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AS Roma continue their strong start with 7 wins in trot. What’s most impressive, the 7th victory was against Inter Milan, giving them the first defeat of the season in sensational 0-3 scoreline in Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, the very Inter Milan stadium. For Inter, the victory against Firorentina gave clue about their weakness. La Viola were without Pizzarro, Gomez, Cuadrado, and Pasquale left the field at minute 35 due to injury. Despite facing the half-powered squad, Inter were trailing by 1 goal before making a comeback. Against Roma, no comeback was allowed and it gave everyone food of thought about what was wrong.


The basic role of both Campagnaro and Samuel are to cover Ranocchia and Juan who suffer concentration lapse on daily basis. While Samuel is more conservative one, Campagnaro is more active one and reminding everyone to Lucio figure. One huge plus point over Samuel is, Campagnaro has far better ball skill, frequently joins the attack either by overlapping run or accurate distribution. Ranocchia and Juan do not lose to Campagnaro in term of how to contribute offensively. But, the problem isn’t about how, it is about when. The Italian-Brazilian duo simply do not have the sense when to choose safe or risky play. With his capability to distribute ball safer than Rano-Juan and to bail out their blunders as well, Campagnaro has already cemented himself at the first team squad. Or even further, he could threat Ranocchia or Juan spot if they do not raise their game.

Aside of constant concentration lapse by Rano-Juan, there is not much to worry about Inter defence. Campagnaro’s absence against Roma might suggest the lack of depth in the backline, but it was just a misfortune that he and Samuel were injured simultaneously. Unless the injury-storm struck Inter again like last season, the defence department should be okay for the rest of season.


This is where the deepest hole lies and it is mainly because the absence of defensive midfielder. Inter obviously lack someone who can cut the opposition attack from midfield zone. Mind that the defensive midfielder here is not necessarily the likes of classical anchorman like Gattuso, Makelele etc, but the modern one would do as well e.g. Busquets, J. Martinez, Khedira etc. Right now, Inter only have Cambiasso and injured Mudingayi. The former might still boast exceptional football intelligent, but his body can’t keep up with the game tempo anymore. While the latter isn’t bad player, but he isn’t your man to fight against Pogba, Totti, Insigne etc.

Because of the insufficient protection from the midfield, Mazzarri must employ players which are jack-of-all-trade, master-of nothing. Cambiasso is designated as the rearest midfielder, acting as center-half and passer simultanously. The problem is, he is no longer the worldclass anchorman like he used to be nor he is the great playamaker. The result is, he cannot contribute significantly both in offence and defence.

Mazzarri surely wants to use Kovacic as creative fulcrum in his squad, but the Croatian contributes little, if not zero, in defence. Actually, Kovacic shows some great defensive capability last season with his interception and tackling. The problem is his half-commitment in defence. It will be interesting to see how Mazzarri will handle this. Will he go Mourinho-Xabi way i.e. balancing the deep playmaker with defensive attribute ? Or, will he go Conte-Pogba way i.e. sharpen his attacking edge and letting go his defensive aptitude ? Back to topic, with the current state of Kovacic, it will be very risky to play him alongside Cambiasso as it will leave too much holes in midfield.

Therefore, Mazzarri plays Taider instead of Kovacic. It is the jack-of-all-trade issue again. What exactly is Taider speciality ? His defensive ability isn’t as good as Cambiasso, he is obviosly not the passer, his tenacity and physicality are also subpar compared to Guarin. Here, Mazzarri opts for safe route by deploying him in order to give extra protection in midfield.

Perhaps Guarin is the least confusing spot in central midfield. Despite of his inconsitency, selfishness, and skyward-shots, his physical aspects makes him too good to be wasted. Let alone in Serie-A where there are only few midfielders who can compete physically with him. The spot of box-to-box midfielder in Nerazzurri is definitely him.

The lack of defensive midfielder really confuses Mazzarri to find correct balance. In modern football, the complete midfielders (like Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Carrick, Mikel etc) is more favoured than the specialist midfielders pair (example : Davids-Zidane, Keane-Scholes, Gattuso-Pirlo/Kaka, Mascherano-Xabi etc). Either way, Mazzarri will have tough time in combining the his midfield resources. Right now, he chooses the first option when he has multifunctions midfielders viz. Cambiasso-Guarin-Taider. The result is, the they struggle in both dictating the game and containing opposition midfielders. The Fiorentina and Roma games proved it. Both team’s midfielders are defensively weak, but Inter failed to capitalize it due to lack of creativity in their midfield. One could argue that such midfielders line-up help Inter to not concede more, but remember that Inter have the aim to reach UCL zone (or EL zone at least). Thus, they should have must-win mentality rather than –must-not-lose.

The lack of defensive midfielder really makes the Gargano-Taider the curious case. If Mazzari really wants to create specialist midfields pair, there is nothing more perfect than Gargano-Kovacic. It is really unfortunate that both of them had too few games together to forge the chemistry. Kovacic played regularly while Gargano was injured regularly. When the Uruguayan had recovered, it was Kovacic turn at the sideline in preseason. As Mazzarri had trained Gargano back then in Napoli, the decision to offload him implies that Mazzarri really understood and being confident in his midfield. But, the sudden arrival of Taider suggests that Mazzarri realized that he overestimated his midfield’s defensive capability and he had to find the replacement immediately.

Wing Back

The flank sector has chronic shortcoming namely characteristic similarity. Out of Zanetti, Jonathan, Nagatomo, and Pereira, who offers something different to the table ? No one. None of them can provide powerful thrust at the flank like young Zanetti or Maicon. None of them can provide pinpoint cross as well. Oh dear, none of them can provide defensive protection as well (except Zanetti, but not sure how he will perform perform his long injury).

In attacking, the winger must provide the threat from the width to stretch the defence. Due to less tight defence in the flank and bounded by the lines, speed is the important asset for winger. If he doesn’t possess such speed, at least he must equip himself with good cross. Let alone for the fans of vertical football like Mazzarri. The current Inter have some players who are able to cover pitch length in short frame of time e.g. Guarin, Kovacic, and Palacio. It will be important to have fast winger to keep up with the attack tempo. Let’s see what Inter have here.

We cannot judge Zanetti due to his long absence, but if we have to judge him based on last season performance, he will only contribute significantly to defence.

Jonathan isn’t fast, but he sure is smart for the wing back standard. Only very few wingers can ghost past behind opposition defence like Jonathan often does. He has improved his performance from last year, but only time will tell for how long he can keep his form.

Nagatomo can run all day, but what else does he provide ? He is too often outpaced and outmuscled by his opposition. The most intriguing part is how often he drifts inside as left winger while his main role is to provide the width at the left. Hence, the attack becomes narrow instead of wide. Maybe he is good at scoring the goal. While it is good to have extra source of goal, it will be better if he is good at his primary duty as a wingback.

Pereira, uhm, should we bother with him ? His most notable contribution for Inter last season was his assists, but it is the case when statistical deceives. For all his 5 assists he produced last season, there must be 500 times he was being wasteful, either it was dispossessed or wayward cross. Not to mention his defensive susceptibility just like he showed against Roma when he fouled Gervinho unnecessarily.

So, now you understand why Mazzarri was so desperate to sign Zuniga or Isla at the transfer window.



The non-existance of reliable defensive midfielder affects the frontline as well. Icardi was signed before Mazzarri’s arrival, but Belfodil arrived under his consent.  It is obvious that Mazzarri would pair the second-striker and scorer. The combination will be like Belfodil/Ricky/Palacio paired with Icardi/Milito. The defensive fraility leaves Mazzarri no choice, but using Ricky-Palacio instead of the rest.

Ricky is central midfielder by nature, second-striker by position. He has 2 main contributions so far i.e. ball retention and closing-down. Ricky has no problem if it only comes down to keep the ball. But, he lacks the cutting edge that a second-striker should have to unlock the defence.

Palacio‘s game is all about running at second line, at the outside of penalty box. He will cooperate with his attacking partner (last season it was Cassano and Milito) to divert defenders’ attention and punish them when they are caught offguard. With Cassano, it was very easy for Palacio to score the goal thanks to miraculous touch of Fantanonio. With Ricky, it is entirely different case. As mentioned before, Ricky doesn’t have cutting edge and he will not be able to supply the opportunity for Palacio to exploit. And, as much quality as Palacio has, he is not Van Persie or Cavani who could shake the defence with off-the-ball movement, linking-up play, and scoring in the same time.

The main features that Mazzarri seeks from Ricky-Palacio over Belfodil/Icardi/Milito are the amount of running and defensive contribution. As Inter do not have the proper anchorman in the middle, Mazzarri decides to distribute the defensive duty to every player including the forwards. Just like the case in midfield, maybe Inter can score against small teams with Ricky-Palacio, but don’t expect much from them against the likes of Juventus, Napoli, or Roma.


Now it is up to Inter on how to solve such problem. Either they must utilise the existing resources or sign new players at winter transfer window. The first alternative would be nurturing Kovacic’s defensive side so Mazzarri could field Kovacic-Guarin-Taider and share the almost-equal responsibility of offence-defence. Such complete and versatile midfielders are typical modern football and Mazzarri could also opt for classic scheme. He could shape Taider into pure defensive midfielder and sharpen Kovacic’s offensive capability even more. The second choice will be more unlikely. The last option would be signing new player. But, it will be harder to find suitable player in transfer window so Inter must consider their options wisely.

The situation in wing back department is more tricky as there is too few variation. The remaining options aside of Zanetti, Jonathan, Nagatomo, and Pereira are Laxalt and Wallace. But, unless they are given the playing time, no judgement will be passed upon them. One thing for sure, the signing of new player will be more likely here including the Pereira sale.

It is important for Mazzarri to take more risk in attacking department. Of course Mazzarri must address his defence first, but Inter will achieve nothing if they keep relying on Ricky-Palacio partnership as they stand no chance against a strong, organized defence.