As we discussed yesterday, Roma has had a rough time with Inter Milan over the past several years. With six draws and four defeats in their last 10 contests with the Nerazzurri, the Giallorossi, whether led by EDF, Paulo Fonseca, or even José Mourinho, have struggled mightily against the boys in blue and black. With three wins and three losses in their past six matches (all comps), the Giallorossi have been all over the map lately, making Saturday's fixture almost impossible to predict.
But, rather than twiddling our thumbs, we reached out to our friends at Serpents of Madonnina to get the inside take on Inter Milan. David McFarland, one of the head honchos at SoM, was kind enough to swap questions with us—you can find our take on tomorrow's match here.
Without further delay, let's hear what David had to say!
Inter is off to a bit of a slow start, and while they dropped points to some pretty successful teams, to what do you attribute their early season struggles? What can they do to turn things around?
David McFarland: As much as I’d love to have one, there’s no easy fix. Inter’s performances have been tailing off ever since 2022 and the hopes that the offseason and Lukaku’s return would refresh the Nerazzurri disappointed almost immediately. Stale is the word I’d use to describe Inter right now, and that goes from Simone Inzaghi’s lack of a plan B, desperate subs, and confusing lineup choices down to subpar showings from the players. And it could very well get worse before it gets better, with Marcelo Brozovic out for a month, Lukaku still not at full fitness, and a jam-packed October (8 games total, including a UCL double header against Barcelona) on the way.
How’s the reunion with Romelu Lukaku going so far? Is there any chance he matches or bests his 24-goal/11 assist performance from 2020-2021? What’s behind his slow start so far?
DM: If Inter does manage to turn the season around before it’s too late for Inzaghi, Lukaku will play a key role in the revival. Without him, Inter is practically unchanged from last season, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing some of the same problems once again. The Belgian hasn’t been much inspiration so far, however, with just one goal in three games and an injury that’s kept him sidelined for 7 games, assuming he misses Roma (as is reported). We can only hope he’ll come back from the current knock at something close to 100%, which he definitely wasn’t at the start of August - even then, he’ll still be a notch or three down from the Conte era, and I think 20 goals/5 assists is a best case scenario. If Lukaku can’t even get there, well, we’ll be in for a long, long season.
When we last spoke, you were picking our brains about Inter’s recent acquisition of former Roma midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He’s only managed 103 minutes so far–any buyer’s remorse on Inter’s part?
DM: Beppe Marotta sure loves his veterans on high wages, and Mkhitaryan is yet another example of that. While the Armenian looked like a great pickup on paper - still able to produce at a sufficient level and a perfect Calhanoglu backup - injuries and poor form are making his high wage stand out, and not in a good way. It’s still too early to close the book on him entirely, but so far Mkhitaryan looks nothing like the difference maker we, and apparently Marotta, expected when he was handed an almost €5 million salary.
Talk to us a bit about Nicolo Barella’s development and how important he is to Inzaghi’s team? What makes him such a special player, and how can Roma limit his effectiveness?
DM: He’s a great player for sure, but I feel like we haven’t really seen him at his best since the Conte days. Obviously, 3 goals and 12 assists last season and 2 of each already this campaign is nothing shabby, and when he’s on, he’s usually the best player on the pitch. That doesn’t seem to happen nearly often enough, however, and sometimes he can just fade to the periphery and let the game pass him by.
Few players on Inter can hit a cross as sweetly as he can (check out Inter’s game-winner against Torino a few weeks ago for further evidence), and his improvement in that category has been blistering over the last year. This question comes at a particularly interesting time since Brozovic will be out against Roma. The opportunity/obligation is there for Barella to step up and fill the hole the Croatian’s absence leaves in the center of the park because I, uh, don’t think Roberto Gagliardini is going to cut it.
Finally, give us a prediction for this weekend’s match!
DM: I’ll go with a 2-1 win to Inter, albeit based more out of naivety than reality. Goals will come from Lautaro and Dumfries on the Inter side and Dybala for Roma.
Big thanks to David for his time, let’s just hope his prediction doesn't come true!