By Mirko Corli, writing from Torino
The question is a difficult one to answer. But we will have an answer soon, just right after the game on Saturday night. Inter and Roma will face each other in a clash that already means everything to both teams, despite the fact that we are at the very early stages of the season. Inter have lost 3 official games in a row so far. They’re not used to this: last time this happened was ninety years ago. Quite a bit of time. Not sure any living Inter fan will still have those matches from the 1920s in their memory.
So… what exactly happened?
My belief is that this is not the result of a single event, but rather from a multitude of them. First, the club was shocked by Leonardo leaving. Both Moratti and the skipper Javier Zanetti told the media they weren’t expecting him to leave the club. They had managed to find a delicate, but nice balance with him and, in return, he showed his ability to have and maintain a successful relationship with players. The club was forced to get a new manager and the first choices (Andre Villas Boas and Fabio Capello) were not keen to accept. So the choice was Gasperini, a good tactician but maybe not the right man at this moment. He needs time to develop his playing style, however, time is the only ingredient you can be sure will not be available when managing a top club.
Second, the summer transfer market was a weird one for the club. They were keen to sell Sneijder (though to me this would have been a big mistake) and ended up selling Eto’o, which is not exactly the same thing. Third, tactics. I’ll tell you one thing: the 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1, and 4-3-3 formations all are beautiful names we give to maintain order on the pitch, but you have to work with those actual men on the pitch. Seven out of eleven of the players who lost against Palermo did not start in training camp this summer and, moreover, joined the squad 2/3 weeks ago because of the Copa America. Two important additions, Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate, are completely new to the club.
Julio Cesar is performing badly (rare, but it can happen to any keeper. Between the two goals conceded against Palermo and a little bit of responsibility for the goal Inter conceded to Trabzonspor is a horror start for the Brazilian.
There’s a general sense of a lack of form in the squad, and this is not new to Inter. If you consider player’s average age, if you consider their bodies (many are tall and heavy), you will realize they need time to get into shape, more than, let’s say, Barcelona’s little agile jugadores.
The main evidence against Gasperini is just this: not realizing these conditions and trying to impose his tactical changes since the very moment he took over. It would have been safer to start playing in a style the squad already knows (4-2-3-1 to use numbers) and then, with fitness of the squad on his side, start to innovate and begin the transition to his desired 3-4-3.
Now the eggs are broken, and I doubt he will keep the same players on the pitch and on the bench. This really depends on how he managed the relationship with players in his squad. If the players have turned on Gaspirini, then the game against Roma will tell us everything we need to know, or show precisely what Inter fans have been trying to ignore.