I’ve made no secret of this over the years, there are few clubs in the sport I despise more than Inter Milan. Born out of being Jose Mourinho’s bridesmaid for several years in a row, I seethe with anger every time I see those black and blue stripes on my screen, a hatred that has accidentally spilled over to Atalanta I might add. While those tempers have subsided a bit given Inter’s struggles over the years, the Nerazzurri are a club on the rise, so for an insider’s look at Inter we turned to our friends at Serpents of Madonnina
1. Inter had a bit of a rocky start to the season, to what do you attribute their recent turnaround?
SOM: A reliable coach that knows what he's doing in Serie A? As much as I wanted Frank De Boer to succeed he didn't have the time or Serie A know-how to hit the ground running. With Stefano Pioli Inter now have a coach that knows how to get everybody in the squad on the same page, simplify tactics in ways that can bring out the best performances of the individuals he has (rather than what suits the manager's philosophies), as well as knuckle down and grind out results when the situation dictates.
2.Mauro Icardi has 15 goals so far this season, and has generally been a beast since moving to Inter, what's preventing him from being mentioned among the world's best players?
SOM: Two reasons. First, the fact that he hasn't had the chance to show off his talents in the Champions League. He's shown he can bag goals against Serie A sides and while he has proven his ability to score against the best in the league (his record against Juve is just beautiful), he needs to bag some goals against other top defenses before he gets the platitudes he deserves. Second, and somewhat related, is the fact that he hasn't been called up for Argentina besides the one call-up to ensure he wouldn't play for another country. Same logic applies-he needs to score on the biggest stage to be fully recognized-but that will only happen when Edgardo Bauza decides to grow a pair, stand up to Diego Maradona, and call up Icardi over Lucas freakin' Pratto.
3.Outside of Icardi, who is Inter's most important player and why?
SOM: If it was based on the last few months I'd say Joao Mario, but overall it's gotta be Samir Handanovic. The Slovenian has saved the team more times than I can count, and despite failing to reach the Champions League season after season he has stuck around only to be "protected" by the likes of Hugo Campagnaro, Matias Silvestre, Andrea Ranocchia, Jonathan, and Dodo. Now that he actually has a competent defense in front of him (for the most part, we're still working on the fullbacks) he has been called on less often but his saves are still world-class. There are rumors (per usual) that he'll leave if Inter doesn't reach the CL places this season and though I would be sad if he leaves the club, he fully deserves to play for a club in Europe's biggest competition
4. Inter has tinkered a bit with their tactics this year, what is their optimal formation and lineup?
SOM: While the 3-4-2-1 has it's benefits (minimizing the walking liabilities we call fullbacks) it does severely hamper Anotonio Candreva's skills going forward. For that reason I'd say Inter's best lineup is the 4-2-3-1: Handanovic; Ansaldi, Miranda, Murillo, D'Ambrosio; Gagliardini, Kondogbia; Candreva, J. Mario, Perisic, Icardi
5. We discussed it in the other half of our Q&A, but do you think Inter has a realistic shot of chasing down Roma and Napoli to get within shouting distance of the Champions League? If so, what has to happen?
SOM: I'm usually a massive optimist when it comes to Inter but I'd only give my team a 20% chance of reaching the CL places. 6 points behind Napoli (and 8 behind Roma) is quite a large gap considering the form of the teams Inter is trying to overtake. In order for that to happen Inter needs to win the head-to-head matches against those teams, win all of the games they're supposed to win (aka all remaining matches against anybody below 8th place), not lose as many games as possible against the other teams towards the top of the table, hope Roma and/or Napoli slip up, and maybe have Atalanta and Lazio lose a game or two since they are breathing down Inter's neck at the moment. Do I think one or two of those things could happen? Sure. Do I think all of them will happen? Probably not.
6. Which player would you take from Roma if you could?
SOM: Pre-Gagliardini I would've taken Radja Nainggolan in a heartbeat. Now that our midfield is actually halfway decent, I'd probably just take Kostas Manolas (which we might actually do in the summer...).
7. Finally, give us a prediction for Sunday's match.
SOM: Inter need to win this game to keep their Champions League dreams alive so while I expect the Nerazzurri to fight like their lives depend on it, I'm not sure how well a 5′ 7″ Gary Medel at the back will do against a 6′ 4″ Edin Dzeko, let alone how well whichever fullback starts will do against Mohamed Salah. I'm gonna go with 2-2, maybe 3-2 if Icardi is really hungry for goals now that his suspension is over.
Big thanks to Baraka Nasari and the SOM crew, we hope to do more of these features when the opportunity presents itself, but stay tuned for Sunday’s match, it figures to be a barn burner.