What is the secret to Luciano Spalletti's success at Inter Milan?

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 06 December 2017, 12:02

The match between Napoli and Juventus last Friday evening was billed as a key clash in the race in this year’s title race. The Bianconeri - winners of the last six consecutive Scudetti - took the points that night, but it was to be neither of those sides that rose to the top of the league table by the end of the weekend.

Sitting proudly at the summit of Serie A were Inter, after a 5-0 demolition of Chievo at San Siro on Sunday, the Nerazzurri having notched up 39 points after 15 matches for only the second time in their history. The only other occasion they had managed this was in 2006/07, a season in which Juventus had been relegated to Serie B for their part in the Calciopoli scandal.

This means that after having finished seventh last term, new boss Luciano Spalletti has earned more points after 15 games than the side coached by Jose Mourinho that went on to win the treble in 2009/10, facilitating an incredible turnaround since he arrived from AS Roma this summer.

But what is the secret to Spalletti’s success? After arriving at Inter the season after that memorable treble, defender Andrea Ranocchia is well-qualified to answer that question. Aside from loan spells with Genoa, Sampdoria and Hull City, the Italian has been present through some topsy-turvy times at San Siro, and told Mediaset Premium after playing 90 minutes in Sunday’s victory:

“Spalletti is great because he treats absolutely everyone the same way. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your salary is, we are all treated the same.

“I’ve been at Inter for many years and it’s the first time I’ve seen the dressing room like this. I’ve been out for most games, so I’m the best person to tell you about that.

“Everyone knows what they’re doing now, we’re in good shape physically, work well with the ball, but there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got to keep it going.”

A change of mentality is exactly what was needed, but it is by no means the only factor behind the success of the 58-year-old boss so far this season. Inter are the only team still unbeaten in the division, his side quietly winning without the flair of Napoli and the weight of expectation on Juventus. The Nerazzurri had conceded 21 goals by round 15 last term, but have now let in less than half that total, breached only 10 times in 2017/18.

A large part of that is due to the excellence of 22-year-old centre-back Milan Skriniar, signed from Sampdoria in the summer, alongside with the holding midfield roles of Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini. “The Coach is viewing my performances well, he’s a tough Coach but a very good one, definitely one of the best in Italy,” Skriniar told reporters in Slovakia.“We have a great relationship, his great advantage is that he knows when to fire things up and when to relax.”

So impressive have his performances been that reports have linked him with moves to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea, the defender averaging 2.2 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 4.9 clearances per match.

Further forward, former Fiorentina man Borja Valero is producing his best form in a free role as part of Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1, and a shift in focus for Italian international Antonio Candreva is paying off in spectacular fashion. The Coach has asked rumoured Chelsea target to redefine his play, now taking less shots - 1.6 per game as opposed to 2.3 last season - and instead concentrating more on the traditional playmaking duties of a winger.

While last term Candreva scored six goals, he has yet to get off the mark in the current campaign. Meanwhile, he is quickly approaching the number of assists registered last term (10) with his total of seven after just 15 matches. As a knock-on-effect, Mauro Icardi has gratefully received this increase in service, the deadly striker having netted an incredible 16 times in the league this season.

All these factors set the stage for a thrilling Derby d’Italia encounter with Juventus on Saturday evening. Bianconeri boss Max Allegri tactically outsmarted Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri last weekend, so Luciano Spalletti will have to be at his very best in order to pull off a result. Only then will Italian football truly sit up and take notice of the fact that Inter are genuinely in the hunt for the Scudetto in 2017/18.

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