The curtain has come down on the ultimate Nerazurri rollercoaster which saw tremendous highs, such as the 0-7 demolition of Sassuolo which promised so much, and the electrifying 3-1 send off for Javier Zanetti, and dismal lows, like the appalling 0-1 loss to Milan in what must go down as one of the poorest derbys in recent memory. The season, like the previous one under Stramaccioni, offered so much in the beginning as the Nerazzurri flew out of the blocks and gave the fans hopes of fighting it out for the title only for it all to collapse, like the season earlier, into a series of poor performances and lifeless displays. Coach Walter Mazzarri has watched his value plummet over the course of the last year as he has struggled, in a manner uncannily similar to David Moyes’ struggles at Manchester United, to deal with a club the size and scope of Internazionale. By the time the final whistle was blown after a dismal but strangely apt loss to Chievo Verona, he was surely already thinking about getting away for a break to clear the head and refresh himself for what will be a do or die season. We also saw the final changing of the guard, as those legends of the treble said their last goodbyes, their era is over at the club and fans now look toward the strange prospect of seeing at least some of these men taking the field in uniforms other than the blue and black of Inter. But with all the drama now over on the pitch, it is time for reflection of a season gone by. Here are five thoughts related to the season that was 2013/2014 with perspective of building toward next season.
- Inter have the makings of a good team already in their squad.
Despite the wealth of unnecessary and mediocre talent holding fort on the bench at Inter, there are a number of excellent players that will surely be the spine of a new Inter. In Mauro Icardi, Mateo Kovacic, Juan Jesus, Inter have an excellent core of outrageously gifted youngsters in key positions. Add to that Rodrigo Palacio, Hernanes, Vidic and Handanovic (if he stays), then Inter have the makings of a solid starting lineup. A few key reinforcements and the promotion of some talented youth should be enough to make this team good enough to be in the mix for at least the Champions League places.
- Fredy Guarin and Ricky Alvarez are not Inter quality players
It is tough to pick on one or two players when assessing a team sport but these two have divided opinion since they have arrived. Both have tremendous assets which can get the crowd on their feet, get people excited and cause enormous problems for opponents. Guarin has an explosivity that can take him past opponents and a shot like a cannon. Alvarez has incredible dribbling abilities and can take on and beat his man on regular occasions, he too also has a handy shot. Unfortunately both have handicaps that mean they simply cannot be part of a club that wants to be challenging for top honours. Guarin plays for himself too much; his option taking is poor too often and he is lacksidasical in defence, often letting the man he is supposed to be marking have a free reign in attack. He cannot play in an attacking roll because of his poor option taking causes too many attacks to break down and cannot play further back because of his poor defensive work. He is therefore a luxury that Inter cannot afford to have. He gets the crowd going but is not disciplined enough tactically.
Alvarez has another problem. He works hard for the team and seems like an honest player. Unfortunately he has no vision. He gets into space but plays with his head down too much and misses far too many chances to play in his team-mates when he gets the chance. He needs too much time to find his passes and therefore misses the opportunities he opens up for himself. Over the couple of seasons I have watched both these players my assessment of them hasn’t changed, which suggests that these are flaws that will not be remedied any time soon.
- Walter Mazzarri needs to release the shackles a bit to get the best out of his players.
It was a momentous occasion Javier Zanetti’s final home match. Emotions were running high and there was a desperate hope amongst the fans that the players would send their captain out on a high. What struck most who watched the game however, was the party mood that the players appeared to be in. The substitutes could be seen smiling and making jokes, while those on the pitch appeared totally at ease, free of the fear of losing. It was as if the moment itself was larger than the match itself, like nothing could ruin this night. This fact seemed to take all the pressure off the players and enable them to play with a freedom not seen previously under Mazzarri. It seemed the players believed that they could not lose on this day, even after going behind so early. Heads stayed up, attacking intent remained at the fore and positivity reigned. The players played like they knew they would win, something I personally do not remember seeing in Inter since Mourinho, when they played every match believing that they would win even when behind. If Mazzarri is to succeed at Inter he has to firstly believe this to be the case, and he needs to convince the players of the same thing. It is not enough to think that you will win at Inter, you must be believe it.
- This could really finally be the start of a new phase
Season 2013/2014 was the real ‘year zero’ for Inter after several false starts and Erik Thorir is the driving force behind the new age. The retirement and departure of several of the greats of Inter, coupled with a seemingly more streamlined and sensible policy in regards to the squad has begun to show signs of creating an Inter that is competitive in the new age of football. Alongside the development of a core of future stars, Inter have also begun clearing up the bureaucratic and inefficient backroom setup that has plagued Inter for the last few seasons, and moved to modernise and streamline it into a modern functional apparatus. The introduction of more foreign talent, conversant in English and familiar with the global markets that will be key to Inter remaining in the upper echelon of football’s hierarchy, has been bought in clearly signalling a willingness to truly turn Inter into a global brand. This move away from the traditional system, often based on cronyism, into a more merit based one can only be good for the club particularly over the middle to long term.
- Inter’s senators will be missed
Cambiasso, Samuel, Milito and of course Zanetti. Four names that will reverberate in Nerazzurri folklore for years to come. Four greats who wrote not just one but many chapters into the page’s of Inter’s history books. Add to them those heroes who left in seasons gone by, Chivu, Stankovic, Sneijder, Cordoba, all great names, all from an era of Inter’s history that must now be filed away with the Grande Inter of the 60’s. No doubt it was a tough decision to let these men go, particularly Cambiasso who still commanded a starting spot in this team, but it was also undoubtedly the right one. A clean break; a chance to build on new foundations. Despite this decision being the correct these players will also be missed, not just by the players who looked up to them but also by the fans who will need to find new heroes to cling onto, to become the faces of the Nerazzurri. It is time for this new generation to fill the massive hole in the club, to start writing the next chapter in the history of Inter. These young men have hidden behind the giant shadows cast over them by the legends they play alongside, it is now time for them to step into the limelight, face the fury and the fawning of the fans, and take the club upon their own shoulders.
As a fan I would love to see Cambiasso sitting on the bench of the Nerazzurri one day. The bald midfielder has shown a great aptitude for leadership and organisation and it would be great to see him take this journey with the Inter family, perhaps starting off as an assistant to Diego Simeone in a couple of years!