STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – Even a quick glance at the stats from Inter’s 3-1 victory over Udinese is enough to notice a stark contradiction for someone who has watched the game.
Both the final scoreline and the Nerazzurri’s total 19 attempts, compared to their opponents’ nine shots (just one on target) may give the sense of a game dominated by the Biscione, who also ended the game with 60% of possession.
However, the figures make it hard to imagine how close Inter went to either dropping points or losing against a tricky Bianconeri side that were not even close to their best level on the night.
Sliding doors moment during Inter-Udinese
Specifically, there was a moment mid-way through the second half that could have changed it all. In an attempt to break into the penalty box from the left, Henrik Mkhitaryan lost the ball and exposed his side to a deadly counter-attack from the visitors.
With as many as eight Inter players surrounding Udinese’s penalty box, two quick touches from Roberto Pereyra and Walace were enough to split open the hosts and elude their press, presenting Isaac Success with the chance to finish a counter-attack that saw five Bianconeri players sprint towards the goal with their only opposition being Danilo D’Ambrosio and Francesco Acerbi.
Success eventually opted to dribble his way past D’Ambrosio, giving Denzel Dumfries enough time to track back and slide to block his weak left-footed attempt. Inter were kept alive by just a matter of seconds and inches, but that proved enough to spark an immediate transition that resulted in Federico Dimarco’s precise cross and Mkhitaryan’s delightful first-time attempt, which gave the Nerazzurri the lead they had been desperately looking for.
Inter’s goal average has plummeted
While it all turned out well in the end for Simone Inzaghi, with substitute Lautaro Martinez adding a third goal in the dying minutes, it is impossible not to highlight a worrying pattern that has characterised their recent outings. As much as their numbers look impressive, Inter often seem to struggle to convert their huge volume of offensive play into real opportunities or goals, an issue that already stopped them from earning all three points at Sampdoria, as they were held on a goalless draw.
The Nerazzurri’s defensive record has significantly improved since the turn of the year, as they registered six clean sheets from their first 11 games of 2023 played in all competitions, just one less than in the first five months of the season. At the same time, it looks like their search for a better balance has also ended up hindering their offensive efficiency, with just 10 Serie A goals scored from 8 games in the new year.
That means an average of 1.25 goals per game, compared to the 2.26 goals per game they had registered in Serie A from August until December. Yet, games against AC Milan, Sampdoria and then Udinese have made it clear that a more balanced approach is not enough to keep Inter safe from unpleasant surprises.
During all of the above-mentioned games the Nerazzurri often appeared in full control of the proceedings, but that wasn’t enough to either earn them comfortable wins or prevent their rivals from mustering dangerous opportunities. The Blucerchiati and the Rossoneri, just like Udinese, all wasted clear-cut chances when things were still in the balance and could have gone in a completely different way.
Inter must rediscover their offensive prowess
As much as fixing their defensive vulnerabilities was important, the Nerazzurri must be aware that their rearguard is still not as solid as it was in the past, and therefore should focus on maximising their offensive potential.
With Lautaro being in good form since the return from the World Cup and Edin Dzeko still showing impressive form for his age, Inzaghi should do everything within his power to get more goal contributions from his midfielders and wingers, a feature that allowed the Nerazzurri to be Serie A‘s best attack by far last season.
After all, the Udinese fixture once again showed how Inter still tend to lose their balance when they struggle to find a breakthrough, risking jeopardising all their defensive progress. And this is the reason why rediscovering their offensive prowess would be key to avoiding dropping points in games they already deserve to win.