Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

The Serie A season is finally underway and with it comes the hopes, expectations, and dreams for all clubs in Italy’s top flight.  Everything seems a little brighter with the promises of what can happen but when everything falls apart after the first match, that light is much dimmer than before.

Preseason only garnered more questions than answers in regards to Inter manager Gian Piero Gasperini’s formation and tactics, as he has been very insistent in molding the squad to fit his preferred 3-4-3 formation.  In the pre-match press conference prior to facing Palermo, he asked to be judged based on his results and not on his formation. Judging by the 4-3 loss on Sunday, he served himself up to the firing squad of media and Interisti worldwide.

The last match of what was technically Round 2 (due to the strike that postponed Round 1), Inter traveled south to face Palermo at the always hostile Stadio Renzo Barbera.  Even before the starting eleven was officially announced, there were many murmurs about Wesley Sneijder not starting.  Gasperini had somewhat understandable reasons for not starting the Dutch star, as he did not want to overuse Sneijder so early in the season.  Known for not fully utilizing players who played with their national teams during international breaks, Sneijder was benched also with the knowledge that he would be fully involved in Wednesday’s upcoming Champions League opener.

Inter lined up with a 3-4-3, with Julio Cesar manning the goal and Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Captain Javier Zanetti in the line of defense.  In the midfield, Jonathan was given his introduction to Serie A on the right, with Dejan Stankovic, Esteban Cambiasso, and Yuto Nagatomo on the left.  The attack saw two more debuts in the Nerazzurri shirt, as Mauro Zarate and Diego Forlan flanked Diego Milito, who played as the center striker.

To be brutally honest, the first thirty minutes of the match was a nightmare for Interisti to watch.  Palermo may not have scored, but it seemed inevitable after the Rosanero’s constant attack on the Inter defense and goal.  The Nerazzurri barely had time on the ball, much less any attempts on the home team’s net.  Gasperini’s men looked disjointed and in disarray, with no flow between the team.  There was a disconnect between the midfield and attack, as one could count on a single hand how many touches Milito had in the opening half an hour.  It was only due to a spirited Lucio run that won Inter their first corner of the match, coming just after the half hour mark.  Zarate swung the ball into the area, where Forlan got a touch on it.  The ball then fell to Stankovic, who shot towards goal, but as it was going wide, Milito deflected the ball into Palermo’s goal, shockingly putting Inter ahead.  If that sounded complicated, it was every bit complicated and more.

As the players were celebrating the surprise lead, Gasperini pulled a surprise of his own.  He substituted Zarate in favor of Sneijder, as Zarate clearly was overwhelmed with the experience of playing in an Inter shirt for the first time.  It was reported that the manager subbed him because of Zarate’s lack of verbal response and he was not sure if Zarate was okay.

As Sneijder came on, the Nerazzurri settled into the familiar pace and control that the team has become known for over the past few seasons.  Palermo lost their steam after the goal and Inter were in control until halftime.

Everyone knows that the game is made up of two 45 minute periods, and the second half was as unpredictable as they come.  Inter used to be able to hold a 1-0 lead and grind out the result needed, but through tactical mistakes and managers trying to “beautify” the squad’s play over the last twelve months, it seems as if that ability has all but vanished.

Within three minutes after the restart, Miccoli equalized for Palermo.  That was only the opening of the floodgate of goals to come in the next forty minutes.  A clear handball in the box was not called on Migliaccio, which if called would have resulted in a penalty to Inter and the Palermo defender potentially being sent off.  During the resulting corner, a penalty was called for Silvestre’s foul on Samuel and Milito converted the penalty to give Inter back the lead.  The Nerazzurri looked to be closing in on three points until tired legs gave way in the closing minutes of the match.  Miccoli scored off a free kick to give the Sicilian side the lead and two minutes later, Pinilla scored what would turn out to be the winner from twenty yards out.  Cesar made no attempt on the shot as he thought it was sailing high and no one closed Pinilla down, allowing him the space to shoot.  Forlan scored his first goal for the Nerazzurri in added time, but it was in vain as the match ended 4-3, in favor of the home side.

Since Sunday night, reports have surfaced about Gasperini’s meetings with the Inter technical directors, a suggested change in formation, as well as different media outlets already throwing out names for the next Inter coach.  It has been quite apparent that a three man defense does not suit the defensive line.  It puts unnecessary pressure on Lucio, Samuel, Ranocchia, or whoever may be slotting in at that moment.  To expect a three man defense to be fit, healthy and successful over the course of a sixty game season is unrealistic, especially since these defenders are not accustomed to this style of play.

It looks likely that the fallout from the match against Palermo will be a change in formation to potentially 4-3-3 for the Champions League game against Turkish side Trazbonspor on Wednesday. As President Massimo Moratti said, Gasperini is an intelligent man and he will make the necessary adjustments for the squad.  Some people have found that statement difficult to grasp but it really is quite simple: Win.

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