Inter: What has caused their mid-season slump?
As Inter head into their third mid-season slump in as many seasons, RealSport look at the underlying tactical problems at the club.
Luciano Spalletti is worried. He doesn’t frown. He stares, looking for the light at the end of a tunnel.
Welcome to the coach’s hell: the annual Inter Milan’s slump. You can’t escape from it. You don’t know how it happens, but you know it will happen.
In the past three seasons, without any apparent reason, Inter suddenly stop winning for about two months, crushing any pre-season hopes.
Why is this? What is it that causes this collapse?
Before this season’s particular slump, Inter had played well. They had even led the league for a couple of weeks in early December after drawing 0-0 with Juventus.
During this period, Luciano Spalletti has used a 4-2-3-1 formation. Retaining eight starters from last season, he introduced Borja Valero, Matias Vecino and Milan Skriniar into the starting lineup.
Since then, Valero has become Inter’s most important player. He is the playmaker and decides when and where Inter attack. The defenders feed him the ball and he moves it to the attackers.
This way, the team transitions from the build-up phase to the attacking phase. If the transition breaks down, Inter cannot enter the offensive mode and risk being counter-attacked. Without him, then, they lost their balance, tempo and control of the game.
The beating heart
Valero has exceptional passing range. This season, he has completed 93% of his short passes and 76% of his long passes: putting him 2nd and 23rd highest in each category respectively among 198 midfielders with at least three starts in the league.
He also has an exceptional capacity for reading the game and his passes often initiate penetration of the opponent’s defence: