The two secrets behind Inter Milan’s remarkable season


You either succeed by doing what others do and do better, or you succeed by doing things differently. the old mantra applies inter Milan — who, in spite of all their weaknesses and weaknesses, are in fourth place serie aThe Coppa Italia finalists and their commanding 2-0 lead after the first leg Champions League semi final against AC Milan In two main ways. One of them is “old school” and the other is definitely new school.

The “opposite” point of difference with Inter is the fact that Simone Inzaghi’s team plays with two strikers instead of one. The innovation is the way in which they have made the rule change from three substitutions to five, effectively “programming” ahead of time and making the same moves, in the same positions, and often at approximately the same point in the match.

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Attacking tandems were common in European football for many years, but today they are somewhat out of date, at least in elite clubs: only a handful of others, such as Atletico Madrid and Leipzig, still use two centre-forwards like Inter. It’s easy to get bogged down in semantics here, given that formations are fluid, but most top clubs prefer to attack with a central striker and two wide men high up the pitch. Sometimes, they use inverted wingers (for example, a right foot under left) whose runs are designed to take the ball inside and into the area rather than cross it. real Madrid‘S Vinicius Jr. – Playing down the left flank of the right foot – a prime example of this.

No Inter. They have four ahead – Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, joaquin correa, edin dzeko – and their schemes are designed around their interplay, with width coming from their wing-backs. Having two men in the middle — especially against sides that play with four defenders, aka most teams — means you tie up both central defenders and open space for a runner from midfield. Can

Inter’s second goal against Milan in Wednesday’s semi-final is a prime example: Dzeko and Martinez scored (one wide, one short) to pull up their markers, fikayo tomori And Simon Czarout of position, which is allowed henrik mukhtaryan To come from midfield, attack the space and score. (It is evident Sandro Tonali Could have done a better job tracking Khitaryan’s run, but hey: this is a low-scoring game in which small details can make big impacts, and you have to be ready to exploit these errors.)

Most teams, whether they play a back three or a back four, are not used to facing the front two. And that means adjusting. it’s not rocket science; It’s doable, but in a game with good margins like a Champions League semi-final, any time spent adjusting is time you’re not doing anything else to help you win. Another thing to think about is the ends.



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In Inter’s case there is another shortcoming: their four strikers are vastly different from each other. Lukaku is tall, powerful and straight. Zeko is also tall, but he’s more agile, slower (which you’d expect considering he’s 37) and a talented passer. Lautaro is small, quick and a talented dribbler. Correa is kind of a wild card: He’s a big guy with “little man” ball control and he offers a healthy dose of unpredictability. This diverse quartet enables Inzaghi to mix and match combinations depending on the opponent and game situation.

Inter have played 49 games this season and the starts are shared by four people: Lautaro has the most (39), followed by Dzeko (30), Lukaku (17) and Correa (14). They’re not quite interchangeable – Lautaro plays more because, well, he’s probably the best of the bunch and Lukaku missed part of the season due to injury – but it’s clear that Inzaghi trusts all four. This is borne out by his use of replacements, his other unique selling point, and the way he allocates minutes.

Inter have played 34 league games, meaning they can draw a maximum of 170 subs; He has made 167. Manchester City, In contrast, he has also played 34 games, but he has only scored 110. There’s no right or wrong here: it’s just a different approach based on what suits your team. But what’s interesting here is that Inter always make the same substitutions. Inzaghi will often replace his two forwards and his two wing-backs – there is also a fair amount of rotation, with federico demarco And robin goossens to the left and denzel dumfries And Raul Bellanova Or Matteo DarmianWhen he is not playing centre-back, on the right – usually around the hour mark.

The benefits here are clear. Opposing defenders are faced with strikers with new feet and different attributes in the last half hour. Wing-back is probably the most physically demanding position in Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 formation and obviously, going all-out for 60 minutes is less difficult than doing so for 90 minutes. Inter are not a high-tempo pressing team, but it is a fair bet that if their forwards were to play the full 90 minutes, they would press even less.

Load management also motivates players: you can start on the bench, but if you’re a wing-back or forward, you know you’ll probably come on and play: Inter’s forwards have come on in more than 85% of games in which They are on the bench, whereas for wing-backs, it is 78% of the time. And, of course, it helps keep players fresh – especially important in the case of older people – while reducing the risk of injury. (Basically: If you’re on the bench, you probably won’t get hurt.)



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Obviously, before we go on hailing Inzaghi as a genius and innovator, there are some caveats. This approach only works if you have people of comparable ability, like Dzeko and Lukaku (or, at least, this season’s version of Lukaku). If Carlo Ancelotti starts in turn Karim Benzema and Mariano Diaz at Real Madrid, or if armoryMikel Arteta took off Bukayo Saka For reece nelson After 60 minutes in every game, he will probably be arrested for crimes against football. Plus, what you gain in freshness and unpredictability, you lose in terms of chemistry: The more you play together, the better you understand each other. It is no coincidence that when it comes to midfield and central defence, Inzaghi tends to No Doing so because chemistry and coordination matter more in those roles.

However, his approach has been working as a charm for Inter this season. This has enabled him to navigate some difficult moments and keep the players happy – no easy task at a club that has, historically, been a symbol of chaos and instability. It also raises the question of how much more coaches can do with the luxury of five substitutions and how they can change the game. The sense is that, with the exception of Inzaghi and a few others, most have barely scratched the surface.

Overall, Inter’s successes show that being different can sometimes be just as important as being nice.

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