Inter lacking as Roma go leg up in Coppa

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Sunday's league draw at Roma left me feeling unemotional, and even a little bored by the end. Three days later in the same stadium things couldn't have been more different. For the full 90 minutes I was on the edge of my seat, riding the emotional roller coaster that comes with supporting Inter Milan.

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This to be fair is a fairly common situation when supporting the Nerazzurri - just ask any Interista and they will tell you the stress we have to go through for the love of our club. During this Coppa Italia semifinal I, like most fans watching, experienced disbelief, frustration, anger, confusion, dread, relief, hope, joy, more anger, and of course a lot more frustration as Inter fell to a 2-1 defeat.

I'll start with the positives I've drawn from this fixture. Firstly, the semifinal is played over two legs, and Inter have managed to take an away goal into the return match at the Giuseppe Meazza, meaning they still have a chance of success. The other advantage that has come from this is that the second leg has been postponed from the original schedule of next week, and will now be played April 17 instead.

How is this an advantage, you may ask? Well, with the form Inter have been in recently they may have struggled to make it to the final with the game next week, but now there is a chance that the Nerazzurri will be back in form by April which will hopefully give them the boost they need to overcome Roma for the first time since 2011.

In this game, as I will explain shortly, Inter's performance was terrible to say the least, but for me two players stood out as giving their all for the team - it may come as no surprise they were Fredy Guarin and Juan Jesus.

Guarin has improved his game hugely this season with Inter, using his power and strength to not only make important challenges, but also to force his way up field creating chances for both himself and his teammates. He was unlucky to not get on the scoresheet against Roma Wednesday; he smashed a powerful shot into the upright and made sure he was constantly pushing himself for the sake of his team.

Juan Jesus too was a rock in the Inter defence, chasing every ball that came into his zone, making crucial tackles, and even dribbling forward into attack - Lucio style - on several occasions. Seeing what an accomplished defender Juan is becoming is a fantastic achievement for the Brazilian, especially when you remember he is still only 21. Do not be surprised if in a few years time this kid is the best centre back in the world, and hopefully still proudly wearing the Nerazzurri shirt.

So that's the few positives, now for the other side. The main problem was the formation, or more accurately the players in it. Andrea Stramaccioni chose to play it safe for the away fixture using a 3-5-1-1. In my opinion, he did this to shut out the Roma attack by dominating the midfield to give Inter the best advantage going into the second leg.

I can see the logic in this. However, the five midfield he chose were Joel Obi on the right wing, Alvaro Periera on the left, and then Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambaisso and the youngster Marco Benassi covering the centre, a combination that just wasn't capable of containing the Roma attack.

First I'll look at Obi, who was substituted for Yuto Nagatomo in the second half. He was constantly caught out of position by both Federico Balzaretti and Francesco Totti, leaving a wide open path for the Gaillorossi to take advantage of. Also, considering he was meant to be playing an advanced wingback position, I did not once witness him track back to defend.

This obviously created more work for Andrea Ranocchia and Zanetti. who constantly had to sacrifice their roles to cover Obi's failings. I am an Obi fan, but in my opinion he was played in the wrong position, and during his time on the pitch the rest of the right-sided players suffered for it.

On the other flank Alvaro Pereira didn't have the excuse of being played in the wrong position, and was just plainly disappointing in all aspects of his game. Both in attack and defence, I felt he was trying to be too clever with the ball, almost showboating at times which always ended up with him either losing possession or making a stray pass. I know he's not been in Italy long and is adjusting to the Italian game, but I have to say I'm getting more and more disappointed with the Uruguayan every game he plays, I just hope he can improve so Inter don't end up regretting the large transfer fee they paid for him.

In the centre of midfield, as I've mentioned Zanetti spent the majority of the game covering the right back position before Stramaccioni moved him there as part of a four man defence. This left Cambiasso and Benassi to cover the centre of the pitch, and unfortunately neither managed the task very well. Cambiasso to me looked entirely unconvincing with leggy, slow and dare I say lacklustre play. The Roma midfield found it all too easy to pass him at times, and when he made forward runs he was soon closed down by the opposition defence losing the ball which in turn started Roma counterattacks. Admittedly he did get better as the game progressed but he is unfortunately starting to show his age when facing younger players.

Benassi did ok, but his lack of experience showed through and he failed to make any sort of impact. These deficiencies in midfield meant that Guarin was forced to play deeper than Stramaccioni had intended, in an attempt to aid in the middle of the pitch, but this left Rodrigo Palacio up front on his own with his only service coming from long balls when the midfield managed to gain possession. This in turn left the striker with no support in the attacking third to create any chances for the Nerazzurri, and without these chances scoring was never likely from open play.

Admittedly, in the second half when Stramaccioni had made all three substitutions, bringing on Walter Gargano, Nagatomo and Ricky Alvarez for Obi, Benassi and Perieira, while switching his to a 4-4-1-1, the Nerazzurri did look a little more comfortable fending off Roma's attacks, but even better defending from the subs and a bit of sublime skill from Alvarez in the Roma box never looked enough to make me think Inter could score a second goal.

If nothing else this game has emphasised Inter's desperate need for reinforcements to the squad, and with just a week left of the transfer window Interisti all over the world are hoping and praying that Massimo Moratti and Marco Branca can save Inter's season with some quality purchases.

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