MILAN – As paradoxical as it seems, almost everybody could have seen Inter’s loss to Fiorentina coming. It’s true that you might have expected a team eager to bounce back after two consecutive Serie A defeats, but the clues gathered from their recent outings, including a goalless draw at Porto after an uninspiring first-leg win, were far from comforting. It all made the chances of a potential upswing after a two-week international break very unlikely.
In addition to that, the Nerazzurri faced a tricky opponent in Fiorentina, as the Viola came into the game off the back of seven consecutive wins in all competitions and boasted the confidence needed to take advantage of Inter’s insecurities and expose their limits.
What went down at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday afternoon was a familiar story for Inter in recent weeks – they remained without a goal for the third consecutive game across Serie A and the Champions League, but this hardly came as a surprise for a team that had managed to score at least two goals just once in the last month – that being when they beat Lecce 2-0.
Inter’s goals have dried up
But moving beyond the sheer stats, it is clear how scoring goals is arguably the strongest indicator of a team’s state of health. Inter’s current crisis is not about simply losing games or dropping too many points anymore, but it’s more about not even winning the games in which they’ve been on top.
Over the last month and a half, they were the better team against Sampdoria and Spezia; the should have scored, and arguably more than once, against Fiorentina. Instead, they only picked up one point from those three games, but the feeling is that their striking inability to put away their chances is just the tip of the iceberg of a bigger problem.
In a context marked by chaotic club stewardship and several contracts expiring in the space of a few months, Inter players seem to have fallen into a downward spiral which is heavily affecting their game as well, as they often look discouraged at the first sign of difficulty. In other words, they lack the mental fortitude required to force thngs in their favour in moments of struggle. When things don’t immediately go their way, for example with an early goal, they seem to be accepting of what they feel is a fact that something bad will eventually happen.
Why aren’t Inter scoring?
Romelu Lukaku‘s jaw-dropping misses against Fiorentina are probably a clear sign of the toxic atmosphere currently surrounding the Nerazzurri – the Belgian had shown promising signs during the international break, scoring four goals from two matches, but all his rediscovered confidence seemed to vanish when he stepped into the pitch of a simmering Stadio Meazza.
What’s worse, when the team need a reaction, the attempts to perform it are merely individual. Faced with an uncertain prospect, and therefore probably considering their own respective futures, the players seem unable to bond and create that team spirit that has pushed Inter through the moments of struggle in the past.
Their 1-0 loss to Fiorentina marked the sixth game across all competitions in which Inter have failed to score in 2023. To put that into context, just think of the fact that they remained scoreless just three times between August and before the last calendar year ended in November 2022, twice against Bayern Munich and one at Juventus. Last season, the Nerazzurri remained three games without scoring in the whole Serie A campaign, which they finished as the best attack in the league.
It’d be hasty and probably wrong to narrow it down to a technical issue, as 53.12 expected goals would make Nerazzurri’s the second-best attack in Serie A, except that they have scored six goals fewer than that figure suggests they should have. It is hard to identify responsible parties when issues are so deeply rooted, but the club should surely be blamed for letting external rumours about the owner become detrimental to their on-field success. While the players are affected by it, their inability to put up a reaction to the heights of the level they’ve reached in the past is also a sign of lack of maturity.
Then there’s Simone Inzaghi, whose struggles to keep his players focused and motivated on a now weekly basis are now more than being a fabrication of those who aren’t his biggest fans. High-profile games, in which players have nothing to lose, seem the only time now when things click for Inter, and the coach’s soft words to the press, even in the toughest moments, can hardly expect to spark a reaction.
Two ties against Juventus and Benfica await Inter in April in the Coppa Italia and the Champions League – their only remaining chances at silverware – and it is hard to imagine them going through both while plagued by insecurity and such a lack of unity.
Inzaghi will be the first to pay for all of this at the end of the season, but Inter’s issues won’t go away with his departure.