The 2011-12 season was far from pleasing for the Inter faithful as they saw their club finish in sixth place, struggle throughout their European campaign and go through three managerial changes. Following this debacle, Inter made it fairly clear that there was going to be a massive overhaul over the summer. The fading old legs were to be replaced with a more vibrant and energetic bunch of youngsters. The club made their intentions clear by getting rid of Lucio and Diego Forlan, and stating that the likes of Júlio César, Maicon and Dejan Stanković were on their way out. The squad was strengthened with players like Samir Handanović and Matias Silvestre early in the summer.
Surprisingly, all of Inter’s transfer activities were concentrated in the early part of the summer transfer window and the club has been mum over the last few weeks. So, is their current squad good enough to push for a Serie A title? Do they have what it takes to deal with an extremely long European campaign? If not the Scudetto, what should Inter be aiming for? TheHardTackle answers these questions in this season preview.
Trentino 0-6 Inter
Inter 2-0 FC Koper
Inter 1-0 Juventus
Inter 2-1 Milan
Como 2-3 Inter
Celtic 1-1 Inter
Hajduk Split 0-3 Inter (UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round)
Inter 0-2 Hajduk Split (UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round)
Samir Handanović, Júlio César, Luca Castellazzi, Vid Belec
Last season’s custodian in goal, Júlio César, is most surely on his way out of the club. The most surprising fact is that he hasn’t left the club already. With the experienced Brazilian on his way out of the fashion capital, new signing, Samir Handanović, will take over as Inter’s first choice keeper. The former Udinese shot stopper is at the prime of his career and his invaluable Serie A experience will ensure that Inter do not lose anything with the departure of César.
The only problem for coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, will be the worrisome injury that Handanović recently picked up. This could mean that Inter will have to hang onto César for at least the first half of the season as 22-year-old Vid Belec is still lacking in experience and will surely not merit a spot yet. Their more senior backup keeper is Luca Castellazzi and he could well be set to start in goal for the early part of the season, if César does leave.
Handanović’s injuries has left Inter’s goalkeeping department in a fairly precarious situation and the decision to sell César could cost Inter early on in the season. A slightly higher wage bill for the first half of the season seems worth it, considering that Castellazzi and Belec are not Serie A quality – César should stay.
Javier Zanetti, Matias Silvestre, Maicon, Yuto Nagatomo, Jonathan, Juan Jesus, Ibrahima Mbaye, Christian Chivu, Walter Samuel, Andrea Ranocchia
Inter’s defense seems to have the perfect blend of experience and youth with captain and club legend, Javier Zanetti, forming the backbone of their back line. Like Júlio César, Maicon was expected to leave the Nerazzurri this summer but has still not been offloaded. With powerful clubs like Real Madrid and Chelsea rumored to have been in hot pursuit of the Brazilian right back, his departure from the San Siro cannot be ruled out yet.
As long as Walter Samuel is fit, he should have a regular place in the center of defense and will be accompanied by either Andrea Ranocchia or Matias Silvestre. Jonathan will be expected to start at right back, ahead of the out of favor Maicon. The left back position should be occupied by Yuto Nagatomo. Javier Zanetti, although listed as a defender here, will most probably play in midfield. But his versatility will surely see him fill in at both right and left back.
Christian Chivu will play a backup role under Stramaccioni this season, filling in only during an injury crisis or when fatigue starts to kick in. Juan Jesus is expected to be higher up the pecking order and could easily oust Ranocchia or Silvestre for a starting spot in heart of the Inter defense.
Dejan Stanković, Philippe Coutinho, Wesley Sneijder, Ricardo Alvarez, Fredy Guarin, Gabi Mudingayi, MacDonald Mariga, Esteban Cambiasso, Joel Obi, Alfred Duncan, Marco Benassi
Inter will either lineup with a four or five man midfield over the course of this season. Either way, they will have a three man central midfield unit that will operate behind a lone attacking midfielder or two attacking midfielders. This three man unit will most probably consist of Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Fredy Guarin. Zanetti and Cambiasso are no strangers in this role at Inter, and the Guarin’s presence will be a huge boost to this aging midfield. Guarin was instrumental for Inter, most memorably in the Milan derby, last season but was plagued by injuries.
Wesley Sneijder will automatically have a place behind the striker/s, while Philippe Coutinho and Ricardo Alvarez will fight it out for the other attacking midfield slot. Coutinho has really impressed over the pre-season and seems to have the edge for Alvarez for now.
MacDonald Mariga, Joel Obi and Gabi Mudingayi will play off the bench and can hope for first team football only during an injury crisis. Dejan Stanković seems to remain at the club only due to his immense experience and it remains to be seen as to whether he will be used at all. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi are still far from ready for first team football and will probably be involved in trivial cup ties.
Diego Milito, Rodrigo Palacio, Samuele Longo, Marko Livaja, Giampaolo Pazzini
After the departure of Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito has been Inter’s most potent attacking threat. The Argentine striker finished as Inter’s top scorer last season amidst a lot of disappointment in the attacking department. Milito will undoubtedly be the lynchpin in Inter’s attacks but will be ably supported by new signing, Rodrigo Palacio.
Palacio has had a sensational pre-season and could even be used ahead of Milito if Stramaccioni decides to play just one striker. Giampaolo Pazzini seems to be on his way out of the club and latest reports suggest that he could be involved in a swap for Milan’s Antonio Cassano. Samuele Longo and Marko Livaja will be expected to play secondary roles, but a lack of players in Inter’s attack could see they two youngsters get a fair amount of playing time this season.
Inter still seem to be in a transitionary phase under Stramaccioni. There is no doubt that expectations are fairly high, but a league triumph is not on the cards and their main aim will be to qualify for the Champions League. A good showing in Europe seems highly possible given that they are taking part in the Europa League, but once again success doesn’t seem likely.
Serie A – 2nd
Coppa Italia – Quarter Finals
Europa League – Quarter Finals