Inter ended their USA trip on Saturday with a 2-0 over Serie A rivals AS Roma in Philadelphia. A header from Nemanja Vidic gave the Nerazzurri the half-time lead and Yuto Nagatomo wrapped up the win with a fine strike in the 69th minute.
Inter ends their USA preseason tour undefeated over 90 minutes, beating Real Madrid and Roma and losing to Manchester United on penalties after drawing 0-0 in normal time.
So what did we learn from these three matches?
Same Defensive Formation
While there were rumors ahead of preseason that Walter Mazzarri was thinking about changing from his preferred 3-5-2 formation to a more traditional 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 there were no indications in America that this will be the case.
I am not a big fan of 3-5-2. When was the last time a team won an international tournament or a big competition playing this formation.
The formation puts a lot of pressure onto the wingbacks to be both good defenders and attackers, and there are very few wide players that can do both. Unfortunately I don’t think Inter have any of them which limits how good this side can be.
The preseason tour has been a good opportunity for Andrea Ranocchia, Nemanja Vidic and Juan Jesus to get used to playing together. Vidic is much better defender then Walter Samuel or Hugo Campagnaro are, and if these preseason games early indications are that Inter will be much stronger defensively this season.
Vidic looks like an inspired signing. Not only defensively, but his leadership and attacking threat from corners and free kicks
One goal conceded against three good teams is a testament that Inter is playing the type of defensive football that Mazzarri wants to see.
Against Roma on Saturday we saw Inter pressing much higher up the pitch than they had both last and in the Real Madrid and Manchester United tour games.
In the two previous games Inter had been content to sit back and defend, but against Roma we saw the higher pressure which resulted in some turnovers in the attacking third of the pitch.
This is a new wrinkle that Mazzarri has added and hopefully we will see more of this type of pressure in the upcoming season. With the likes of Hernanes, Mateo Kovacic and Yann M’Vila in midfield, Inter have the athletic kind of midfielders who can paly a high pressure came and quickly turn those turnovers into goal scoring opportunities.
Lot Of Pressure On Kovacic
While Inter have looked really strong defensively, they have struggled breaking teams down without their playmakers Hernanes and Kovacic. Add in Palacio and Alvarez still recovering from the World Cup, and M’Vila being eased into Mazzarri’s system, and the Nerazzurri have looked short of class in the middle of the park
Comments from Mazzarri and Inter president Erick Thohir during the tour indicate that Inter are putting a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the 20-year-old Kovacic to be the creative playmaker in the center of the park.
I really like Kovacic, and think he can be a star in European football, but the US tour has shown that if Kovacic does not play well this season, that Inter do not have a lot of other creative options, especially since I expect Fredy Guarin and Ricky Alvarez to be sold before the season begins.
Lack of Quality Wingbacks
As I mentioned above, my concern with Inter heading into the new Serie A season is the play from the wingbacks.
The srenght of this team is is through the middle, from Samir Handanović in goal to Vidic, M’Vila and Mauro Icardi. What I did not see in the US, or last season for that matter, was quality, consistent attacking play from the wingbacks.
If I was drawing up a tactical game plan to slow down and frustrate Inter I would clog the middle of the pitch and dare Inter to beat me down the wings. I am not sure that Inter can do that. The only addition made in this area this summer was the signing of Dodo and I don’t see him taking on a lot of fullbacks and getting in great crosses for Icardi and Palacio to attack.
Long Way To Season Begins
After the rush if this preseason tour, Inter have over four weeks until they travel to Torino for their opening match in the 2014-15 season. That is a huge gap. It’s almost like another preseason and it will be interesting to see how Mazzarri manages the side between now and then. The players that made the trip will be far ahead of most other Italian team in terms of fitness levels as the moment, but a lot can happen between now and 31 August and it will take all of Mazzarri’s management experience to make sure that the Nerazzurri arrive in Turin fit, focused and ready to go with what looks like a team that I expect to finish in the top three this season.