It was a big win for Inter on Sunday as they beat Udinese 3-0 thanks to goals from Rodrigo Palacio, Andrea Ranocchia and Ricky Alvarez. The win keeps Inter in fourth place in the Serie A standings, six points out of a Champions League place.
- Report: Udinese 0-3 Inter
This was a much needed three points and clean sheet for Inter. After conceding 10 goals in their previous four games, Inter needed to be strong defensively and they were.
A lot of credit for the defensive performance has to go to Inter boss Walter Mazzarri for not only the game plan he put together, but also how he made adjustments during the game as injuries took their toll on the Inter defenders.
With Hugo Campagnaro still out injured, Mazzarri went with a back three of Ranocchia, Walter Samuel and Juan, with Jonathan and Yuto Nagatomo as the two outside wingbacks.
Remarkably, three of Inter's five defenders, Ranocchia, Samuel and Jonathan all left the game with injuries. I cannot remember a game where a manager had to use all three substitutes to replace injured defenders. But fortunately the three substitutes, Rolando, Marco Andreolli and Alvaro Pereira all played well when they came on.
To help protect the back four a little more, Mazzarri changed his midfield set-up once again. Mazzarri has been chopping and changing his midfield since the international break, looking to find the right balance between attack and defense. His original plan seemed to be to find someone to play alongside Fredy Guarin and Esteban Cambiasso in Inter's midfield trio. Unable to find someone, he then moved Alvarez back from his number 10 role to see if that would help.
Finally, I think Mazzarri hit on the right combination Sunday. He moved Guarin from his central midfield role into Alvarez's number 10 position. Guarin is really good going forward but is a defensive liability, and by moving him forward, Mazzarri was able to bring Saphir Taider into the right side of midfield alongside Cambiasso and Alvarez. I thought Taider did a really nice job today.
Player Focus: Saphir Taider
Taider, I thought, had his best game in an Inter shirt against Udinese. He marshaled the right side of the Inter midfield, kept the ball moving when he received it and won it back when Inter lost it.
The chart from fourfourtwo.com illustrates my point about how Taider controlled the right side of the pitch.
Taider's 69 touches tied him for the team lead with Cambiasso, although his 76% passing accuracy is something that the young French midfielder will have to work on improving. Nobody had more than his four tackles today, showing the tenacious aspect to his game.
Taider's inaccurate passing was something that hampered Inter all day. As a team, Inter averaged only 78% passing accuracy, their lowest number in a while.
Palacio and Alvarez
While not paired together, Palacio and Alvarez continue to be at the heart of every threatening Inter attack.
Palacio had a slight dip in form in early October but he seems back to his best, with five goals in his last four games since the international break.
Palacio took his goal against Udinese brilliantly, heading home a terrific free kick from Taider. But it wasn't just the goal from Palacio that impressed me on Sunday. It was the way he held up the ball so that Inter could counter-attack quickly, and then he showed his unselfishness late on when he laid the pass on for Alvarez to score.
Alvarez looks like a player reborn under Mazzarri. He was terrific again in that left-sided midfield role for the second consecutive game. In addition to his goal, his 89% passing accuracy was comfortably the highest from Inter's central midfield trio, and the more the game got stretched in the second half, the more threatening Alvarez looked going forward.
Kind fixture list coming up:
The fixture list looks kind to Inter for the next six weeks with games against Liverno (h), Bologna (a), Sampdoria (h) and Parma (a) before Napoli come to the Giuseppe Meazza on 15 December. If Inter are to really be a top three contender this season, these are the types of games that they need to take maximum points from.
Hopefully over the next six weeks Inter's walking wounded will have time to heal. If they can get healthy and win these upcoming games, Inter could head into the Napoli game full of riding an eight game unbeaten streak.