Inter suffer dismal defeat at the hands of Tottenham

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Where do I start in trying to sum up this match? A match that saw Tottenham once again dominate an inferior Inter. As I explained in my preview article, I was expecting, and even prepared for a Spurs victory. But 3-0? I expected so much more from Andrea Stramaccioni and his squad.

First, I have to congratulate Tottenham and their fans on a well-deserved victory, one that even with a full 90 minutes left to play has almost certainly seen them through to the quarterfinals. I just can't see any way back from this for the Nerazzurri against a faster, stronger and more united team.

- Bale gives Spurs control over Inter

It was these characteristics that saw the north London side embarrass Inter by completely shutting the visitors out of the game. Tottenham's possession stat of 61% says it all. And with ten of their 16 shots being on target compared to Inter's one out of eight, there was never any real threat from the Nerazzurri.

This time around it wasn't just Gareth Bale that ran rings around the Inter defence. His attacking midfield partner Gylfi Sigurdsson matched the Welshman's goal and assist tally to take the accolade of man of the match, as well as solid performances from the rest of their teammates, too.

So how has it gone so wrong for Inter again, as it has too many times this season? For what it's worth, my opinion is that it's down to both the players and Stramaccioni. On paper, Inter's squad is far superior to Tottenham's (with the obvious exception of Bale), but the Nerazzurri players are playing without any real drive or passion to push for the win.

Watching them, you would be forgiven for thinking they were just having a kick about in their local park with a bunch of strangers. Most of their passes were either straight to the players in white, or into spaces where none of their teammates had even had the foresight to try and meet the ball. Communication between the Nerazzurri players appears almost none existent at times. Mix in a few hit and hope long balls and you've summed up the Inter Milan passing ability.

With passing as wayward as this, it was obvious the forward players weren't going to get many opportunities on the Spurs goal. But even when they did, their shots didn't even test Brad Freidel. This in itself is just embarrassing. A team of Inter's stature should not have trouble testing a goalkeeper who is approaching 42 years old! To be fair, the one shot the Nerazzurri managed to get on target came from a great break by Rodrigo Palacio, who once he got into the box could only manage to fire the ball straight at Freidel. Nine times out of ten Palacio would've buried a shot like that past the keeper into the back of the net, so maybe you could say Inter were unlucky to not get that consolation goal.

The fact of the matter remains, however, Inter played like an amateur lower league team. This, in my opinion, is the responsibility of Stramaccioni who yet again let the first half play out with another opponent dominating his team without him making any attempt to adapt his tactics. The regularity that this is occurring is convincing me the young coach has no ability to read the game whatsoever, and the changes he makes each time during the halftime break are looking more and more like he's doing the same old thing hoping it'll pay off for him.

Even before the game started I feel he made several critical mistakes in his starting lineup. I didn't think his formation of 4-2-3-1 was a good choice; he had the wrong players in the wrong positions and in some cases didn't even have the right players on the pitch for a game of this caliber. I personally think a 4-3-3 would've given the team much more scope to control the game.

The defence saw Juan Jesus playing as left back, but I feel he would've been more effective in the centre with Andrea Ranocchia, while Cristian Chivu should've been on the bench with Alvaro Pereira in the left defensive position instead of playing the attacking left wing role. On top of this, the decision to play a zonal marking system was quickly proved to be inadequate as Bale scored the opening goal just six minutes in to the game. If Stramaccioni had adapted his system to a man marking tactic then maybe the following two Tottenham goals wouldn't have happened and Inter may have been able to gain more of an advantage over the game.

Instead of playing with two defensive midfielders, a three man midfield would consist of Esteban Cambiasso in the holding role covering the defence with Fredy Guarin and Marco Benassi flanking him. This would've left less space in front of the defensive line for Tottenham to take advantage of. Guarin and Benassi would then also be able to take the ball forward with more accurate passing. The way it was played Walter Gargano's small stature meant he was unable to win the physical battles with the Spurs players and was rushed to clear the ball whenever he did hold possession.

Up front, playing Mateo Kovacic in the trequartista role was ridiculous. First off, he hasn't played that role yet in his short Inter career, and secondly it was almost immediately obvious that the 18-year-old wasn't ready for a game of this magnitude with the club he is still trying to settle into. The other huge mistake in my humble opinion was playing Antonio Cassano as a lone striker.

Cassano up front by himself was a ludicrous idea by the Nerazzurri boss. He hasn't got the legs to perform to the standard required by that role, and as we've seen time and time again this season he plays much better as a second striker using his creativity to setup the likes of Palacio. This was obvious when Palacio entered the fray after halftime and Cassano was free to drop back into that more comfortable role.

Ricky Alvarez on the right made a few mistakes before he was taken off the pitch, but during the first half he seemed to be the only Inter attacking player making any effort to move in on the Tottenham goal. If the game started with a front three of Cassano, Palacio and Alvarez, I am confident Inter would now have at least one crucial away goal.

As for Stramaccioni, I really feel torn. On the one hand I do believe he has the potential to be a great coach, and should be given at least another season to prove himself, especially with the wealth of talent that is rumoured to be arriving in the summer. However, on the other hand, I feel he is far too inexperienced to take Inter to the standard they should be playing at. If he'd spent a few years coaching a smaller stature club with fewer expectations where he could fully hone his abilities, or even spent time as an assistant to a great coach like Jose Mourinho, then I feel we would definitely be looking at a much stronger Inter team now.

The prime example of this is Andres Villas-Boas. He did his time helping Mourinho and by coaching clubs like Porto and Tottenham he has built up his management abilities without too much pressure, allowing him to really perfect what he wanted from his players. But at the high pressured job in charge of Chelsea he failed miserably, much like Stramaccioni is suffering at Inter now.

What Inter needs is a strong coach who the players can respect for his management ability, and maybe even what he's achieved during a playing career. Someone who can come in and enforce a true identity and playing style to the squad in a way Stramaccioni just isn't able to. For what it's worth, I hope to see a man like that take the helm next season, and the man I feel could be perfect is the ex-Inter player Diego Simeone.

Until then, though Inter has the second leg of this tie to contend with, it's not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that the Nerazzurri can still win this with a strong performance next week at home, especially considering Tottenham will be without the suspended Bale. Unfortunately though, as much as I hope to see that happen, I can't really believe the players have the desire, nor the coach the ability to turn this around and progress any further.

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