Internazionale 2023/2024: How Inzaghi will adapt the UCL finalists in possession after summer exits – scout report
The upcoming Serie A season is set to be one of the most entertaining iterations yet, with many players who have been loyal servants for their sides moving on to new challenges. With Internazionale, this is very much the case, with players such as Milan Škriniar and Edin Džeko leaving the side for free, Romelu Lukaku’s loan spell coming to an end and the likes of Marcelo Brozović leaving for a fee to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
The side has managed to retain some key players, with their wing-back pairing of Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco still at the club and players such as Lautaro Martínez and Nicoló Barella. In addition to this, the signings of Marcus Thuram and Yann Aurel Bisseck have been brought in to replace the outgoing key players from last season.
With their local rivals AC Milan strengthening significantly, as well as the fact that Napoli are likely to retain Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Simone Inzaghi has a difficult task on his hands in maintaining a title challenge this upcoming season.
This scout report and tactical analysis will look at the fundamental tactics of Interanzionale’s build-up last season and whether or not Inzaghi has appeared to make any adjustments in their pre-season matches.
Internazionale Build up and attack
With 64 goals scored in the previous season from open play and 71 in total, Internazionale were one of the most potent attacking sides in the division, with only the scudetto holders Napoli bettering them in this metric.
Internazionale last season were able to create excellent opportunities when pressed relatively aggressively due to the superiorities they were able to create in the first two-thirds, through committing many players to “deeper” areas in the earlier stages of build-up as well as the positions of these players. This would allow them to maintain a controlled tempo, allowing them to circulate the ball before waiting for the right opportunity to inject speed into their movement and passing actions.
This can be seen in the image below, with goalkeeper André Onana basically becoming a centre-back, with Francesco Acerbi advancing into a midfield position. Due to Onana’s ability on the ball, one of the centre-backs can take up slightly more advanced positions with Inter, as a result, able to create a 3v1 in the first line of build-up and a 4v3 in the second line of build-up.
As a result of these superiorities, Inter’s back three are able to circulate the ball from signed to side at a relatively calm pace, with Inzaghi often being seen gesturing on the touchline for the back line to maintain their composure during build-up.
Inter do not rush to play the ball forward but look for good moments to do so, waiting for gaps in the opposition that allow them to play very advanced passes forward to their attackers, who are all very capable of holding up the ball.
This can be seen in the example below; with Bastoni on the ball, Acerbi begins to make intentional movements to his right to open up the space between the two opposition midfielders, allowing Bastoni to play a pass that can dissect the lines of the opposition’s structure.
The midfielders that have dropped deep from these positions look to burst forward to support the player receiving the ball. One of the strikers and other players in the midfield look to position themselves to receive lay-offs from the player receiving the ball, whilst other players look to make runs to take advantage of the spaces that the opposition have left free.
Through committing many players in the first two-thirds, Inter’s strike pairing can be left in 1v1s against opposition defenders. In the example below, after receiving the ball, Lukaku lays the ball off to Martínez before bursting through the backline and going on to score.
Inter build-up in order to set up passing opportunities that allow them to play through as many lines as possible, with the side appearing not to look to progress the ball through any particular area of the pitch but rather where the best opportunity for these types of passes present themselves.
From central areas, such as in the previous example, when the opportunity presents itself, the goalkeeper or the centre-backs will look to play a pass directly to one of the strikers.
In the wide areas, the signal for this forward pass is a player moving to receive a pass with their back to the opposition goal and when moving towards their own. From these positions, if the angle allows, they will look to play passes forward with speed, with this pass changing the speed of the side’s build-up, with the following passes becoming one touch.
This can be seen in the example below with Dimarco receiving the ball from Acerbi; he then plays a one-touch pass to Joaquín Correa, who then plays a one-touch pass to Henrikh Mkhitaryan. This highlights the importance of players moving towards the player receiving the ball in order to support them and maintain a speed of play that allows them to move from one end of the pitch to another at high speed.
The image below highlights the significant aspects of Inter’s principles in build-up. Onana receives the ball from the centre-backs. Due to the lack of significant opposition pressure, pressure holds onto it and slows the game down until Denzel Dumfries drops deeper and makes himself available for a pass.
With his back to goal and space as well as time, Dumfries is aware that this is the optimal moment for him to try and look to speed up play and takes one touch before passing the ball to Romelu Lukaku, with the striker moving towards the right-hand side, occupying the space that the opposition’s left full-back has vacated.
Lukaku then takes a touch before playing a pass to Lautaro Martínez, who moves towards the Belgian to provide an option for a lay-off. Martínez would then play a first-time pass to DiMarco, who looks to move into the space vacated by the opposition right-back, who moves centrally in order to cover the space left by the centre-back.
Inter’s slow and steady build-up is characterised by players moving the ball to create opportunities to play the furthest forward pass possible, which requires the players to have the ability to read different situations to surmise whether or not they can access players in advanced areas with a pass.
If the situation allows for this, the speed of their passes can increase, and the time players spend with the ball at their feet drastically reduces. Players near the ball look to support the receiver of the pass, whilst others further away look to attack spaces left by the opposition, some of which are created due to Inter committing nine players in deeper areas of the pitch.
In this regard, the athleticism of their wing-backs can be fully taken advantage of, with Dimarco and Dumfries able to shuttle between deeper and more advanced positions incredibly quickly.
Inter, in slightly more advanced areas, are also capable of playing long balls directly to their wing-backs who look to make runs attacking the last line of defence; this can be seen in the image below.
In the final third, Inter will look to create attacking opportunities through the wide areas, with their midfielders and the centre-backs moving towards wide areas to support the player on the ball. The rest of the players look to move into positions in the box.
This can be seen in the image below, with four Inter players moving towards the wide areas as Roberto Gagliardini, Raoul Bellanova, and Lukaku move into the box.
Inter’s structure in the opposition’s half and their positioning suggests that they do not necessarily set themselves up to sustain attacking pressure through calm and composed build-up as they do in their own third.
Instead, if there are no clear inroads, Inter play the ball backwards in order to cause the opposition to step up, once again in an attempt to create space and gaps for them to play the ball forward with speed; this can be seen in the example below, with Inter passing the ball from the left-hand side to their centre-backs, causing Sassulo to step up.
A pass is then played from the back to Lukaku, who uses Correa’s supporting run as a decoy before turning and shooting.
How will Inzaghi adapt?
From their pre-season friendlies, it does not appear as if Inter are looking to make any sweeping changes to the methods that aided their deep UEFA Champions League run as well as their third-placed finish.
Below, Inter’s typical structure in build-up can be seen, with De Vrij advancing slightly forward into the midfield with Yann Sommer, Onana’s replacement, given the ball-playing responsibility of the centre-back. Dumfries can also be seen dropping deeper to receive the ball.
Like Inter would have done last season, Dumfries looks to take a touch before looking to find Correa with a long ball.
After regaining the second ball, Inter looks to play in their left wing-back Dimarco, with the player running into space.
With the side losing the likes of Džeko and Lukaku, Inter will no longer have a solid aerial and physical presence to hold up play and receive forward passes as consistently. With Lukaku and Džeko, Inter had strikers able to outpower their opponents and use their first few touches to bring others into the game.
In this regard, Marcus Thuram is not a like-for-like player. Although possessing a large frame, Thuram’s game is not built around utilising his physical attributes. Thuram is excellent in tight spaces, carrying the ball well and capable of dribbling past his opponent.
The image below shows how Thuram excelled in carrying the ball last season, especially from wider areas. Due to the aspects of his game, it will be fascinating to see whether Inzaghi looks to adapt his approach in order to accommodate the striker more or will try to mould the striker to fit into the system.
However, through pre-season, it has appeared as though Thuram will be expected to drop deeper to create a passing option for players in deeper areas of the field. The image below shows this with Thuram dropping deeper in order to receive a pass from Bastoni, with the Frenchman taking a touch before laying off the ball.
Although this is expected of Thuram, it does appear as if Thuram’s strike partner will look to move from left to right more in order to alleviate some of the responsibility to drop deeper. This can be seen in the image below, with Martínez, who started the game on the right side, shifting towards the left. This may give Thuram more freedom to look to attack spaces left by the opposition rather than look to link-up play. There may be more rotation than in the past between Inter’s strike pairing.
The loss of Brozović has led to Hakan Çalhanoğlu dropping deeper into the DM position. Although capable technically of being able to play the type of forward passes Brozović would, there have been signs that the Turkey international may struggle regarding the positional responsibilities of the role.
A small example of this can be seen in the image below, where after Thuram receives a flick-on pass from Barella, the Frenchman has no options to lay off a pass to, with Çalhanoğlu still in a deeper position at the time, the striker receives the pass. It is likely that Inzaghi may look to integrate Kristjan Asslani into the side as the season progresses or bring in a defensive midfielder before the end of the window.
This tactical analysis has provided an overview of Inter Milan’s principles in build-up. With many key exits and only a few incoming, it may take a few months before Inter are able to play with the same cohesion as they did in the previous season.
However, it is unlikely that the side will look to overhaul their system entirely and continue utilising their patient build-up, followed by actions to attack the opposition quickly. With Sommer in goal, they can still circulate the ball at the back relatively comfortably.