Direct and ruthless: How Simone Inzaghi has tweaked his Inter side for the 2023/24 Serie A season

There was something different about the way that Simone Inzaghi's Inter side played during their win against Monza on Saturday night, as the coach starts to adapt to the summer's events.

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As the name and the face of Lautaro Martinez appeared on the scoreboard of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, seven minutes into Inter‘s first game of the season against Monza which ended in a 2-0 win, several things seemed to remain unchanged compared to the previous campaign.

The Nerazzurri’s best striker picked up from where he had left off, making it clear to everyone he’s already on course to score more than 20 Serie A goals for the third consecutive season.

A packed Meazza, with more than 70,000 fans in the stands despite a city emptied by the summer holidays, showed their gratitude and excitement for Inter‘s impressive display. There was a sense of urgency in the hosts’ approach to the game which highlighted their desire to start on the right foot and send a message to all their rivals.

At a closer look, though, there were evident signs of the deep transformation Simone Inzaghi‘s side are undergoing – Marcelo Brozovic was not at the heart of every build-up anymore, Yann Sommer‘s style with the ball at his feet was definitely less flamboyant and effective than Andre Onana‘s, and Romelu Lukaku‘s physicality up front was replaced by Marcus Thuram‘s quicker and skinnier legs.

Simone Inzaghi is revamping Inter once again

They were significant changes, that nevertheless seemed to be quickly absorbed by a side that displayed the same iron mentality of the closing months of last season. Inter’s opening minutes against the Biancorossi were impressive for the way the players, both old and new, looked connected as if the team chemistry was still fully intact in spite of the changes.

But in his third season at the helm, Simone Inzaghi’s skills as a tactical coach shouldn’t make headlines anymore – just like he was able to work around the past deficiencies, turning Hakan Calhanoglu into a fine holding midfielder or making Matteo Darmian a reliable option as a right centre-back, he is now gradually shaping a team able to enhance the skills of the new players.

Left devoid of Brozovic’s masterful passing abilities and positional play, the coach was aware that his team’s build-up was bound to change, which is why both Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella were constantly dropping deep to help the Nerazzurri retain a high degree of quality as they moved the ball from the back.

Similarly, the Croat’s departure inevitably affected Inter’s ability to elude the opponents’ pressure and keep possession for longer stretches, persuading Inzaghi to opt for a more vertical playing style that favours direct balls towards either the wingers or strikers as soon as a gap is found.

Who benefits from Inter’s vertical football?

Such an approach proved ideal in the game against Monza to help Marcus Thuram thrive in open spaces.

While he still needs to refine his scoring instinct and chemistry with Lautaro Martinez, the Frenchman proactively took part in Inter’s play by putting constant pressure on the ball carriers and threatening the opponents’ rearguard with his devastating runs forward, arguably preventing them from keeping their defensive line as high as Raffaele Palladino would’ve wished.

But Federico Dimarco and Denzel Dumfries also seemed to benefit from Inter’s more direct approach, their athletic ability clearly giving them an edge when it came to quickly making their way up the pitch either by combining with their teammates or beating their markers.

Juan Cuadrado‘s dribbling skills will add a further solution in this respect, as the Nerazzurri seem to be on the right track to becoming a team able to complete lethal transitions and potentially score goals with many different players, from the wingers to the strikers, not to mention the many goalscoring midfielders to which Davide Frattesi has been added.

Defensive additions still needed from the transfer market

At this stage, though, Inter still look like a rough diamond more than a finished product – even against a rusty Monza side, the Nerazzurri seemed fragile when the visitors found gaps in the final third with Gianluca Caprari and Andrea Colpani, which could’ve led to more than one potentially dangerous situation.

The focus and commitment showed by the hosts proved the difference on this occasion, but the feeling is that the Biscione’s defensive vulnerabilities could be easily exposed against those teams who are able to quickly attack in numbers straight after recovering the ball.

Marcus Thuram is replaced by substitute Marko Arnautovic. (@Inter)

As Inzaghi clearly stated after the match, a further addition in defence will be “crucial” for the Nerazzurri to fix the existing flaws, but in the meantime, he can be more than pleased by how his players have been able to make up for them.

If Inter manage to bring the mentality and attention to detail that led them to the Champions League final into this new Serie A season, then their coach’s work is likely to pay dividends as it has always done.

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