Luciano Spalletti needs to motivate his troops to stop the rot at Interby Chloe Beresford / 31 August 2018, 13:51Tweet
“Cori e Lotta” (Run and Fight) read the huge banner unveiled in Inter’s Curva Nord at San Siro on Sunday evening. The message to the players was clear and simple: the club’s most ardent supporters needed them to demonstrate their desire to win after an abysmal defeat to Sassuolo on the first match of the season.
After a summer in which the club’s owners had backed every single gap in the squad highlighted by Coach Luciano Spalletti with a quality signing, those fans were clearly very disappointed that the season opener they had so eagerly anticipated had ended in disappointment.
The defence had been bolstered by the arrival of experienced centre-back Stefan de Vrij from Lazio, while a long-term problem at full-back had been solved with the purchases of Kwadwo Asamoah from Juventus and Croatia World Cup star Sime Vrsaljko. The inept Eder had for too long been an inadequate backup for striker Mauro Icardi, and so sporting director Piero Ausilio duly obliged with the signing of talented Argentinian Lautaro Martinez.
Long-term target Radja Nainggolan and Keita Balde Diao arrived to add some excellent options going forward, addressing the problem of a lack of creativity in the team that saw Inter rely on Icardi for an incredible 29 from 66 of their total goals (44%) in 2017/18.
It was no wonder then, that fans were excited before the first match, then bitterly disappointed at the final whistle. Yet in their Coach, they didn’t see a man who encouraged his newly-assembled team to the very end, but one who sighed, had his head down and turned away in frustration at only 1-0 down with more than 20 minutes remaining.
At the final whistle, Spalletti went on to blame the state of the pitch at the Mapei stadium and lament the referee, when a genuine discussion of the team’s issues on the night would’ve kept the situation much calmer for those watching at home. If supporters at San Siro delivered a clear message with the aforementioned banner, the second left their views over the Coach’s excuse culture in no doubt whatsoever.
“Club: kept promises, ask respect from everyone.
“Coach and players: no excuses, no words... keep your heads down and win!!”
In the first half, it seemed like that message had been well-heeded, as Nerazzurri winger Ivan Perisic – on the bench last week following his World Cup final exploits – opened the scoring after just six minutes. It was a controlled and professional first-half performance from Inter, who had been widely tipped to finish second behind Juventus this season, and they went in 2-0 up at the break after De Vrij had doubled the scores.
If it seemed too good to be true, that’s because it was.
Torino mobilised as they came out for the second half, their boss Walter Mazzarri having recognised the potential weakness in the team he used to manage.
“I know this place, so regardless of who is the Coach, there will always be a weight on whoever plays at San Siro,” the Granata boss in his post-match comments. “I told the lads to go out there and attack them because I knew Inter couldn’t sustain that tempo and would fall away in the second half.”
It is true that the Nerazzurri have a tradition of mental weakness, however, this problem is exacerbated by a Coach who brings issues of his own. During two separate spells at AS Roma, Spalletti failed to bring consistency to the side due to his negativity and blame culture and it seems like this is happening again at a team who truly should be challenging Juve with the squad they now possess.
It’s hard to tell whether the current man in charge is truly on thin ice at this early point in the season, but the fans are becoming impatient and after a summer of heavy investment the owners surely will be getting restless soon.
“Mentality and team spirit are essential elements to play in the Champions League,” admitted Spalletti following Inter’s last-minute qualification for the competition last term.
Now the Coach needs to focus on his own words more than ever, as he needs to pull his squad together sooner rather than later.