Another one bites the dust. Yet another casualty in the Inter managerial carousel, this time we say Arrivederci to Stefano Pioli. This is a truly surprising decision from the owners considering the timing of the dismissal considering that two weeks ago the club released this statement following the defeat to Fiorentina:
“The club confirms its full backing and that of the ownership in Stefano Pioli and his entire technical staff. Pioli joined Inter at a difficult time and the work he has carried out over the six months since he joined in November last year has been exceptional and deserves our respect. The club will not be distracted by rumours circulated by those outside of the club.”3
While the timing of this is strange, it was something that was bound to happen sooner rather than later. Pioli replaced Frank De Boer at the helm at the San Siro on 8th November 2016 and signed a deal until June 2018. The fact that De Boer was only in charge of Inter for 85 days told the full story of exactly the size of job Pioli had on his hands. They were 9th at the time and there wasn’t much optimism amongst the Inter faithful but credit to the former Lazio boss because he was able to get a reaction from this Inter side.
A tactical reshuffle from a 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 undoubtedly helped improved the teams performances at all ends of the pitch. In defence, the rotation of Murillo, Medel and Miranda seemed to help solidify the defence as they conceded just nine goals from when he was appointed till early February, collecting 5 clean sheets in that time which was a big improvement. Next was the midfield and the introduction of Gagliardini from high flying Atalanta really sparked a change in the team. Another notable change in the midfield was Brozovic. While he seems like a mainstay in the team nowadays for Inter, under De Boer’s tenure he was often overlooked in favour of Joao Mario, Kondogbia and Medel in midfield which didn’t really work. Pioli’s change of system allowed the likes of Kondogbia and Brozovic to showcase some of their qualities, the former’s tenacious work breaking up play and the latter starting plays in the final third and also chipping in with goals himself.
The attacking department is where Pioli’s tactics worked the most. Mauro Icardi is the man at Inter and we all know he’s a natural born goalscorer but he was carrying the burden of scoring a huge portion of Inter’s goals. Having three additional outlets as opposed to two really helped the captain as Perisic and Candreva were both able to reduce the burden by chipping in with goals against good opposition and Banega becoming a pivotal cog in that number 10 role providing key passes out wide or towards Icardi directly.
Everything was going well in Milan and it seemed for the first time in years that everyone associated with the club was in sync and on the same page. But unfortunately it was not to be a happy ending as Inter slipped back into their old ways of shoddy defending and wasting good chances. For the first time since his arrival, the fans of Inter were starting to seriously question the decisions that Pioli would make during games such as leaving highly rated youngster Gabigol on the bench on numerous occasions, taking off their main talisman icardi in games where they need goals and adopting negative and unpragmatic approaches against rival teams and his stubbornness to change from that ultimately resulted in the 51-year-old receiving his P45.
The question now is who will they bring in to replace Pioli and there are two names that will no doubt have the Interista excited for the season that lies ahead.
He will definitely be the favourite among all the managers touted for this job. His time at Atletico Madrid has no doubt propelled him to the top of the ladder, winning a league title and getting into two Champions League finals in 3 seasons. But Simeone has unfinished business in Milan as he enjoyed a fruitful spell with the Nerazzuri back in 1998 where he won the UEFA Cup. He has always expressed a desire to return to Inter someday and these claims were backed up by his son Giovanni who plies his trade in Italy with Genoa. On 3rd of December 2016, Cholito told Onda Cero:
“My dad will sign for Inter at some point. I hope so. He’s very happy at Atletico, but Inter could happen in the future.”
Simeone has laid the foundations of what it is like to be a real hands on coach that wants nothing more than his group of players to gel well with the system that he puts into place. He’s gained a reputation as somewhat of a defensive oriented coach which could serve Inter in good stead as they continue to have issues at the back with goals leaking in for fun. Whether Inter are able to finally entice Cholo back to Milan this summer remains to be seen but it looks more than likely that they will go all out to acquire him.
This one is rather strange but there are strong links in the Italian media reporting this. Conte has stunned the Premier League with his Chelsea side as he looks to change a league and domestic cup double in his first season in England. After a rough start to life in London which culminated in a 3-0 drubbing from neighbours and rivals Arsenal, Conte went back to his roots and what he is most comfortable with… A back three. Taking a page out of his Juventus days, the 3-4-3 was reborn and Chelsea have become an force to be reckoned with ever since. The likes of Cahill, Moses and Alonso are not those that you would associate title winning sides with but each of them have played a pivotal role in their pending triumph.
While many (including me) would question why Conte would want to leave the champions elect to join a struggling Inter side, various outlets in Italy are running with the story that the Chinese owners are big fans of Conte’s work and his attention to detail would help their side tremendously. Following the aftermath of Pioli’s dismissal, more reports came out that Inter are so desperate to get Conte to come back to Italy that they would be willing to pay him £250,000 per week. This one is more of a long shot and I struggle to see Conte giving up all his hard work to not even reap the rewards of a Champions League run next season in favour of a recovery mission with Inter.
To be very frank with you, both these targets seem unrealistic but they have to get their next appointment right. They’ve gambled with lower profiled coaches like Pioli, Mazzarri, De Boer and Stramaccioni in recent years and that clearly has not worked for them so maybe it is time to go big and get a big name manager in order to sort out the mess that is currently Inter Milan.
Photo Credit: AFP