Sunday’s derby once again left Inter fans shaking their head at Walter Mazzarri’s tactics, whose game plan appeared to be to settle for a 0-0 draw before a ball was kicked. This was the 2014 AC Milan we were facing, not the 1990’s version. This was a Milan team that was awful a week ago against Roma, with a rookie coach under a great deal of pressure. But instead of going on the attack early, and putting the pressure on Milan, Maazzarri was content to sit back and soak up the pressure, allowing Seedorf’s side to build up confidence and momentum as the game progressed.
What frustrates me about the Inter game plan on Sunday, was that the way that results had gone elsewhere, Inter needed to pick up all three points. Wins by Torino and Parma meant that they had moved to within three points of Inter before kickoff, while a Milan win would move the Rossoneri within three points of Inter also. With two games to go, that Europa League spot that the Nerazzurri fans thought they had locked up, suddenly looks a little precarious as now four teams are battling for three European places.
This chart from whoscored.com illustrates how conservative that Mazzarri was with his line-up.
The Milan players are on the left and the Inter players are on the right. Notice how tightly compact the Inter players are, as Mazzarri’s game plan was to obviously play a high line and flood the middle of the field with bodies. As conservative as approach as I have seen from Inter all season, and one that you would typically see against one of the best teams in Europe. Not against someone lying tenth in Serie A at kickoff.
Another way to look at it is via this heat map from squawka.com which shows the action areas in the first half. That empty area on the left is the Milan penalty box!
Inter and Mazzarri seemed to be totally taken by surprise by Seedorf’s decision to a go with a 4-3-1-2 system where Adel Taarabt behind RickyKaka and Mario Balotelli. The diamond formation pushed Taarabt was on Cambiasso, a battle that the Milan player clearly won. From an Inter standpoint, the move made it difficult for Inter to make the connection between midfield and attack. Consequently, Rodrigo Palacio and Mauro Icardi were isolated for large portions of the game touching the ball less than 60 times between them.
Where was the tactical change from the bench in response to Seedorf’s tactics? There wasn’t one. The only time Mazzarri changed their tactical approach was after they went behind, but by then it was too late. It is unbelievable to me that in a derby, the biggest game of the season to the fans, that Inter could not manage one shot on target all game. Not one.
Inter now has to forget about the derby loss and turn its attention to a
must win home game against Lazio next week. A draw is not enough for Inter who could find themselves falling to eight place if they lose next week and out of the Europa League places.