Hakan Calhanoglu scout report: How his technical ability fits Inzaghi’s Inter
Despite being crowned Serie A 2020/21 champions, Inter Milan have one of the most difficult summers covered in uncertainty around the club’s future and the squad. Their most important player Romelu Lukaku just rejoined his old club Chelsea, and while they got a hefty sum for the striker, it will be difficult to replace him as the top goal scorer from last season.
They sold their right-back Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain which will undoubtedly affect their performance too. Hakimi turned into a crucial figure since his arrival last year which caught PSG’s attention and they immediately made a move to sign him.
Their second striker Lautaro Martínez is also rumoured to leave as many clubs have interest in him, which could leave the Nerazzurri in a difficult position and being unable to defend their title.
On a positive note, they will be led by Simone Inzaghi, who proved to be one of the most promising managers in Serie A in the last few years and he replaces Antonio Conte who parted ways with the club after his title-winning campaign.
In terms of players, though, their only notable arrival so far is Hakan Çalhanoğlu who joins after a successful spell with the city rivals AC Milan. The Turkish international was key for Milan as Stefano Pioli successfully built the team around him and they complimented his movement and actions.
Inzaghi’s vision and Inter’s current squad situation
Inzaghi, who spent five years in charge of Lazio, favours the 3-5-2 formation and strictly stick to a back-three scheme in the last few seasons with his ex-club. His preferred set-up made him a perfect match for Inter, who stormed through the Serie A in the same formation under Conte and the players seemed perfectly suited to this strategy.
While the foundation is still there, it will be difficult for Inzaghi to pick up from where his predecessor left, due to the absence of some of the key links as the aforementioned Lukaku and Hakimi. Christian Eriksen is most certainly going to miss the season too, which means that the new manager won’t have many options in certain positions. While they might try to replace the striker with Alexis Sánchez and Eriksen with Çalhanoğlu, they won’t have any decent backup options in cases of injuries or in need of tactical rotations. Luckily, Inter still have some strong presence in midfield who can build a solid partnership with the new attacking midfielder.
The team need a few new additions in order to continue to operate in a back three as they currently lack the quality on the sides and many of their more experienced players are already past their peak age.
It is expected, though, that the new coach will try to implement attacking football focusing their efforts in creating chances through positional rotations and heavily relying on counter-attacking actions. Although Inter will suffer some decrease in their counter-attacking efficiency after Lukaku’s departure, Inzaghi still has pacey players who can do justice in these situations, with Çalhanoğlu being one of them.
Not only he could contribute to starting counters but his creativity and passing range could be key for the team’s actions in front of the goal.
Inzaghi would try to build a press-resistant team that can comfortably build-up from the back and advance the ball through a lot of movement. He would most probably instruct the strikers to constantly move around in the advanced areas and would try to commit as many players in the opposition half as possible. In the next sections, we will explain how Çalhanoğlu could fit that strategy.
Ball progression and passing range
The Turkish international could support the ball progression quite well, with him providing a quality passing option to his teammates and also with a solid passing range to distribute the ball further to key areas. His attacking midfield position most frequently finds him between the central line and the edge of the box where he exploits spaces and also acts as a passing outlet, supporting the attacking actions.
His positional sense and passing abilities make him a great addition to Inter’s midfield and would allow the team to build up from the back efficiently. He can offer different solutions in attack as his movement not only provides additional passing options but also successfully opens the passing lanes by dragging players out of position. With a wide passing range and strong spatial awareness, he has developed into an effective playmaker who has a pivotal role for his teams.
He could either spread the ball out and move into a more advanced position off it or successfully carry it through the central channels and create goalscoring opportunities centrally.
The new arrival could combine well with both Nicolò Barella and Stefano Sensi if Inzaghi is willing to set the team up in a 3-4-1-2, which Conte occasionally used last season. He used Sánchez behind the strikers, who will now most likely move next to Martínez leaving the attacking midfield spot for Çalhanoğlu. This would be the most suitable scheme for the 27-year-old who played in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Milan.
Creativity and impact in the final third
Çalhanoğlu’s creativity is crucial in the final third. He could provide quality through balls and smart passes to his teammates but also provides a direct threat to the goal. He is more efficient in his supporting role where he creates chances for his teammates, though, as he finished the season with nine assists.
He moves out wide to contribute with link-up-play and cuts back inside, exploiting spaces successfully, while his spatial awareness also helps him in setting his teammates up in quality positions in and around the box. He provided 2.72 shot assists per 90 last term and had a constant presence in the final third.
With his progressive runs, he often breaks through the oppositions’ pressing structures and moves into dangerous areas. Whenever he is unable to take on his markers or provide the ball to his teammates, he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot. The 27-year-old could provide Inter with an additional threat from outside the box. He produced 2.75 shots per 90 and adds more value in attack.
Another part of Çalhanoğlu’s skillset is his set-piece proficiency and it is almost certain that he will be assigned with the free-kicks responsibility.
As our analysis shows, the midfielder’s technical skillset could fit well Inzaghi’s tactics at Inter, especially should the manager use him in a back three formation similarly to his strategy at Lazio.
Undoubtedly, the Italian wouldn’t transfer all of his tactics to the Nerazzurri but it is expected that there will be certain similarities that could make the use of Çalhanoğlu very beneficial.