Juventus 1 - Inter 3

Claudio Villa

There are a lot of reasons for Inter supporters to really savor this win. Yeah, it was against a hated rival. More than that, it announces the ambition of the season and further proves the need for the current project. Where once we were praying for Champions League entrance, we now have the dream of competing for the League top spot in May.

In my review of the Milan game, I said the game validated all the change, heart break, and resignation to a lesser league role up to that point. This game, in my opinion, is a further joyous validation that all this stuff that we went through in the early part of this season was worth it. We are near the top of the table. The goals allowed and goals for stats are very heartening. The morale of the team is beautiful right now. Frankly, we couldn’t have asked to be in a better spot at this point in the schedule.

There are 7 Serie A games left until the winter break. The three telling games and further test of our squad will be Lazio, Atalanta and Napoli. These three teams – Atalanta is a derby of sorts for the team and is always tough to play – for various reasons will be the ones that will test our mettle in the foreseeable future. Napoli has an extremely dangerous first 11. Lazio has the talent on paper to be a major pain the shorts.

So this is the real meaning of this game Charlie Brown, we get to validate and inflate our ambitions for the season.

Le Pagelle

Batmanovic – He certainly can’t be faulted for the goal. He saved the coup de grace on Marchisio which probably further saved the game from become even more of a farce than the offside goal promised it was going to be. 8.5

Juan – Has there been a bigger surprise this season than this guy? Against Juventus he was tall, strong and fast. Made a rookie mistake, but I will love through it if he continues to give so much for the team. 7.0

Samuel – Walter picked up a stupid caution, but otherwise I thought he was fine. 6.5

Ranocchia – I have no problems with Rano’s play on the night. He was willing and able to attack the space between the midfield and the defense and he came through with the ball nearly all the time – and the times he didn’t… it didn’t really hurt us. 7.0

Nagatomo – Juventus couldn’t deal with him at all and it showed in the way they tried to take him out of his game. He was hip checked, pushed, kicked and shoved to the ground. Each time he got up and just continued to push until they just couldn’t take him anymore. In a lot of ways Naga and Guarin are the symbol of the team this season. Neither is a perfect example of his position, each has their flaws but there is a stubbornness there that is almost palatable. Naga had his problems defending yesterday, but his ability to constantly put Juve in trouble and on the back foot was beautiful. 8.0

Gargano – This wasn’t a perfect game for Gargano and he made a mistake or two in the course, but he did his job. His job was to run, run and run. He ran for two men, at least, and he put several players in the midfield – that vaunted Juve midfield – under constant pressure all game long. It’s a player like Gargano that allows Javier to stay on the field and do what he does best. 6.5

Cambiasso – The Cambiasso and Javier renaissance is in full swing. With other players to do the real heavy running and getting the occasional rest Cambiasso looks like a new man compared to last season. When paired with Gargano, Guarin or Mudingayi in the middle it leaves Cuchu free to do what he does best: read the game. Yeah, he has a nice tackle and he can pass some and he can score here or there… but it’s cool to watch him move in the path of a pass before the other guy even lifts his leg to push the ball. He had a great game. 8.5

Javier – Javier, in my lifetime, has seen time in the center midfield, wide midfield, wingback, full back and center defense. To my mind he’s always been a prototype right wingback. He patrols the sidelines, defends elegantly and can push forward to support extremely well. He had a wonderful game and put his decade younger opponent to shame. 8.0

Cassano – If Strama made a mistake, I think it was playing Cassano. Cassano is like a scalpel. Playing against a team like Juventus needs a sledgehammer. Even though I think he’s the wrong tool for the Juventus Job, he had his chances, like the sweet bending shot that left Buffon standing still but missed the back post by what seemed like inches. If nothing else, he scared the backline into being honest. 7.0

Palacio – What a game this guy had. For my money, he was the MOTM. He was all over the place. He dropped back deep to help add some control and technique to the WWF match that was the midfield. He ran the transition. He scored a goal. He scored another that was correctly adjudged offsides. He should have gotten Lichtsteiner sent off. It was a masterpiece. Boy did I – and everyone else – judge this transfer so completely wrong. 9.5

Milito – I think everyone will give the laurel and hearty handshake to Milito for his game and if it wasn’t for the game that I think Palacio had, I don’t know if I could argue too much. He was correctly given a penalty – that’s not me saying it, that’s every reliable pundit on a reliable media outlet – and then he put it away. He also scored on a hell of a shot while running at full speed and deflected partly by a defender. Milito more than gave for the cause. 9.0

Guarin – Like Garagano there is the edict that Guarin must run to be a factor. He didn’t disappoint. Whatever was bothering him in September and most of October seems to be out of his system and he’s more the player we witnessed last season. His shot to cause the rebound for Milito’s second goal was ungodly. 7.5

Strama – I don’t often grade the coach but for this game I will only because I have something to say about his preparation. First of all, once again he was spot on how he thought the game was going to flow. He might now have seen the gift Juventus got in the free goal, but he saw the rest of it pretty well. The team was generally mentally prepared and after the initial shock of the injustice of the goal in which Handanovic had to be pretty heroic there didn’t seem to be too much else that bothered the team – relatively speaking I mean.

This was a huge stage for some of these kids and it showed here and there, but it’s not like there was someone who didn’t know their job. The crowd might have been a new/disturbing experience because this venue isn’t a staple in Serie A, but the team was so well drilled it often seemed like they were mostly impervious to the stadium and the fans. That’s all on the coach in my book.

Tactics

The problem with playing Juve is that they like to stretch you vertically by playing really compact one moment by running their attackers towards their own goal and then expanding their team suddenly with midfielders making the overlapping runs forward to confuse defenders who are trying to keep track of the ball and which attacker is running where. If you have midfielders who can chase, and defenders who are aware of the switching before hand it’s less of a problem. And last night after the early run by Marchisio the situation was pretty well in hand. Once the midfield bogged down, Juventus became something that Inter see a lot of in Serie A… an essentially narrow team that prefers to play in the middle of the field, despite the 3 man defense and additional midfielders.

This is where the trident becomes so important. Yes, the trident that sparked much consternation from the Juve hierarchy for the audacity of our coach to bring it to Turin. That "carefree" comment that everyone knew exactly what Marotta meant when he said it. Naïve. Brash. Careless. Reckless. Take your pick of synonym. Watch the 7Gold guys at the very beginning. Exactly which nerve the trident talk hit is pretty obvious.

But regardless of the prideful, intimidating, and political statement that Marotta was trying to make, Strama played to his strengths on this call. Despite the 352 formation that Juve play, it’s still a very typically narrow Italian formation with only a single player patrolling each sideline. In Strama’s trident formation (343) there are 2 players minimum who are attacking each sideline. Here’s some quick math for you all: 2 > 1. One man can’t guard 2 people. And no team – especially one that prides itself on its animal pressing like Juventus does – will allow any player to run free with the ball.

So that extra Inter player has to be covered by one of the defensive three. Add in some wrinkles like constant switching of positions by the three members of the trident and overlapping wingbacks and the Juve backline got stretched and chased itself out of position, moreso as the game wore on. You might have noticed that various members of the Juve midfield had to drop and cover the spaces in the back in the second half allowing Inter more space to hold possession around the circle.

It certainly wasn't "carefree".

So while Juve were protesting the audacity and insult of being shown three attackers, Strama was thinking about how to loosen up space between those three narrowly positioned defenders so that whoever is the striker can get a clean shot or two. In the second half Cassano working with Nagatomo on the left got past Caceres and forced one of the central defenders out wide. One on one, Naga skipped past him and hit a shot that stung Buffon’s hands. Juve decide to drop midfielders not named Pirlo straight back into the space between the middle defender and the two edge guys to keep that middle territory of the area packed with no room for attackers in that prime angle right in front of goal. And what do we see happen? It’s Marchisio, the midfielder, just inside the area, off to the side a bit, pulling Milito’s shirt causing the penalty. He’s there because of the work of Cassano and Naga earlier.

The third goal is almost the same story. Naga goes deep on the left forcing defenders to come to him while leaving the space to open up behind them in the middle of the area. He runs inside to the opening daylight and lays a nice pass to Palacio who only has to contend with one defender for the toe poke.

This tactic has risks, you can’t put more personnel resources in attack without leaving a deficiency behind, but IF you can defend yourself decently AND you can make the most of some of the numerical mismatches you are trying to provoke, THEN you have given yourself a chance to win the game. The dangers are obvious, though. Juventus didn’t tally 49 unbeaten games by accident. There are goal scoring dangers on the team. They certainly weren’t going to sit back and die, we knew that. But a team that runs so much – especially right out of the gate - early in the game and rotates the squad so little in the course of the season… you have to be willing to trust your luck a bit, right?

This is quite a long way away from the ultra-cautious, super-conservative Ranieri, isn’t it?

Moving on

One could argue that the two games on either side of this fixture were potentially more important to our Champions League dreams. I mean, most teams will lose or draw to Juve, but most teams that we are competing for that precious CL spot with will beat Samp and Atalanta. And beating Juve but losing to Atalanta is something of a wash really. So to keep up with Napoli and Fiorentina; and to make the Juve win mean something more than a declaration of arrival we need to get a decent amount of points against Atalanta, Cagliari, Palermo and Parma. Now that there’s some expectation with this team I wonder how the new guys will handle it…

FORZA INTER

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