Inter are a ticking time bomb but what can Antonio Conte do to fix it?

Inter Milan are a ticking time bomb that could explode under Antonio Conte… with Christian Eriksen already looking for a way out, Arturo Vidal and Achraf Hakimi failing to settle and captain Samir Handanovic’s standards slipping, what can he do to fix it?

  • Inter Milan have made a slow start to the season as they sit seventh in Serie A
  • The Italian giants are also bottom of their Champions League group
  • Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte has many problems to address within his side 

Nobody would have envisaged Inter Milan making such a poor start to their Serie A and Champions League campaigns, but that they have this season.

They say patience is a virtue, but patience is what the Italian giants have always lacked. Legendary Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni once summarised that they are ‘like a centrifuge that crushes everything’.

The 81-year-old’s words are fitting for Inter who always seem to destroy their own ambitions at winning Serie A every season.

Despite making big signings, the team still has its struggles and is too reliant on goalscorer Romelu Lukaku to bail them out. They currently sit seventh in Serie A and bottom of their Champions League group.

Inter are a ticking time bomb that could explode if they go another season trophyless, so what is going on with Antonio Conte’s side at the San Siro?

Antonio Conte knows he is under pressure to turnaround Inter Milan’s slow start to the season

The Italian giants currently sit seventh in Serie A and bottom of their Champions League group

ERIKSEN ENIGMA

The £17.5million signing of Christian Eriksen from Tottenham in January has strained the relationship between Conte and Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta – to a point where the relationship is perhaps irreparably damaged.

Eriksen was signed to be the creative spark in Conte’s midfield, but given the manager’s decision to play a 3-5-2 formation, the former Tottenham man has been told he must be ‘functional’ to Inter’s new ‘project’.

Conte told Gazetta dello Sport: ‘All the choices I make are always and only for the good of Inter not for the good of the single player.

Christian Eriksen has endured a difficult time at Inter since joining from Tottenham in January

Eriksen was signed to be the creative spark in Conte’s midfield but doesn’t start under him 

Conte is reported to be less than impressed with the Danish playmaker so far this season

‘Players must be functional to an idea and a project in order to be competitive at national and international level.

‘The modern footballer must be fast, strong, resistant. I take the technique for granted if you join a club like Inter.’

The Italian’s words have drawn comparisons to how Inter handled Dennis Bergkamp during his time at the club. The Dutch legend played for Inter between 1993 to 1995 but was never considered a star. The forward went on to join Arsenal – becoming a club icon there as he scored 120 goals in 423 games over 11 years. In addition he went on to win three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

Conte’s sentiments about Eriksen have opened up a wound that will take a long time to heal. Eriksen and Marotta reportedly do not understand why Conte ‘disappointed’ in the 28-year-old’s output. Last month Eriksen demanded more game time from Conte publicly too.

As it stands the future of both being at Inter beyond this season remain in doubt. With Eriksen linked with a departure already, the same has applied to Conte due to his relationship with Marotta. Failure to win a trophy will certainly heighten that feeling.

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta (right) and Conte have a strained relationship that is ready to pop

Eriksen has warned Conte that he is not happy sitting on the bench, speaking last month

FALTERING VIDAL 

Arturo Vidal is a midfielder that Antonio Conte could always bet on since his first year as Juventus manager. However, the Chilean is not the same player he once was and Conte is now clinging on to the good memories they had in Turin of the strong and gritty midfield warrior.

Juventus, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have all been willing to let the 33-year-old leave them during various stages of his career, rather than fight to keep him.

During Inter’s 2-2 Champions League draw with Borussia Monchengladbach in October, Vidal was at fault for both of the German outfit’s goals.

Just 10 days later he had his own horror-show performance on Halloween as Inter rescued a point at home to Parma after trailing by two goals. Despite the late comeback, the reality was that it was two points dropped as the gap between them and the top of Serie A widened.

Eriksen is the one who is directly affected by Conte’s faith in Vidal and the Dane believes he should be given a chance to shine instead of his team-mate.

Arturo Vidal (right) is not the player Conte once worked with during their time at Juventus

At the Turin outfit, Vidal was a midfield warrior for Conte as Juventus began to dominate Italy

Vidal was at fault for both of Borussia Monchengladbach’s goals during the 2-2 October draw

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC ISN’T SO FANTASTIC AS OF LATE

Speaking to Football Italia last month, Inter’s legendary goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca criticised current incumbent, and captain, Samir Handanovic.

‘I think he had a drop in performance after the lockdown,’ he said. ‘Before he was almost unbeatable. After that, he had some lows and looked more vulnerable. This is not the real Handanovic yet, but he can get back to his usual standards.’

The Slovenian is no longer the force he once was but at 36 years old, that is understandable. His physical and psychological decline is apparent and it’s up to Conte and his coaching staff to help arrest this.

He could also look at alternatives to Handanovic, choosing a younger replacement. In 23-year-old Andrei Radu he already has that. The question is, does he stick or twist?

Inter captain and goalkeeper Samir Handanovic’s standards have slipped so far this season

DEFENCE HAS MORE HOLES THAN A FRENCH CHEESE

Inter’s defensive record, by their standards, is a disaster – having conceded 11 goals in seven Serie A matches to date. They are conceding on average more than a goal than a game and that is unthinkable if they have aspirations on ending Juventus’ Serie A dominance.

It was only a few months ago that Inter had the best defence in the league. Things have differed since then with Conte changing tact in terms of personnel used. For starters, he has tried to be more attacking this season in the wing-back area with summer signing Achraf Hakimi deployed on the right flank in place of the departed Antonio Candreva – who joined Sampdoria. On the left flank fellow new boy Aleksandar Kolarov and the retuning Ivan Perisic have often been preferred to the more defensive Ashley Young.

The decision to do so though has backfired on Conte with the team’s growth stunted by a lack of solidity in these positions. Hakimi is the biggest disappointment in Serie A so far this season – especially after excelling on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid.

The 22-year-old is posing a tactical dilemma for Conte and it’s not the first time Inter have struggled when it comes to a highly-rated young full back. In 2017-18 they had Joao Cancelo, now of Manchester City, on loan but that spell was a disaster – with the Portuguese unable to learn the tactical mechanisms of Italian football at the San Siro.

Achraf Hakimi has been a disappointment for Inter Milan since joining the club in the summer

JUVENTUS ALWAYS SEEM ONE STEP AHEAD 

Serenity is not a word that you would associate Antonio Conte with and the 51-year-old is already angry about the stress that accompanies Inter’s season.

The Italian giants were among the busiest in the transfer market and have great expectation placed upon them to deliver the Serie A title.

They face great obstacle in Juventus, who are bidding to win a staggering 10th-straight title, and their bitter rivals are a point above them in the standings at present (Juve are fifth on 13 points, with Inter seventh on 12 points).

In addition, Juve have serial winner Cristiano Ronaldo among their ranks – who will drive his team on to the sky-high standards he sets himself. 

Inter’s bitter rivals Juventus, led by Cristiano Ronaldo (left), remain the team to beat in Italy




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