“This match smells of drama”, were the words uttered by a journalist sitting next to me in the press box midway through the second half of Inter‘s 2-1 win over Verona on Serie A Matchday 20.
This has been a familiar feeling for those inside the Stadio Guiseppe Meazza in recent years. During this campaign, though, the feeling that their matches could suddenly spin out of control became less frequent, as Inter began to to finish off their opponents long before the final whistle through their authoritative, and at times, spectacular displays.
Yet, even after going ahead through Lautaro Martinez, it was clear how Simone Inzaghi‘s side lacked their usual spark which left most of their rivals with no answer, as Verona gradually realised that they were able to pose more threat than probably expected.
Marco Baroni‘s bold instructions to his side, with at least three attacking players constantly inside the Nerazzurri’s half and tasked with hindering the hosts’ build-up from the back, were crucial in making Inter look more fragile than usual, suggesting they needed to increase their advantage to avoid late plot twists.
Inter’s reaction reassures Simone Inzaghi
In the end, Inter‘s second goal didn’t come soon enough and the drama played out, but not in the way as many fans in the stands feared.
The Nerazzurri were pegged back but, unlike the previous times in which they found themselves in a similar situation, against Sassuolo and Bologna, they managed to mount a reaction that led to three points.
Marko Arnautovic‘s miss from point-blank range and Alessandro Bastoni‘s crossbar hit were the prelude to Davide Frattesi‘s winner, which embodied all the desire of a team that were desperate to get a crucial win in a period where they are at risk of slipping into poor form.
Inter were also undoubtedly lucky to survive the final dramatic minutes that saw Thomas Henry send a last-gasp penalty against the post, but their character and will to react to adversity is something Simone Inzaghi can be satisfied with.
Will Inter’s loss of spark hinder their consistency?
On the other hand, the Biscione’s latest difficult victory over Verona was preceded by another meek 1-1 draw at Genoa, during which they once again struggled to tame their opponents in a tight contest.
After an impressive past few months, Inter are probably losing a bit of their brilliance, both physically and mentally. While it could be a physiological issue, Inzaghi should not forget how their poor runs of form have ended up jeopardising their campaigns in the recent past.
Back in 2021/2022, the Nerazzurri picked up seven points from seven games across February and March, which ruined their title challenge against AC Milan much more than their infamous loss at Bologna marked by Ionut Radu‘s mistake.
Similarly, they lost five games in a run of seven in 2022/23, which led to a dangerous final stretch of the season during which they temporarily dropped out of the top four before their form eventually recovered as they closed in on the Champions League final.
Inter‘s next couple of months will tell how much Inzaghi and the team have learned from their past when it comes to handling the second half of the season and the dips in form that it can bring.
Their recent displays against Genoa and Verona suggest that one of the most challenging times of the season is about to start, and the way they cope with it is likely to be a deciding factor in the Scudetto race.