After the opening eleven Serie A matches of the 2015-16 season Roberto Mancini’s Inter are joint-top with Fiorentina, behind La Viola only on goal difference. Inter have started with seven wins, three draws and only one defeat (although, against Fiorentina), which is impressing for a team that has been chronically underachieving since winning the Champions League in 2010. Mancini’s way has seen the team mix defensive power and balance with attacking brilliance from players born at the peninsula that is Balkan.
Inter has been leaking goals this last couple of seasons, but now Mancini seems to have find a way of playing which revolves around defending brilliantly first and foremost. In the 11 games, Inter has kept seven clean sheets and only conceded more than one goal once, in the 4-1 defeat to Fiorentina. That game aside, Inter have been extremely solid and sides like Juventus, AC Milan and AS Roma couldn’t find a way through. In the summer we had an article looking at Inter’s transfer business and focused on their defensive signings Miranda, Jeison Murillo and Martin Montoya. The first two have impressed as Mancini’s preferred centre-back pairing. Miranda had been sensational for a number of years for Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid and has created a promising partnership with the Colombian Murillo and is the rock at the back for Mancini. Montoya has found it tougher, with Davide Santon usually occupying the right-back slot with Alex Telles or Yuto Nagatomo on the left. Inter also has one of the best goalkeepers in Europe in Samir Handanovic, who is a very reliable presence between the sticks.
In front of the defence, Gary Medel has been virtually ever-present and very effective in shielding the back four. The Chilean Copa America winner has been in really good form and is a key component of Inter’s defensive play as well as setting up attacks. Alongside him the likes of Felipe Melo, Fredy Guarin, Marcelo Brozovic and Geoffrey Kondogbia has rotated to fill the other two positions and all three have played their part in the team’s bright start. Kondogbia has been a little underwhelming considering the huge transfer fee he commanded in the summer, but we’re only two and a half months into the season and he is still young and will likely come good in the long run.
Going forward, most good things has come from the brilliance of the Balkan boys. While Mauro Icardi is the captain and the main goalscorer of this team, he is backed up by the likes of Adem Ljajic, Stevan Jovetic and Ivan Perisic. Add the aforementioned Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, injured centre-back Nemanja Vidic, goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and assistant coach Dejan Stankovic and you can see that the Balkan presence is strong. In fact, out of Inter’s eleven Serie A goals this term, seven have been either scored or assisted by one the Balkan players. Ljajic, Perisic and Jovetic provide creativity in abundance, and all have the ability to create something out of nothing through creative passing or running at people at high speed. With these three linking up behind Icardi, Inter will get goals. The problem so far has been that they’ve only scored more than once away to Carpi, where they won 2-1. Seven 1-0 wins still impresses though, and they will surely score more goals as the season goes on now the defensive foundations seem to have been put in place.
If they have enough to win the Scudetto still remains to be seen, but they’ve beaten Roma and Milan and drew Juventus so they’ve done well in the big games and don’t have any European football this season as well as a very good squad which could see them push all the way. In what seems to be without doubt the most exciting title race in Europe with Fiorentina, Inter, Roma and Napoli all within two points, and Juventus suddenly waking up, Mancini’s men have a very good chance to at least get back into the Champions League. To do this, the mix between defensive power and balance and Balkan brilliance in attack will continue to be important to Inter’s fortunes.