 4-3-2-1 formation. Zeman on the other hand played his usual 4-3-3. Both are good solid attacking formations but the real difference came down to the team's and coaches' preferred playing styles. Stramaccioni likes his team to keep possession and pass the ball short and often, building up his attack patiently and waiting for the right opportunity by finding spaces for the likes of Diego Milito to expose. But Zeman likes his teams to play a direct passing game with both his attackers and midfielders aggressively attacking the opposition's area, in this game there were many examples of the Roma midfield sending long, high balls over the Inter defensive line and then pretty much all the forward six players crowding into the attacking third to overwhelm the defence.

This of course is what Zeman is famous for, his whole footballing philosophy is about the attack and the defence of his team is a secondary concern to him, this is where I feel Inter were unlucky as the Roma defence play a high line it was very inviting for Milito, Cassano and Palacio to sit right on the defenders' shoulders, ready to make the break when the ball was played though to them, as Roma showed last week in their draw against a much weaker Catania this is their weak spot that must be exploited as much as possible. Unfortunately though for Inter the Roma defence seemed a little more awake in this game and constantly caught the Nerazzurri attackers offside.

Another major difference in the two sides was that Roma found the ability to bring the ball forward right across the pitch, but Inter favoured their stronger left flank, meaning the Roma defence had a better idea where the attacks were going to come from. Speaking of the left flank, Alvaro Pereira made his debut for Inter in this match and was outstanding, constantly running from box to box, picking out the right passes and crossing the ball in to the attacking third. I also thought that Pereira worked fantastically well with Nagatomo down the left flank, with them covering each other's positions while the other took the ball forward. But as I say this - and the fact that the playmaker Wesley Sneijder favours the left side - means that the majority of Inter's attacks come from there. I'm hoping that once he's fully fit again Alvarez can bring a bit of creativity to the right side of the formation as he did towards the end of last season.

The first goal of the game from Roma debutant Alessandro Florenzi was typical of Zeman's tactics with the midfielder rushing in to the box to connect with a lovely cross from Francesco Totti. Inter weren't blameless in this goal as instead of marking the centre Fredy Guarin chased the ball over to where Totti was on the left, leaving a big wide open space for Florenzi to take advantage of.

Cassano's goal just before half-time can only be described as a fluke, as he took his shot from the left side of the box the ball deflected off ex-Inter defender Nicolas Burdisso making it bounce up and over the Roma goalkeeper and luckily drop down just under crossbar. Not one for Cassano to be proud of at all!

Roma's second goal by Pablo Osvaldo was a prime example of what I was saying earlier, as Totti sent a perfectly weighted ball over the Inter defence for Osvaldo to run on to and chip over the second choice Nerazzurri keeper.

Last but not least was an incredibly tight-angled shot by Marquinho who managed to squeeze the ball between Castellazzi and the near post for it to cross the line. In my opinion, much like Cassano's goal, this was more luck than skill. I also think that if Inter had their first choice keeper of Samir Handanovic in goal neither the second nor third Roma goals would've happened, but of course that's just speculation from me and we'll never know for sure.

So Zeman won this first battle between Inter and Roma and despite the loss I did enjoy the game as it was fast paced and very physical at times, unlike some Interista who I feel are being too impatient with the team. I think Inter played well and against any other team they would've won fairly easily but as I said in my season preview: any team playing Zemanlandia football will be difficult to beat and Zeman gave Stramaccioni a masterclass in attacking football that I'm sure the young coach will learn from.

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