Another Goalless Home Performance By Inter
Inter drew 0-0 with Napoli at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday, a result that moves the Nerazzurri a point closer to European football. Ahead of the games on Sunday, Inter are now six points ahead of the teams battling for the seventh and final Europa League spot.
This was a game in which both sides created good scoring chances but were unable to finish them. For Inter fans, this has been a familiar theme at home this season as they have seen their side score only 23 goals now in 18 home league games.
Since Erick Thohir bought the club, he has seen only two victories at the San Siro in eight matches.
Against Napoli, we saw the two sides of Walter Mazzarri. In the first half Inter were adventurous, creating chances and going head to head with one of Serie A's top three sides.
In the first half, Inter had nine attempts on goal and completed 206 of the 249 attempted passes (83 percent). As squawka.com reveals, Inter were able to get some joy down the left, as the two teams battled for control in the middle of the pitch.
But in the second half, Napoli boss Rafa Benitez made some attacking tactical moves and Napoli started to dominate the game.
The moves worked and Napoli grabbed control of the midfield and started to boss the game, gaining 57 percent possession to Inter's 43 percent in the second half. Inter kept defending deeper and deeper, with almost 18 percent of the action taking place in the Inter final third, compared with 8.6 percent in the first half.
What frustrates me about watching Inter play at home is that I feel Mazzarri is often trying not to lose, instead of trying to win. The moves that epitomise that philosophy were his second-half substitutions.
Napoli started the second half well and were dominating possession, holding a 62 percent to 38 percent advantage in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Mazzarri's first reaction was to take off Danilo D'Ambrosio and bring on the more defensive minded Inter legend Javier Zanetti, in one of his last appearances for the club.
The Squawka heat map shows how defensive Zanetti was once he came on, playing more like a traditional right back instead of a right sided wingback.
Mazzarri made another move six minutes later, when Fredy Guarin came on for Hernanes, but it didn't stop the Napoli shirts from pushing forward, and then with nine minutes to go, the Inter boss made a move that epitomises his philosophy of not losing rather than winning.
Mazzarri took off striker Mauro Icardi and brought on Zdravko Kuzmanovic, whose instructions where to clearly sit in front of the Inter back line, which he did. Kuzmanovic had his biggest impact in the semi-circle outside the Inter penalty box.
So did putting the extra man in midfield work? Mazzarri will say yes. After the substitution, the game was more even in the last ten minutes with Inter actually enjoying a 51-49 possession advantage.
But I wonder what would have happened if Mazzarri had been bolder and went with a more attacking move? Icardi was struggling with an injury when Mazzarri replaced him, but could he have brought on Diego Milito or Ruben Botta instead and tried to steal a goal in the dying minutes to get all three points instead of settling for a draw?
We will never know, but this is a tactical move that Mazzarri has made all season. The Inter boss often seems willing to settle for what he had, instead of pushing forward and going of the knockout blow.
We saw it at Parma a week ago when in the second half he instructed the Inter midfield to sit deep and stifle the opposition when ahead, instead of going for knockout blow.
Watching the game it, struck me that Mazzarri is coaching like a manager unsure of his position. He is acting like a boss who is unsure whether he will get a new contract and be back next season. That uncertainty is making the former Napoli boss ultra-conservative, worried that another losing streak could take Inter out of a Europa League position and cost him his job. And that uncertainty is affecting his coaching.