If there’s a way to mess it up, Internazionale will usually find it. That is the prevailing view of Nerazzurri fans, who have watched their team’s Serie A hopes fall apart since Christmas.
For so long, this year seemed different. Internazionale were top of the league going into Christmas, abetted by the blistering form of a settled and matured Mauro Icardi.
At one point they’d gone fifteen games without defeat and were threatening to win their first Scudetto since the glory days of José Mourinho.
The question, as it always seems to be with Inter, is this: what went wrong?
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Genoa means that Luciano Spalletti has led his side to just one win in their last 10 games in the league.
The enthusiasm and dynamism which characterised their displays in the autumn has evaporated, with even the emergence of the impressive Yann Karamoh doing little to stoke an exasperated support.
Whilst nobody can point to an exact moment where the house of cards fell apart, part of the blame must sit with the Inter manager’s failure to motivate his team.
“On a psychological level, we must turn a corner,” Spaletti told Rai after a 1-0 loss to Milan in December.
“The players are involved, then when you can’t even convince them using facts that the situation is like this, you must find a way to make them understand”.
Evidently, he has failed to do this, presiding over a loss of form that has stretched over two months since the Milan game.
His players have not been inculcated with the resilience necessary to snaffle a run of bad form, let alone a title challenge.
To put it bluntly; when the going got tough, Inter stopped going. Responsibility for that brittleness lies in large part with the manager.
Spalletti’s cause hasn’t been helped, however, by the emergence of familiar grievances throughout the squad.
After proving such a talisman in the campaign’s early stages, Mauro Icardi posted a cryptic message on his Instagram account on the 29th January.
The text, which translated as “To say goodbye is to grow”, sent Interisti into meltdown. What did it mean? Was Icardi on his way out?
Rumours of a move to Real Madrid had been prevalent all season, but the plot quickly thickened when it emerged that he had unfollowed teammate Marcelo Brozovic on the same platform.
When Brozovic returned the favour, a player with a history of causing dressing room disharmony seemed to be up to his old tricks. Rumblings of a divide in the squad seeped into the papers, with Ivan Perisic appearing to back his countryman.
Bitchiness to blame?
Whether bitchy posts on social media are the cause or not, Icardi’s form has fallen off a cliff.
The Argentine has scored just one goal in his last seven games. Inter as a team, meanwhile, have notched just six in the same period. That their form has collapsed precisely as their best player endures a scoring drought is no coincidence.
Icardi isn’t the only one who’s been poor, though. Perisic has been similarly flat, whilst Antonio Candreva has been substituted in each of his last six appearances.
The lack of suitable squad depth has been made blindly clear by the reliance on Éder, a man widely linked with a move away from the San Siro in the summer and a 19-year-old debutant from the reserves in the aforementioned Karamoh.
Whilst all this strife has been going on, Juventus and Napoli have kept winning. The two are locked in Europe’s most exciting title chase, separated by just one point heading into March.
Time to re-focus
Inter, 18 points off the top in fifth, must right themselves double-quick if they’re to stave off a challenge from Sampdoria who are nestled immediately below them.
A place in the Champions League mightn’t be as glorious as some fans had hoped for 3 months ago but it would still be an improvement for a team that hasn’t graced the competition since the 2011/12 season.
Secure qualification and a campaign that promised so much might at least be saved from devolving into an abject failure.
Will Inter make it into the Champions League? Let us know by commenting below.