Our first season in charge of the ‘Beneamata’ has come to an end and it is time to make a first assessment. As one of those who had been appointed as a new manager at a new club, I was one of those who were part of the “pilot project” to implement contracts in this GW. The contract negotiation with the admins went lovely, and the scenario proposed to us was a progressive improvement of the league position achieved in the last season when Inter were led by my predecessor. The Nerazzurri finished fourth to last by then, so the goal for S16 was to improve this result, i.e. to avoid the last four positions in the table. Then in the following seasons, the target would gradually rise up to a planned target of 10th place in S18.
Turning to football “on the pitch”, the season began with the organisation of the first edition of the Trofeo Italia, in which we faced Milan and Juventus. This friendly pre-season mini-event was a tough reality check, in which we got to see the huge gap that still separates us from the top teams in the GW. We got to understand better the amount of hard work we had ahead of us. The tournament ended with two batterings, just 1 goal scored and 7 conceded, earning us the bottom spot in the competition.
No harm done, the championship was just around the corner, but this one also started in the worst way. A tough 1-4 defeat in the opening match, followed by another one immediately afterwards, made us fear the worst. Fortunately, we did not disband, revised our tactics and managed to pick ourselves up over the next few weeks. The team was not too strong, so we decided to follow the example of the Great Inter of the 1960s, and stick to the old rule of Italian football: defence first.
Our “catenaccio” was effective and little by little, thanks also to the market that we will see later, we settled in the upper half of the table. At a certain point of the season, we were in 4th place and we were dreaming of having a shot at direct promotion, but then we got a few underwhelming results which quickly dashed our dreams. It does not matter, we will try again next season, but we gave our fans the satisfaction of seeing our S18 target reached in advance, finishing 9th at the end of the season, just 3 points away from qualifying for the playoffs. Our iron defence proved to be really good, in fact in the last 7 matches we have only conceded one goal! Not bad for a team that had disastrous campaigns behind them, and whose season had started in the worst possible way.
Some might argue that the targets we had were too low and easily achievable, but those who say that don’t have well in mind the conditions the team was in at the start of the season, so let’s have a look at that. The starting XI we inherited from the previous management was as follows:
88 Douglas Santos
As one can see, there was a total lack of quality in every position. Those players were relatively young, but despite this, many were in the stagnant or declining stages of their careers. For example, Caseres, only 24 years old, who a few months later even dropped to 86. We had to arm ourselves with creativity and boldness in the market and we totally revolutionised the team. Obviously, given the limited options we could offer in return, we received many no’s and many doors were closed in our face. But at the same time, we found several other friendly and farsighted managers with whom we could have easy and pleasant negotiations.
Halfway through the season, after a lot of deals had been completed both with other managers and external teams, we looked back to assess the situation and realised that although the quality of the squad had improved considerably, the average age had risen alarmingly. This was the starting XI we could field at the time:
The average rating of the starters had risen from 86.7 at the beginning of the season to 87.8, an increase of more than a point, but at the expense of the average age, which jumped from 26.7 to 31.0. This increase in ratings was very positive for the improvement of our results, but we were well aware that the ratings would not last long and we had to do something to rejuvenate the team and ensure more long-term performance.
We armed ourselves with extra imagination and persistence in the market and went in search of what was right for us. We brought home many players in the 20-25 age range who are currently our second-liners, but at the same time, we worked hard to further revolutionise the starting team. After another whirlwind of transfer deals, here is the starting XI that Inter could field at the end of the season:
We were able to further increase the average rating of the eleven, which has now reached 88.1, while significantly lowering the average age to 28.7. It is certainly not a very young team, but we have enriched ourselves with young and talented players who can make us look at both the present and the future with more confidence. This season of hyperactivity in the market ended with 36 incoming and 34 outgoing operations. The news of a couple of days ago was that the potential starter Radonjic left us to make room for Lobotka, who will contribute to enriching the quality of our midfield.
The goals for the coming seasons will be to continue on this track, always improving the starting XI (maybe finally bringing our first 90-rated players to the most glorious team in the city of Milano), with an eye always on the age and the future potential. We have a number of players not mentioned here who will be in the 85-87 rating range after the next review and who can provide a whole new set of possibilities for the future, both in the market and in the starting line-up.
We have to be realistic, there are many teams that are better than us and the work ahead of us is still long and difficult, but there is no lack of enthusiasm and we will do everything to ensure that the future will be bright for the Nerazzurri colours.