A poor start to 2014

Posted by David Wilson

Miroslav KloseAPMiroslav Klose nets the only goal of the game.

The 2014 part of this Serie A season got off on the wrong foot for Inter on Monday as they lost 1-0 at Lazio to fall eight points behind Napoli for the all-important final Champions League place. Miroslav Klose scored the goal 10 minutes from time when he turned in Candreva’s cross as Andrea Ranocchia switched off.

There was no excuse for Ranocchia to lose Klose for the goal. It was the type of mistake that the Inter central defender has made too often this season and Walter Mazzarri was not impressed either, dragging the central defender off minutes later for Javier Zanetti.

The defeat allowed Verona to leapfrog Inter into fifth place in the table and out of the last Europa League place.

For the past couple of weeks, Inter have consistently been involved in the late game of the weekend. That is a good position to be in when the teams around you are dropping points, but it’s a tough place to be when everyone around you is winning, as it increases the pressure on you to get a result.

That pressure seemed to get to Inter today, with Napoli and Fiorentina both winning as the Nerazzurri were surprisingly flat.

It was that uninspired performance that was the most disappointing aspect of the Inter performance for me. Despite dominating possession (65 percent to 44 percent) Inter rarely looked like scoring and that was extremely frustrating to see.

In watching the game, it appeared that Rodrigo Palacio had been isolated and was rarely involved in the match. And the stats backed that up, as the Inter striker had only 33 touches all game. The only Inter starter with fewer touches than Palacio was goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, and he had 32!

It is difficult to win like that, but it was not just the lack of touches that illustrates how ineffective Palacio was on Monday. Look at this heat map from squawka.com which shows where Palacio impacted the game against Lazio -- clearly it is not a good sign when your striker spends most of the game in your own half.

So why was Palacio so isolated? Simply the poor performances of the three Inter stars behind him: Esteban Cambiasso, Ricky Alvarez and Fredy Guarin.

In my preview of this match, I questioned how Cambiasso and Guarin would play, considering how they are both talking to other clubs about a move away from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. The answer was 'not very well', especially Guarin, who continues to be heavily linked with a move to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. Inter rely on Guarin to unlock defences with his passing and creativity but neither of those were on show in the capital on Monday.

Guarin’s 57 percent passing accuracy was the worst of any outfielder player on both teams. If this is an indication of how he is going to play until the transfer window closes, then Inter fans have to hope that this transfer goes through as soon as possible.

It was not a real surprise then to see Mazzarri drag off Guarin after 75 minutes for Diego Milito. And Guarin was not amused at being replaced -- refusing to acknowledge the travelling Inter fans and the handshake from Mazzarri.

With Guarin so uninvolved, Inter needed a big performance from Cambiasso in central midfield, but he also had an off day as the chart from fourfourtwo shows.

The blue lines show successful passes by Cambiasso and the red lines the unsuccessful ones. Lazio were comfortable letting the Inter midfielder pass the ball in his own half, but as soon as he crossed the half way line, the Biancocelesti started pressuring Cambiasso and the result was a lot of misplaced passes.

The only positive thing I can take from the game was the appearance of Diego Milito for the last 15 minutes, but even then Milito looked like a player returning from a long injury and desperately short of match fitness.

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