A look in to Inter’s Tactics
Since Gian Piero Gasperini’s name was linked with Inter earlier this summer the main thing on Interisti minds was the fact that the promising coach has a preference for using a 3 man defence, which he used fantastically at Genoa and since his arrival at Inter he has been working hard on adapting both the players to his formations and also trying to adapt the formations to his players. In pre season his results were a mixed bag with some stunning high scoring matches against lower end teams at the beginning up to a very disappointing loss against Chievo a couple of weeks ago.
All in all I think his formations are not a good fit with our squad as against any team that is of the calibre we should be facing throughout the season we have struggled immensely, you only have to look at the draw against Galatasaray and the two losses to both AC Milan in the Super Cup and Manchester City in the Dublin Super Cup to see that it wasn’t working for us, a lot of this is down to the fact that the formations weren’t playing to the strengths of our squad as I discussed in my post ‘Inter’s summer Transfers – Do they really fit in with Gasperini’s Formations?’ This article of course is now outdated as it was wrote half way through the transfer window and we have made a few more signings since then who we haven’t seen play in a Nerazzurri shirt as yet, so it would be unfair of anyone to say that Gasperini’s 3 man defence will not work this season. As such I am going to use this article to look in to how I think he could possibly make his formation work and also show an alternative 4-3-3 formation that he could change to mid game without too much trouble.
Despite everything I really do think Gasperini should be given at least a few competitive matches to prove that his 3 man defence can work for inter and all us Interisti should hold our nerve and trust in him (Remember Gasp is hugely better as a tactical coach than Benitez ever was so there’s not much chance of a repeat of last season), after all if Sir Alex Ferguson and the great Jose Mourinho believe he has the potential to be great then surely he deserves a chance show it? So the 3-4-3 formation is very controversial, with many fans believing that it cannot possibly work, well I don’t agree, it can work and Barcelona have proved that it does work to great effect. Now before you all get in uproar and say that we are not Barca and our defenders aren’t as quick as theirs, that is true but you have to remember that under Mourinho our defence was the strongest in Europe, especially at the Meazza where we destroyed the mighty Barca so what our defenders lack in speed they make up for in strength, power and determination.
On the right you can see a diagram of how I believe the 3-4-3 can work for us, (The solid arrows are when we are attacking and the dashed are when we are defending) The key to this formation working is having the players working hard to cover and find space so the formation itself is only a basis to work from with the players constantly moving to give us the best advantages as the game plays out. How does it work? I hear you ask, well starting from the back, Lucio has to do what he does best and play to stop any attacker that comes near him, Zanetti is on the other side, in an ideal world would be Samuel doing the same as Lucio but as Zanetti is the Captain he needs to be somewhere on the pitch so I’ve taken Gasperini’s example and put him in the defence (regular readers will know that I believe it’s time to let Zanetti take a back seat and hand over the armband to Cambiasso, but as that’s not likely to happen I’ve included him.) The advantage of having Zanetti in the defense is that when the team is in possession and attacking he can move slightly in front of the other defenders to take up a defensive midfield position moving back as soon as we lose possession. Before I get to Ranocchia I need to point out that I believe that Materazzi would have been ideally suited to this role because he was one of the best sweepers in the game and perfect for being the last line of defence and so with this in mind we look to his heir and our new number 23, Ranocchia, who after signing in January severely failed to impress, in my opinion, but if he can find his form and live up to the expectation then maybe he will be the key to making this system work, playing as a central defender/ sweeper, a risky strategy I know but also important for getting this to work. Even with all these points there is still no denying that Inter’s centerbacks aren’t fast enough to deal with long balls over them to fast attackers so our defensive line will never be as high up the pitch as Gasperini would want ideally.
Next comes the midfield which is where my real problem with this formation comes in as the 2 wing positions are being taken up by wingbacks who will have to be the hardest working players on the pitch, running the wings when we’re attacking and then dropping back to their natural wingback positions when needed to defend, next up is Sneijder who is being forced to play deeper than he would naturally play due to the formation but when attacking he needs to be running forward in to spaces closer to his natural Trequinista position to fulfil his job as playmaker for the attacking trident. Cambiasso on the other hand has the monumental job of controlling the central midfield then dropping back to a defensive midfield position to act as an anchorman for the defense, meaning that when the team is in their defensive positions the line of 3 centerbacks will have a line of defensive midfielders in front. Of course Cambiasso isn’t getting any younger so maybe Poli would be a better long-term option for this position.
Then we get to the arrowhead of the team, the business end of which will be Pazzini who in my opinion will be responsible for the majority of our goals, his job will to be constantly looking for spaces and opportunities to get through on goal with the help of Sneijder in the attacking midfield and also Forlan and Zarate who will be out wide playing balls in or taking their own chances if they arise, then when we need to defend both Zarate and Forlan need to move back into attacking midfield positions either side of Pazzini who stays at the oppositions defensive line ready to make a break for goal.
As I said before the key to getting this formation to work will be a lot of hard work from the players and also a good rotation of players by Gasperini to make sure everyone stays as fresh as possible. The 3-4-3 formation itself will only be a starting basis with fluid play it should easily change from this as the neutral point to an attacking formation of 2-1-3-1-3 back through to a 1-2-3-1-2-1 when defending. This may seem very confusing but I cannot really see any alternative if Gasperini insists on playing this formation and even then I severely doubt against a 3 man attack it will work so in that case he would have to switch to a 4-3-3 set up as the diagram below which would use the same players so unless needed he wouldn’t have to make a substitution to change things around.
With this formation our 4 man defensive line will play the roles that they are used to from previous seasons with the centerbacks defending the box with Nagatomo and Maicon will cover the wide areas while playing their prefered wingback roles. In the midfield Cambiasso pretty much plays the same role as he did in the 3-4-3 dropping back from central midfield to a defensive midfield position when the opposition take possession. On the right side Zanetti will take up the role of running the wing even switching positions with Maicon if the Brazilian decides to take a run higher up the pitch. The left wing is where you will find Zarate who has been sacrificed from the forward line to play as a winger and make room for Sneijder to move in to his Trequinista position just behind a narrower attacking duo of Pazzini and Forlan.
With this formation the defensive line has a more solid feel to it but in my opinion it still isn’t ideal as it leaves a huge amount of space in the middle of the pitch, which requires Cambiasso to do a lot of work to cover while also needing Zarate and Zanetti to drift in field as well as forward to cover all the potential space for the opposition.
So what would I do if I was Gasperini? I would play with a 4-1-2-1-2 formation that would cover all the space on the pitch with minimum effort from the players meaning they would have more energy for making breaks throughout the entire match.
The defence in my formation uses both our strongest centerbacks, Samuel and Lucio as in my opinion these two together form probably the strongest back line in European football. The two wingbacks, Nagatomo and Maicon then sit slightly ahead of the centerbacks and play their natural roles of defending the wide areas but also moving forward to assist the attack further up the pitch. Cambiasso sits in a defensive midfield position and acts as anchorman to support the centerbacks if the opposition breaks while the wingbacks track back to their defensive positions.
For the attacking side of the team we start with Alvarez and Obi playing in the inside left and right positions but also looking to run into space on the wings to continue runs made by the wingbacks providing wide creativity to assist the strike partnership of Pazzini and Forlan up front or even work in conjunction with Sneijder giving options across the entire width of the pitch to create chances on goal.
No matter what happens in the first couple of months of this season it is crucial for our success that Gasperini only gives his 3 man defence a certain amount of time to work, and if it isn’t then he needs to ditch it in favour of a more tried and tested formation that will deliver the results needed otherwise his career at Inter is going to be very short lived.