Inter exposed in Coppa Italia defeat

Posted by David Wilson

Inter Milan's Diego Milito shows his frustration during the 1-0 Coppa Italia loss to Udinese.GettyImagesInter Milan's Diego Milito shows his frustration during the 1-0 Coppa Italia loss to Udinese.

Inter crashed out on the Coppa Italia on Thursday as they lost 1-0 to Udinese, a defeat that exposed the lack of depth and quality in Walter Mazzarri's squad.

As expected, Mazzarri rotated his squad, using a lot of players who have not been on the field much recently. Juan Pablo Carrizo started in goal; Marco Andreolli, Walter Samuel and Hugo Campagnaro lined up in a three-man defence; Javier Zanetti and Yuto Nagatomo worked the flanks in midfield with Fredy Guarin, Gaby Mudingayi and Zdravko Kuzmanovic in the centre; and Mateo Kovacic supported Diego Milito in attack.

• Coppa Italia wrap

In the first half, Udinese exposed the weaknesses of Inter's squad as they dominated the game and could easily have put the game out of Inter's reach if they had done a better job of converting their chances.

Inter only grabbed control of the game when Mazzarri brought on Rodrigo Palacio and Ricardo Alvarez, but they could not turn their pressure into any clear-cut chances in the second half.

Inter's first-half performance was particularly disappointing. The midfield of Zanetti, Guarin, Mudingayi, Kuzmanovic and Nagatomo were totally outplayed and as a result, Milito was completely isolated up front.

In that first half, Udinese created most of their best chances down the flanks. For the first time this season it seemed Zanetti showed his age. When he plays in a more central midfield role, Zanetti has teammates alongside and behind him who can offer cover. When he plays as a wing-back, especially against an opponent who is as attack-oriented like Gabriel Silva and Maicosuel were Thursday, Zanetti is left isolated and, unfortunately, does not have the speed anymore to recover.

And that is what happened on the Udinese goal. Samuel was a step too slow to identify the run of Nico Lopez and then Zanetti did not have the speed to get in front of Maicosuel, who got to the cross first and bundled the ball into the open net.

Inter did have a really good shout for a penalty in the first half when Milito was mugged on a corner, that came about after a Kuzmanovic cross shot hit the woodwork and Mudingayi's shot was deflected wide, but the referee did not see it and Inter's best attacking spell of the half fizzled.

Mazzarri must have given his team a real talking to at half-time as Inter were much better in the second half. The Inter boss dragged off the disappointing Mudingayi and replaced him with Palacio.

The change worked, as did replacing Zanetti with Alvarez after 60 minutes. Suddenly with its playmakers Palacio, Guarin and Alvarez on the pitch, Inter started to look like much more of an attacking threat.

Those substitutions, though, illustrated the gulf in class between Palacio and Alvarez, and Mudingayi and Kovacic.

In the first half with Mudingayi playing in a central midfield role, and Kovacic in the playmaker role, Inter played with a slow tempo, often playing the ball sideways and backward, giving Udinese time to regain its defensive shape.

With Palacio and Alvarez on the pitch, alongside Guarin, suddenly Inter were more creative, they played at a much higher tempo and put the Udinese defence under pressure.

These rounds of the Coppa Italia are good indications of how deep the roster of a team is, as most clubs rotate their squad for these matches.

Thursday's defeat showed that Inter are not just missing two or three good players in their starting side, but the overall quality and depth of the squad is not as good as many of us thought.

In retrospect, that should not be a surprise considering the amount of talent that Inter have let go in recent years in an attempt to make the team more attractive to a buyer.

Consider that since 2011, Inter have sold world-class superstars like Thiago Motta, Samuel Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder, as well as up and rising stars like Coutinho and Luc Castaignos. Does anyone doubt that maybe four of those names would walk into the Inter team tomorrow?

In the successful attempt to improve the team's balance sheet, the club has purged the roster of almost all of its high earners and replaced them with younger and cheaper players, who invariably are not as good as the ones replaced. And that is what we saw at Udinese on Thursday.

So what does Inter need to do? The first-team squad needs a major overhaul. It is more than just adding a couple of players. Inter should have two really good players at each position, backups who can come in and perform at the highest level.

To get back to that position will take time and money. The burning question is whether Inter have the money to get back among the best teams in Italy?

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