Inter meet their match in Roma

Posted by David Wilson

It is interesting reading tweets from fans after Inter's 3-0 defeat to Roma, the Nerazzurri's first defeat of the season.

Some people are saying that Roma destroyed Inter, especially in the first half, while others say that Inter were unlucky to lose as the ball did not bounce their way.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Like any big game between two good sides, the match was decided on a couple of key plays. And those plays favored Roma in this game.

Inter's defence has been really good this season, and I wrote in the preview of this match about the improved play of Andrea Ranocchia. Well, it took Ranocchia only 18 minutes to render that opinion wrong with a horrible mistake to gift Totti a goal.

Ranocchia was shockingly bad, probably the worst player on the pitch. He won one ball out of seven in the air and did not win a tackle all game. How can a defender not contest or win a tackle all game?

But trailing 1-0, Inter almost got right back into the game when a relatively quiet Fredy Guarin managed to hit the post. I think the frame of the goal is still shaking!

By relatively quiet, I mean that Guarin had plenty of opportunities to really influence the game but did not.

The heat map from ESPN shows that Guarin was all over the pitch, but he just lacked that little bit of quality in the final third we have seen from him in other games this season.

Heat map for Inter's Freddy Guarin against Roma.Other / ESPN statsHeat map for Inter's Freddy Guarin against Roma.

Guarin's passing accuracy of 71 percent was well below his season average of 77% and when he did get into dangerous positions, his 14 percent crossing accuracy let the team down.

Guarin's inability to take advantage of the good positions he found himself in, summed up Inter's performance against Roma.

Consider that Inter dominated every stat, except the most important one -- the score sheet:

Possession: Inter 59% to Roma 41%
Shots: Inter 18-9
Corners: Inter 10-2
Attacking third passes: Inter 140 to 94

But what Inter lacked against Roma was that little bit of quality or creativity to unlock the Roma defence.

The chart from fourfourtwo shows Inter's passing against Roma in the attacking third of the pitch. The red lines highlight failed passes.

Walter Mazzarri's system is to attack down the flanks through the two outside wing backs. Early on in the season, Inter were heavily leaning on the left side, meaning most of Inter's successful attacks were coming from where Yuto Nagatomo played.

Yuto Nagatomo
PA PhotosYuto Nagatomo is more suited to the left-side of Inter's attack.

With Jonathan disappointing on the right, and Mazzarri obviously not sold on Wallace, he moved Nagatomo to the right and inserted Pereira into his place on the left. It is safe to say that the move did not work. Instead of attacking down the left, Inter now attacks down the right via Nagatomo. Unfortunately, he is not as effective on the right as he is on the left and as a result, Inter's attack has been bottled down the last two games.

When we come back from the international break, I expect Mazzarri to move Nagatomo back to the left and try someone different on the right. If that doesn't work expect Inter to go out and buy someone in January who can play that role.

Inter's inability to unlock Roma's defense can clearly be seen with the lack of quality scoring opportunities they had.

The last time Inter played a champions league contender, Fiorentina, they shot nine times from inside the Fiorentina's penalty box.

Now look at the chart from the Roma game. Only three shots from inside the penalty box as Roma pegged the Nerazzurri to mainly harmless shots from long range.

It is difficult to win games when your opponents are limiting you to long-range shots.


Despite dominating the stats, on the day Inter were simply not good enough against the best side in Serie A. This was Roma's first really tough match of the season, and I have to say they passed it with flying colours.

As for Inter, as I pointed out, they were beaten at their own game. Inter came up against a tough defence that they could not break down and were punished by the capital side on the counter-attack. It was a Roma performance that reminded me a lot of how Inter like to play!

Now Walter Mazzarri has the international break to go back and look at how Inter have played over the last month. The lack of consistent wide play opposite Nagatomo has to be a concern, as is the form of Ricky Alvarez. The Argentine has come down to earth a little the last couple of games and is not playing anywhere near the level he was a month ago. Alvarez's worst two games were last week against Cagliari and then Roma. It is not a coincidence that as Alvarez has struggled, so has Inter's offense, scoring one goal in those two games combined.

So unless something unusual happens on Sunday, Inter will head into the international break in fourth place. That is the good news. The bad news is that only three teams from Serie A qualify for the Champions League and a five point gap has already opened up between Inter and the teams above them.

What did you think of Inter's performance against Roma?


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