Inter dropped another two points in the Serie A title race by only mustering a draw away at Lecce. The youngster Alessandro Bastoni got Inter’s goal before Lecce equalised through Marco Mancosu. Inter will be very disappointed not to have won the game, in which they had 21 shots, eight of which were on target, and an xG of 1.94 compared to Lecce’s of 1.0. This tactical analysis will look at some of the tactical aspects of the game, particularly focussing on Lecce’s defensive tactics and Inter’s attacking methods.
Lecce lined up in a very cautious 5-3-2 as it seemed as though the coach, Fabio Liverani, wanted to condense space centrally with a compact defensive shape. Still, he fielded two out-and-out strikers in Khouma Babacar and former AC Milan striker Gianluca Lapadula.
Antonio Conte stuck to his traditional 3-5-2 which saw Milan Škriniar return at Bastoni’s expense while Nicolò Barella returned to midfield to finally complete Conte’s first-choice trio of him, Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozović.
Tactical analysis: Lecce’s defensive tactics
As mentioned, Lecce set up in a very cautious 5-3-2 that looked to condense space centrally and force Inter into the wide areas. Lecce rarely engaged Inter by pressing high up the pitch, but rather dropped deep into their own half and started defended from there. As a result, Inter could largely build from the back without any trouble. Statistically, Lecce allowed 36.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) which highlights the passive nature of their defending. By contrast, Inter’s PPDA was 11.2.
In the image below, we can see Lecce’s defensive structure quite clearly. A back-five, three central midfielders and two strikers form a structure that should be hard to break through in central areas while leaving the flanks quite open.
In their own defensive third, Lecce were extremely compact, sometimes even too compact which led to the midfield almost ending up in the defensive line which of course made them too open in midfield. However, Lecce were mostly well-organised and made it difficult for Inter to play through them. In the image below, we can see how compact they often were in deep areas.
Despite the impressive defensive structure, and the positional nature of it, Inter managed to use their quality and excellent combination play to carve Lecce open and create superb chances. This is what I will look at next.
Inter’s attacking patterns
Due to Lecce’s deep defending, Inter could easily progress the ball into the attacking half. Without pressure on the back-three, the wider centre-backs would often push very high, as seen in the image below where Diego Godín is prepared to push very high when waiting for the switch from left to right. Inter’s wing-backs, Antonio Candreva and Cristiano Biraghi, always maintained width while the midfield three was set up as below with Brozović central and Barella and Sensi pushed high either side of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez.
One method that Inter consistently use to progress the ball and create chances is passing into the strikers after space has been opened up by wide movements by the central midfielders. We can see such an example below as Barella moves wide, emptying his zone and opening up a passing line from Godín to Lukaku.
When the ball then reaches the strikers, Inter’s combination play is mostly excellent. We saw glimpses of this against Lecce as Lukaku, in particular, helped create a few really good chances. The image below highlights one of these combinations. Here, Sensi plays the ball into Lukaku. The Belgian instantly lays it off to Martínez in-behind the defence, capitalising on the forward’s third-man run.
Another example can be seen below. This was probably Inter’s best chance of the first half. After receiving the ball from the right, Brozović plays it first time into Lukaku. The striker holds off the defender and returns it to the Croatian, who has made a run on the other side of the midfielder. Brozović then finishes well but the shot hits the post.
Inter had a few more opportunities from attacks like these and will rue their inability to score more than the goal they ended up getting in the second half when Bastoni headed in from a cross.
Lecce’s direct attacks
Lecce only had 35% possession and spent most game defending, but they still managed to create a few decent chances as well as score a late equaliser. They had some interesting ideas about how to progress the ball to hurt Inter. Firstly, let’s look at their pass map. As you can see, they mostly had possession in their own half.
By contrast, compare that one above to Inter’s below. The comparison really shows which team was the dominant one in terms of ball possession.
When building out from the back, the deepest midfielder, Jacopo Petriccione, would drop deep to get on the ball. This created a numerical advantage which Lecce often used to have one of the centre-backs step into midfield to break the first line of Inter’s pressing. In the image below, left-sided centre-back Cristian Dell’Orco moves into midfield and receives the pass from Petriccione which allows Lecce to progress the ball cleanly.
Mostly, though, Lecce looked to progress the ball with longer passes towards their front-two. The movement and combination play between the two looked promising, as when creating the chance highlighted below. Firstly, Dell’Orco played a long ball towards Babacar. The striker swiftly flicked it into the path of his strike partner Lapadula who made a smart run into the space beside the defender Babacar had already engaged in the aerial battle. The former Italian international’s shot was not the best, but it was at least a chance.
Lecce often looked for long passes into the strikers and would then look to turn the ball wide into their wing-backs in the hope that they could catch Inter’s counterparts out and gain some space in the wide areas to cross. This worked well on some occasions but, mostly, Inter won the ball back quite quickly.
As this analysis has shown, Lecce’s compact defence made it difficult for Inter, but the Nerazzurri still created enough chances to win the game. However, their finishing let them down on the day, and that led to them losing a further two points on Juventus in the title race.