Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has a difficult decision to make over the remaining weeks of the season, as he tries to balance four midfield stars into three positions. With Hakan Calhanoglu, Nicolo Barella, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Marcelo Brozovic all vying for a start, a key name is set to be left disappointed.
As reported in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Inzaghi is committed to his three-man central midfield tactic, with a deep-lying figure flanked by two more advanced players, whilst the width is provided by wingbacks.
Whilst the Nerazzurri have a congested calendar across Serie A and the Champions League over the final months of the campaign and there is the opportunity for Inzaghi to rotate, a number of key fixtures may see the ex-Lazio coach forced to decide on his preferred three and stick with them for the most crucial games.
Barella and Mkhitaryan stake their claims
Currently, Italy international Barella appears to have secured his place in the starting line-up as an energetic midfielder capable of moving between the boxes, and it is felt that he is the least likely to drop out.
The former Cagliari man has not been utilised in a different role under Inzaghi, whilst his absence was felt when he was rested during their 1-0 defeat to Bologna, whilst they struggled to a 2-1 win over bottom club Cremonese when Barella was suspended.
Meanwhile, Mkhitaryan has found form since joining from AS Roma as a free agent in the summer, with the ex-Armenia international able to provide telling runs in behind the strikers and given a freer role that had previously been occupied by Calhanoglu.
With the veteran former Manchester United and Arsenal midfielder becoming increasingly influential, Inter have found an outlet to create chances and have been rewarded with more goals from Mkhitaryan.
Calhanoglu putting Brozovic’s future in doubt
Arguably the biggest competition for a place is being fought between Calhanoglu and Brozovic, with the former benefitting from a long-term injury sustained by the latter in September.
With Brozovic picking up a thigh strain on international duty for Croatia and missing much of the calendar prior to the World Cup break, Calhanoglu dropped into the deeper midfield role and excelled.
Indeed, the 2021 signing from AC Milan has established himself as a deep-lying playmaker and his influence in front of the defence has been crucial for Inter this term, making it difficult for Brozovic to force his way back into Inzaghi’s plans as the coach continues to favour Calhanoglu.
The former Dinamo Zagreb man was not helped by a further injury sustained during Croatia’s 3-0 defeat to Argentina in the World Cup semi-final, ruling him out for the first month of the return of Serie A action in January.
Whereas Brozovic was once considered indispensable to the Nerazzurri, his future at Inter is increasingly in doubt.