Report from Tlalane Phahla – Follow her here on Twitter
Rewind to December, Inter away at Salernitana was just a routine outing for the champions as they blew the Serie A minnows aside in a 5-0 victory. In fact, that was their highest scoring game for the whole month and second for the season (they beat Bologna 6-1 in September) They won all the six matches they played in December scoring a total of 17 goals and conceding just one. Things were rosy for I Nerazzurri as they tightened the screws on their title defence. At the time I felt whoever wanted their title would have to take it from their dead cold hands, but fast forward two months later and the champions have capitulated and their title defence is at great risk.
What should have been another game where Inter just need points to consolidate their position has now become one of the most important games of their season. Relegation threatened Salernitana ranks amongst the ‘must win’ games and it is hard to fathom how Inter have gotten themselves into this position. February was the total opposite of December, not only did they fail to win they scored just two goals entire month and are currently goalless in four games in all competitions.
Goals have dried up for the champions, and their performances are deteriorating every week. This slump could simply be attributed to fatigue as Inter manager Simone Inzaghi acknowledged they are feeling physical tiredness. “Between February and March we seriously begin to feel physical tiredness, due to the months of the season that have already passed: We feel a bit tired at this point.” He told Mediaset, his comments were relayed in English by Di Marzio.
The Milan derby was the 36th game Inter was playing this season and they are still active in three competitions. Perhaps fatigue was bound to catch up with them, but tiredness and lack of goals aren’t the only thing Inzaghi should be worried about now. They look like a team devoid of confidence and quality on the bench.
Both Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic are experiencing a dip in form and but have to play as the options on the bench aren’t up to standard. This was evident against Sassuolo where Brozovic was suspended for the game and the alternative in his position had to be subbed off at half time.
Goals have dried up for Lautaro Martinez, and Edin Dzeko looks like a shadow of his former self. The former hasn’t found back of the net this year and against Milan on Monday he was invisible the entire game – The only time I saw him was when he picked a yellow card. Inter need to start firing again and Inzaghi must find a way to get his team back to winning ways; Salernitana might be the perfect opponents for them to get their confidence back.
It is not going to get any easy for Inter from here: a trip to England for the second leg of the Champions League is sandwiched between Salernitana and Torino. It gets tougher still as Fiorentina, Juventus and Hellas Verona will be waiting in line. What defines champions isn’t only about winning and playing beautiful football, but about knowing how to win even when you are not playing well. Something Inter haven’t been able to do in February.
Many believe Inter will not be able to turn over a 2-0 deficit against one of the most in-form teams in the world right now. That may be true, but its hard to imagine a team of Inter’s stature will go into the game waving a white flag. They have to go all out, that means more running, more energy and hard work. What more do these players got left in their tank? It remains to be seen.
[Image from Sébastien Louis on Twitter]