Stefano Pioli has endured a baptism of fire after replacing Frank De Boer as Inter coach in November. A derby draw against Milan was an encouraging start, before an impressive 4-2 win over Fiorentina. Last week, however, highlighted that Inter is a work in progress as Napoli brushed them aside, winning 3-0 at San Paolo. Therefore, Inter needed to bounce back against Genoa on Sunday night. After using a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape in his first three games, Pioli came up with a surprise when he fielded Inter in a 3-4-3, matching Genoa’s system. In defence, Inter used a 5-2-2-1 shape which changed into a 3-4-3 or 3-2-5 when attacking.

Inter started the game with Handanovic in goal behind Danilo D’Ambrosio, Miranda and Jeison Murillo in defence. Antonio Candreva and Yuto Nagatomo were the wing-backs with Joao Mario and Marcelo Brozovic in central midfield. Up front was a narrow trio of Rodrigo Palacio, Mauro Icardi and Eder.

5-2-2-1Inter’s basic shape while defending. Candreva and Nagatomo drop to form a back five with Joao Mario and Brozovic in midfield and Palacio and Eder playing off Icardi.

And the formation while attacking. Wing-backs push on, and the three strikers up against the three Genoa centre-backs. This forced Genoa into a forced change as the deepest midfielder, Tomas Rincón, dropped deeper to help out at times, forcing Rigoni to leave the attack and join Miguel Veloso in marking Brozovic and Joao Mario. As you can see above, Inter was 5 v 4 in their build which helped them keep possession more than the visitors. At times, Brozovic would move left into the hole vacated by Nagatomo to find some space to get on the ball.

deny-centralHere we can see Inter’s defensive system at work. A five man defensive line and a ‘box’ in midfield with Pioli clearly intent on denying Genoa central access. This image is from the second half, when Felipe Melo had replaced Eder. Joao Mario was pushed higher, highlighting his universal abilities in moving from central midfield to an attacking midfield role. The Portuguese excelled in both, and made both assists.

And again. Melo and Brozovic at the base of the midfield box with (substitute) Perisic and Mario in front of them. Inter are happy for Burdisso on the ball to play it to the right centre back Izzo, from where Inter can press. The aim is to push Genoa wide where Inter can win the ball in the 1 v 1 duel between both sides wing-back.

Mario has pressed Izzo to the sideline and the Italian only has one pass on; the five yarder to Lazovic from where Nagatomo can press the Serb.

This approach requires the wing-back to win his battle, and while Candreva has played wing-back before, notably under Antonio Conte at the Euros, he impressed in this regard. He dominated his battle with Laxalt, while on the opposite side Genoa’s Lazovic consistently got the better of Nagatomo. Once again, a tight Inter defence with forwards now joining the midfield duo in making a midfield four in a low block.

And once more, Genoa forced wide where Candreva steps up to press Laxalt. Inter defended well throughout the game and kept a first clean sheet under Pioli, but Genoa still had chances in an even game.

Pioli’s decision to basically play 3 v 3 up front was vindicated with Inter’s second goal. Brozovic (yellow) receives the ball from Handanovic and initiates counter-attack by releasing Joao Mario behind Genoa’s midfield.

Joao Mario instantly takes on Izzo and beats him. You can see Icardi and Perisic on the run and 2 vs 2 with Burdisso and Munoz.

After beating Izzo, Mario advance into the box and finds Brozovic who fires home his second strike of the night. Two goals for the Croatian and two assists for the Portuguese.

Concludingly, Inter’s new system proved a big success as Pioli’s men produced an impressive performances against a good Genoa. The game was open, tactical and had lots of quality football; a typical Serie A game. Genoa will be disappointed to leave without points after producing a decent performance, but Inter were the better side and most importantly took their chances when Genoa did not. If Pioli stays with this system remains to be seen, but if not, he will have at least unearthed a more than capable plan B for his new-look Inter.

Giro d’Italia

Fiorentina earned a hard fought win against Sassuolo at Stadio Artemio Franchi after a pair of classy Nikola Kalinic goals proved the difference. Fiorentina were sluggish and Sassuolo stopped Paulo Sousa’s side from playing their usual free-flowing passing football but Kalinic opened the scoring in the tenth minute with a brilliant volleyed lob over Andrea Consigli. Sassuolo were the better team for the rest of the half, but Federico Chiesa’s low cross reached Kalinic five minutes before the break and this time the Croatian finished with a glorious back heel. Sassuolo pressed in the second half and Francesco Acerbi pulled one back with his late strike, but Fiorentina held on for three crucial points.

In the derby della Mole in Turin, Gonzalo Higuain showed why Juventus paid 90 million Euros for his services in the summer as he proved to be the difference in a tight game. Andrea Belotti opened the scoring with a header from Daniele Baselli’s cross before Higuain equalised. With ten minutes remaining, Higuain showed off his strength as he brushed Antonio Barreca aside after before hammering in the second goal. Minutes earlier, Adem Ljajic had gone within inches of giving Torino the lead. Another Balkan maverick, Miralem Pjanic, ended the scoring when he made it 3-1 in stoppage time after a brilliant solo performance by the returning Paulo Dybala.

Chievo is Chievo, and Palermo is still Palermo, which meant goals from Valter Birsa and Sergio Pellissier gave the flying donkeys three points as Palermo’s losing streak stretched to nine in a row. That was Pellisier’s 100th Serie A goal, and he’s scored all of them for Chievo. Great achievement. Chievo are ninth, and continue to defy both expectations and everything else.

Is Atalanta’s fairytale over? The seven wins in a row reached an end last week at Juve, and they lost again this week against Udinese. Duvan Zapata opened the scoring for Udine in Bergamo, but Atalanta came back strong and when Jasmin Kurtic scored from Alejandro Gomez chipped cross most people thought Gasperini’s men would take the three points. Seko Fofana wanted different, as he scored another brilliant goal to give Udinese the lead twenty minutes from full time. When Atalanta threw everything forward towards the end, Udine countered and Cyril Thereau added a goal to his previous two assists to earn another win under Luigi Del Neri who has done brilliantly since he came in.

Lazio might have lost the derby last week, but Simone Inzaghi’s team is very strong and solid which saw them go to Sampdoria and win. Felipe Anderson is back to his best and added his sixth and seventh assists of the season when setting up Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and the tireless Marco Parolo for first half goals. Patrick Schick pulled one back late on, but Inzaghi’s men won again and piled pressure on Roma and Milan ahead of their clash on Monday.

Cagliari can’t defend and Napoli is the best attacking team in Italy on their day. Clearly it could only end one way and so it proved, with Sarri’s men winning 5-0 in Sardinia. Dries Mertens scored three from a central position in attack, and Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski were both on the scoresheet again. Napoli has 8-0 in their last two league games and are through as group winners in the Champions League. They’re fourth now, a point behind Milan and four behind Roma. Expect them to go on a run now.

Bologna-Empoli wasn’t the most eagerly anticipated tie of the round based on their recent form, and they drew 0-0 in Bologna. Both teams are, eh, out of form, to say the least.

Crotone are alive and we’ve been writing it for weeks. They hosted Pescara on Saturday, and earned a vital win against their bottom rivals. Raffaele Palladino scored first for the home side from a penalty, a trick Ledian Memushaj couldn’t repeat when he got the chance to equalise from the sport shortly after. Hugo Campagnaro would make it 1-1, but a minute later, Giammarco Ferrari won it for Crotone. Massimo Oddo’s side are hopeless, their good football don’t bring results and it remains to be seen for how much longer he’s in a job. They’ve only won once all season, and that was a game they lost against Sassuolo on the pitch but were given the three points due to Sassuolo fielding an ineligible player. Not good.

Roma ended the week on a high with their win against Milan in the biggest match this week. Radja Nainggolan scored the only goal of the game in the second half. Roma grew into the game and deserved the win. It could have been different though, if Mbaye Niang had converted the penalty Gianluca Lapadula won for Milan after being brought down by Wojciech Szczesny in the first half. The Polish keeper saved the penalty, and Milan left empty handed. Roma can now go into next weekend’s top of the table clash with Juventus in Turin full of confidence. What a game that could be.

Player of the week

Dries Mertens scored a hattrick and was really impressive for Napoli.

Coach of the week

Stefano Pioli changed system and his game plan worked perfectly against Genoa as Inter earned a really good and important win under the new coach.

Goal of the week

Seko Fofana. Take a bow.

Crotone-Pescara 2-1
Cagliari-Napoli 0-5
Torino-Juventus 1-3
Sampdoria-Lazio 1-2
Atalanta-Udinese 1-3
Inter-Genoa 2-0
Roma-Milan 1-0
Bologna-Empoli 0-0
Palermo-Chievo 0-2
Fiorentina-Sassuolo 2-1