Antonio Conte is known for his clear approach and vision, which he proved once more taking over Inter. He immediately transformed them into Serie A title contenders, creating a well-balanced team with an outstanding attack in the face of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez who have scored the impressive number of 27 goals between each other.
Conte has always been very particular in his strategy on the transfer market too, following certain players who could embrace his tactics. Obviously, the decision to bring Lukaku proved right, but although the team perform pretty solid in every area of the pitch, he needed to bring some more depth to the squad and make sure he has the right players for his five-man midfield line.
That’s how Inter signed Christian Eriksen from Tottenham in the winter transfer window, relying on his experience and impressive abilities on the ball. The Danish was linked with a tremendous amount of clubs throughout the years, but only now it seemed like the logical decision to move on from Spurs.
How he could fit the 3-5-2 formation
Conte’s all-time favourite set-up – the 3-5-2 fit Inter’s players like a glove and they didn’t have trouble adjusting to the new coach’s strategy. Having two strong individualities upfront, some of the toughest defenders at the back and a full-packed midfield with a pivot like Marcelo Brozović, Conte’s team was able to quickly transform into a nightmare for their opponents.
Eriksen has rarely contributed to 3-5-2 formation back at Spurs since he was more used to the 4-2-3-1. He though lost his regular starting spot once he expressed his intention to leave in the summer. At Tottenham, he had a few responsibilities – from being one of the main creators in the team to going back and helping defensively when needed.
Having a flatter five-man midfield line suggests that the team stay more compact and limit the space between the lines. Splitting the players’ responsibilities in order to provide the needed defensive support when needed but also press the opponent in efforts to advance the ball is also crucial.
Eriksen could be helpful in a few different approaches. Inter frequently use their wing-backs as additional attacking options, which would make him very important for retaining possession in the midfield, supporting Brozović, and spreading out wide to the wing-backs who would then deliver the ball to the final third.
If the team decides to switch to attacking through the middle, Eriksen might be a good option for advancing the ball, positioning a little forward than the rest of the midfield line, being the main source of through balls for the attacking duo. His ability to send long balls behind the defence and shoot from distance could also be helpful against teams employing low-blocks, limiting the attacking players’ space for movement. The long balls could also be of use to switch play and escape the pressure.
Putting the Danish into more of a 3-4-1-2 position though could completely transform their approach, with him focusing mainly on his attacking service and applying high press, troubling the opposition build-up.
Is Sensi’s place threatened?
With the current Inter squad, Eriksen is most likely going to fight for a starting spot with Stefano Sensi. But would that be the right decision?
Looking into both players’ strengths and weaknesses you could see many similarities, which makes it even harder for Conte to decide who is going to be the regular starter. The good news is though, that he now has two solid players on for that position.
Both players enjoy shooting from distance and sending a long ball to the final third. Despite not getting enough playing time Eriksen was still one of the main creative sources for Spurs, providing through balls and key passes from all over the pitch. Sensi has a similar function at Inter, performing impressively well as attacking support and sourcing the final third with his smart passes. The Italian has higher passing accuracy (86,1%), compared to his fellow teammate (81,1%). Sensi’s deliveries to the final third are less frequent but more efficient.
They both have proven to be a great threat at attacking set-pieces and would sometimes contribute with crosses. Sensi though is performing better when it comes to stealing the ball from the opposition and creating chances off of that due to his confidence on the ball. He is a strong dribbler and performs impressively well in 1vs1 situations.
He intercepts quite often, helping the team to do a quick turnover. Eriksen, on the other side, has a better record in winning defensive duels, although he rarely dives into physical ones. Having a defensive awareness is very important since the Nerazzurri opponents would try to expose them on a counter.
Both of them are performing poorly in the air, winning a tiny amount of their aerial duels. That is quite risky, since losing the ball midway could cost the team a lot, cutting the defenders’ time to react and putting them under greater pressure.
Could he improve Inter’s full-packed attack?
The new addition’s positioning into the half-spaces and using them to provide key passes to the attackers could be extremely complementary to Lukaku’s and Martínez’s movement. They are both players with a great sense of positioning and control on the ball, and having someone to constantly move around and support their actions could boost their performance even more.
As already mentioned the ex-Tottenham player is a solid set-piece taker, which could add extra strength to Inter’s actions when attacking set-pieces. They have been unstoppable scoring eight goals from these opportunities so far, separately from their seven penalties.
Eriksen might help for creating more counter-attacks. Dropping five players into defence when out of possession (5-3-2) would give him the freedom to stay further and wait for the ball. Lukaku is often dropping back, using his physical strength and strong aerial ability to gain back possession, and having additional player midway to make a pass combination with and escape his markers could improve the team’s efficiency on a counter noticeably.
Christian Eriksen is a good addition to Inter’s squad both as a starter or as a sub. He gives more attacking versatility and can offer a creative solution to the tiniest struggles the team have in their frontline. In this analysis, we explained his similarities with Sensi, showing that it might be hard on Conte to choose between them. Eriksen’s experience would be highly valued, especially against teams defending deep, since he could help to break the defences with his creativity. He is versatile when it comes to positioning which would allow Conte to make more drastic in-game changes if needed.