The long international break is still ongoing. It serves as the last phase of trial and error for the 32 national teams participating in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022. To pass the time, we at NMA are excited to continue to cross paths with clubs’ fan-organised English-language blogs. We ask them questions that only true fans can answer with all honesty and real emotion. In this article we interview David McFarland from Inter’s blog Serpents of Madonnina.
If you missed it, go back the previous Q & A articles on NMA by clicking on the club name: Cartilage Free Captain: Spurs, We Ain’t Got No History: Chelsea, Into the Calderon: Atletico and Bavarian Football Works: Bayern.
MiQ: Hello David and thank you for agreeing to answer Never Manage Alone questions about Inter Milan. Let us kick off with a brief introduction about the Nerazzuri’s SB Nation blog Serpents of Madonnina and the crew.
David: We’re led by site manager Josh Sutter while Michael McDuffie and I form the writing staff. It’s a great place to talk about all things Inter, and we have a steady stream of comments and articles.
Nerazzurri 2022-23 season
MiQ: Serie-A started earlier than usual this season to accommodate the clubs’ activities long break during the FIFA World Cup starting mid-November 2022. Inter Milan ended August with nine points in third place losing one match in the process, 1-3 to Lazio. September was worse; winning one and losing two. One of the losses came at the hands of city rivals AC Milan in one of the best viewings this season so far. Inter are currently in 7th place, which is in my opinion not bad but much below expectations. On a continental level, Inter were drawn in the group of death in UEFA Champions League, lost a hard-fought match against Bayern Munich and met expectations defeating Viktoria Plzen on match-day 2. How do you rate the start of the season?
David: It hasn’t been great. In fact, it’s a bit of a crisis situation at the San Siro, with Simone Inzaghi’s job looking more and more fragile. Inter looks stale and out of ideas in attack, while its defense has been let down by individual error after individual error. The return of Romelu Lukaku will be a much needed boost in September if Inter is to stay in the Scudetto hunt (it’s five points out of first). Any more struggles, however, could see the Nerazzurri fighting for the top four at best.
MiQ: Where do you see Inter by the time the FIFA World Cup starts, which will be after game-week 15, making it almost mid-season. Will they break through the top four ranks or struggle for a while longer?
David: While Lukaku’s return will help, I don’t see the problems that have plagued Inter going away entirely anytime soon. The packed schedule in October won’t help either — eight games in total including a doubleheader against Barcelona and a clash with Jose Mourinho’s Roma in Serie-A. Squad depth isn’t one of Inter’s strong suits, and the drop-off from the starting-XI to the bench is a steep one. So with that in mind, I think we’ll find ourselves around the top four line and eliminated from the Champions League by the World Cup.
Tactician & Tactics
MiQ: Talking about a club and what is expected by the end of the season always instigates a discussion about the man at the helm (Simone Inzaghi). The former Lazio coach spent four seasons at the Italian capital Rome with the Biancocelesti. He won three trophies with Lazio, Coppa Italian in 2018-19 and the super Coppa in 2017 and 2019. For a club such as Lazio, his performance was satisfactory, and it was time for him to move on to a club with bigger expectations. Inter Milan had just parted ways with Antonio Conte in the summer of 2021 and appointed the former Italian striker as the new head coach. He delivered a Coppa Italian victory and Super Coppa victory in his first season. You may find this amusing, but I feel Max Allegri is highly overrated since he only takes over well-established teams like he did with Juventus after Conte’s first job or takes over the only good team in the league, which he did back in time with AC Milan when all the other clubs were recovering from 2006 Calciopoli effects. The point is, Inzaghi proved himself tactically with Lazio, so I cannot club him with Allegri. Having stated all of the above, I do not really have a specific question here so I will leave the subject open for you to talk/vent about the current Inter coach and future expectations.
David: Inzaghi looked like a great fit last season, winning the Coppa Italia and Super Coppa, leading Inter out of the UCL group stage, and almost winning the Scudetto with a much weaker squad than Conte. However, Inter started to look weaker as the season neared its end, and Inzaghi failed to conjure up a Plan B to kick Inter out of its rut. There was hope that would change this summer, but if anything it’s gotten worse. Inter shows the same problems week in / week out, and Inzaghi is feeling the pressure — Against Udinese two weeks ago, he subbed out two players within thirty minutes because they were on yellow cards. If that decision doesn’t show a man unsure of himself and his team, I don’t know what does.
MiQ: Inzaghi adopts a 3-5-2 attacking style of football. How does it compare to Conte’s style? And which is one do you prefer?
David: Conte’s for sure — Inter always knew what it was going to do, and its gameplan never changed under Conte. With Inzaghi, Inter lacks ideas with Plan A, and like his predecessor, there is no Plan B. Furthermore, Inzaghi’s Plan A isn’t very stable either, and sometimes he plays far too defensively against good opponents rather than trusting his players to win on their own.
The Transfer Window
MiQ: I believe your answer on tactics will give our fantasy managers insight about the importance of some of the players in their UCL fantasy team. Moving on, it is summer signings’ early performance review. After playing a total of nine official matches, who is the best / worst summer signing this season?
David: Of the new signings, Andre Onana has been the best, albeit with limited minutes since he rotates with Handanovic in goal. Veteran defender Francesco Acerbi looked solid in his first start against Plzen as well. Youngsters Kristjan Asllani and Raoul Bellanova have barely seen the pitch, while Lukaku has missed all but three games with an injury.
MiQ: One of my favorite players in the past few years is Robin Gosens. The man created wonders with Atalanta and somehow helped his former coach Gian Piero Gasperini elevate the wing-back position into a regular scoring position with everyone distracted to cover either Luis Murial, Duvan Zapata or Josip Ilicic. Inter brought in the player in last season’s winter transfer window, but he was out most of the time due to injuries or inability to break through the first team. Do you see Gosens returning to his form? Is there someone else who is either exceeding or performing below expectations at the moment?
David: I do think Gosens will improve, but we won’t see the Atalanta version of the German again. Gasperini used a very specific style, which means a lot of exports from Bergamo struggle to replicate their form in other systems. However, once he gets a consistent run of starts, I think he’ll start to be an attacking threat once again. Some other big names that are underperforming are Joaquin Correa, Alessandro Bastoni, and Marcelo Brozovic.
MiQ: Since our main objective here at Never Manage Alone is to provide insight and share our analysis on the best choices for fantasy football, please share with us Inzaghi’s usual starting-XI with any regular rotations.
David: (3-5-2) - Handanovic/Onana; Bastoni, de Vrij, Skriniar; Gosens, Calhanoglu, Brozovic, Barella, Dumfries; Lukaku, Lautaro;
MiQ: I always advise our readers to refrain from selecting players from the group of death, which is justified by the unpredictability of high profile matches. I am not talking about only Inter here; I am against selecting players from Bayern and Barcelona as well. In my defense, both Barca and Inter came close to scoring on several occasions against Bayern. This may happen with ease in the return leg, but to have the information shared with our readers; who do we invest in within Inter’s squad? (A couple of options should be enough but you are always welcome to elaborate more).
David: It’s tough to say. Considering our poor form and Inzaghi’s constant tinkering in the starting XI, I’d probably avoid most Inter players, although Edin Dzeko (he always seems to pop up in key moments in the UCL) and Andre Onana (made 10 saves against Bayern) are fairly decent options.
MiQ: I highly appreciate your cooperation and answers to the questions. If there is anything else you would like add or say to our readers?
David: Thanks for having me!
We are in the process of interviewing more SB Nation blogers over the international break, so keep in touch with our blog. Who is part of your UCL fantasy team from Inter? Will you be picking more players after reading this article? Or maybe dropping them? Please log in and use the comments section below to keep us updated on your UCL fantasy plans for after the international break!