This is only Frank De Boer’s second official Inter game. Palermo’s simple yet effective defensive tactics highlights Inter’s struggle to interpret their new coach’s ideas. Inter struggles for majority of the game to break down Palermo’s defense until the later part of the game. While Inter has problems with its defensive transition, we will focus on the tactical problem of Inter’s offensive game.
Palermo is a standard 3-5-2 formation while Inter plays a 4-3-3. Like many teams playing a four-men back line these days, Inter often switches to a 3-4-3 in offensive phase, with Benega dropping back, positioned slightly in front of the 2 center backs and two full backs pushing to the midfield. A key movement for this type of formation in the build-up is the relative position of the central midfields and the full backs. It is important for them to occupy different vertical layers in order to provide better passing options. You can see how Kondogbia and D’Ambrosio have almost simultaneous opposite movements. This turn their formation from a 2-1-4-3 formation into a 2-1-2-2-3. Sometimes the roles of the central midfielder and the full backs also swap, with the full-back positions more centrally while the central midfielder moving further up. But the idea is the same, to create more passing layers for Benega. You should also notice the position of Medel and Kondogbia swaps. This is a tactic that Frank De Boer often uses in Ajax. From below you can see Perisic and Eder also swap their positions in certain periods of the game. You can see from below:The goal is to create confusion for defenders who might have been familiar with the technical ability of the wingers.
The key goal of Frank De Boer’s tactic is to control possession, efficient distribution of the ball the deep-lying playmaker (Benega), and through the positional play by the full-backs, advanced midfielders and wingers to create chances for Icardi.
Palermo’s defensive strategy is simple: to force Inter to play through the flanks and press them there. They do it by two ways:Quaison is often tasked with preventing Benega advancing across half-line upon receiving the ball. See Quaison nor any Palermo players press Benega for almost 5 seconds. The goal is simple, force him to pass to the flanks. Two more examples:Notice how Quaison giving Benega space as long as he does not penetrate across half-line. Also note that Gazzi is in the center to form a horizontal line with the other two midfielders to prevent any Inter’s penetration. You can see how successful this strategy works:Benega mostly passes to the flanks in the first half around the half-line.
Once on the flanks around the half-line, Palermo’s players attack Inter’s ball-handlers, whether it is D’Ambrosio, Medel, Santon, Kondogbia or even Eder and Perisic when they drop there. Notice how Vitiello shift right to follow Perisic. The important element of Palermo’s press on the flank is to always have at least one more player than Inter’s player. This is often provided by Gazzi. Similar press also happens on the flank. Gazzi is often the player who provides the extra man and guarding the space behind the pressers. Inter struggles heavily in the first half to breakdown Palermo’s above defensive strategy. Lets look at Inter’s passing data from the 1st half:The passing data of Inter summarize their struggle in the first half. Being forced to play out from deep to the side, Inter’s can only deliver to the flanks around the half-line, not advanced enough to cause Palermo’s problem. There is also lack of penetrative pass in the middle, highlighted by lots of failed passes.
Inter’s passing data from the second half:You can see in the second half, Inter manages to pass to a lot more advanced position on the flanks. You should also see there are a lot more penetrative passes through the middle. The question is, what changes?
Position where Benega receives passes in the first halfPosition where Benega receives passes in the second halfBenega is more advanced to receive the pass. In the first half he mostly collects the ball in the defensive third in the middle, where he is often faced with Palermo’s forwards. In the second half he is often seen in more advanced and wider positions to collect passes. This helps alleviating the block by Palermo’s forwards in the half-line.
Better switching passes to the opposite sides
Palermo’s numerical advantage on one side of the flank means that there is one less player in other area of the pitch, mostly the opposite side. However, Inter has problems switching the play to the opposite flanks.
Inter’s long passes in the first halfInter’s long passes in the second half Looking just the long passes, you can see Inter does not switch play to the side using long passes. This is because Inter mostly switch to the other side through their center backs and then Benega and then other side. This is too many passes and too slow, allowing Palermo’s defense to re-group properly. In the second half, Inter uses a lot more long passes to switch to the other side of the flanks. These passes are also diagonal (not horizontal) in nature, meaning that Palermo’s defense not only has to shift laterally, but also vertically. This adjustment is possible because of the more advanced and wider positions of Benega (see above) and also better positions of D’Ambrosio.
D’Ambrosio willingness to surge forward
D’Ambrosio is reluctant to surge forward in the first half.
Position where D’Ambrosio receives passes in the first halfPosition where D’Ambrosio receives passes in the second half
Inter most often initiates attacks from the left hand side before Candreva’s substitution. The more advanced positions for D’Ambrosio to receive passes allows more options when Inter switches from the left-hand side. It also allows them to create overloads on this side, where it is completely lacking in the first half.
Icardi’s willingness to operate in the space between lines
There is a lack of penetrating passes in the middle for Inter in the first half, especially in the area right in front of the box (see above). One thing that definitely changes is that instead of waiting for changes to create for him in the box area, Icardi often retreats back to the space between the lines to link up play.
Positions where Icardi receives passes in the first halfPositions where Icardi receives passes in the second halfYou can see that Icardi positions himself a lot more (virtually absent in the first half) in the area in the middle above the boxes to receive passes. This is very dangerous area to attack. See this play:The backward movement by Icardi drags the center back out of position, leaving gap in Palermo’s defense. But this only work when Icardi (or someone else) connect the ball. Once connected with Icardi, you can see how much space Medel can attack.
In this game, Palermo focuses mostly on defense and waits for the counter attacks opportunity. What we have not discussed today is a weakness of Inter’s defense, their slow offense-to-defense transition. Palermo has several opportunity wasted by Hiljemark.
As we have seen, Inter makes lots of adjustments and progress in the second half and equalizes shortly after substitution of Candreva. However, the most important problem for Inter is not solved: the bad positional play by Medel and KongdobiaBoth Medel and Kongdobia often stay too close to their teammates to provide any constructive, forward passing lanes. They also tend to pass sideway, backwards but not froward:
Kondogbia’s passing in the whole game:
Kondogbia is particularly bad in his passing in advanced area:Less than 60% passes reach his teammates!
All these adjustments Inter made could have been easily avoided with better positional play by Kondogbia and Medel. Medel is very hardworking, he just doesn’t have that intelligence in that tactical sense on when to surge and when to stay back. He also seems to be limited technically that he can’t take on player 1vs1 in offense. Kondogbia is just a confusing player, who does seems to have decent skills but very bad judgements. They should probably think about re-inserting Brozovic or using Joao Mario to replace one of these players sooner.
Another problem is who should start for the wings. Perisic was the most threatening player (that says a lot how Inter struggles in offense). Eder really struggles for a long time to have any impact on the right hand side. Candreva seems to be the most promising one. He is really threatening with his ability to get to the by-line and crosses. However, Eder also seems to play better on the left hand side when he can cut inside and use his right foot.
Right now, Inter is still a work in the progress.
All of passing data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone
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