Pescara 0 - Inter 3

Coutinho

It’s impossible to gauge a season by the first game. For most teams, the first game is just this side of a preseason friendly and just the other side of a conditioning regimen with ball skills practice. For Inter and for Pescara also, I think that this game was a bit more. For Inter, there have been several questions regarding this team. For Pescara it was, among other things, a celebration of the return of one of the most unique teams in Serie A.

Pescara might have been newly promoted but you had to know they saw the same stats we all saw – Inter starts slow, Inter had started glacially slow last season, Inter had a couple of players that just joined, Inter had several injuries to deal with, and on and on. They had to think the same thing I was thinking when I saw the lineups: If Inter’s destiny this season is to be a good team, the best time to play them and hope for a result of some kind would be right now before the team gels, before the new guys get their fitness and before Pescara had any serious injuries of their own. Playing in front of a stadium that sold out in under a week had to be some incentive.

So whatever the talent level of the newly promoted team is, one should acknowledge that the environment was hostile and there were several convenient excuses available for dropping points if the players decided that they didn’t need/want to give their all.

But that’s not how the team responded, is it? Taking the technical and tactical performance of the team out of the equation for the minute, the team reacted extremely positive considering several factors like how recently half the team was introduced to the organization and that, counting the Pescara game, Inter has already had 5 games in 4 weeks with the accompanying travel. Next week will make 6 games in 4.5 weeks and it’s safe to say that, all due respect to Pescara, the knock out ties for the Europa League were probably more immediately important.

My point here, before we get into the individual performances and tactical choices of the coach, is that this team is emotionally invested in their season and considering their schedule for the rest of August and the first weekend of September, getting themselves up for what could have been an understandable letdown game against newly promoted, but offensively dangerous, Pescara in a hostile territory with recent opening day history decidedly not on their side makes this aspect of the their performance, in my opinion, a very positive sign for the opening weeks of this season.

Le Pagelle

Castellazzi: The Lizard King showed that he could "do anything" still. He was called on twice to save goals and he made the plays he needed to save three points. 7.0

Zanetti: Had some initial trouble with Weiss and often needed help from Guarin to deal with the speedy outside player, but otherwise showed poise and leadership as usual. 6.5

Silvestre: Strong in the air and I thought very positionally sound considering the movement of the Pescara attack. Solid, solid, solid. If I have a criticism, it’s that he and Ranocchia need to get on the same page, otherwise I thought their styles complimentary. 6.5

Ranocchia: I thought that Froggy has been having a hell of a preseason and I only saw one thing that marred what I thought was a very good first game of the season for the young man. 7.0

Nagatomo: Like Ranocchia, I thought that Naga had a wonderful preseason, continued his good play into this game and marred an otherwise good performance with a single mistake. 6.5

Guarin: Freddy used his athleticism to excellent advantage as he was able to go forward to help in attack and also come back to bail out Zanetti with the troublesome Weiss. I thought that his passing left a lot to be desired though. 7.0

Gargano: Hard to find fault with Walter’s game. He plays with a lot of emotion, selfless running on the field and is a battler despite his height. All that and he’s not bad on the ball. 7.5

Cambiasso: Having the "G’s" along side him will allowed Cambiasso to play a much more positional game in front of the defense but I think he also overshadowed by his much younger midfield teammates. 6.5

Cassano: He gave at least 9 more minutes than I thought he had in him and he made a selfless assist without any actions detrimental to the team. His defensive presence up top was predictably nonexistent. 7.0

Sneijder: With Cassano next to him, competent ball winners behind him and Strama on the bench making a game plan that caters to his strengths this looks like a completely different player than the one that endured Ranieri and Gasperini. 7.5

Milito: With everyone worried if this was Diego "Yips" Milito V2.0 he really came through with selfless play and a lot of, perhaps too much, running. I really think that he could have had at least 2 more goals if he weren’t exhausted in the 2nd half. 8.5

Stramaccioni: Hard to find fault with his game plan: attack Pescara on the corners, make low passes on the ground to our short attackers, take advantage of the talent both physical and technical that Inter had in the midfield and defend positionally. I think that the constant running of the midfield might make the occasional hard time on the defense in the future as tiredness sets in. I think there are still some kinks to work out as well, but for a first game against a team that will probably attack more than most; I think it was a positive step over last season’s initial offering – 4 goals shipped away to Palermo.

Other Thoughts

Part of the job of the manager is to plan a game so that the best players available are used to their best advantage and I certainly can’t complain about the formation or the player choices. Which is great if you look at the end result, but slightly disappointing because now I not much to say about this aspect of the game. I could quibble about Cassano starting without being in optimum game shape but it’s not like he didn’t just spend his entire summer playing in a highly competitive European Tournament. Whatever fat there might be since the finals against Spain, I’m willing to bet that Strama will get him to burn some fat soon-ish.

There was a lot to like tactically speaking in this game. Inter looked like it made a conscience decision to change its style to a much shorter passing game than in recent years. At times we cycled the ball around for extended periods of time. Everyone likes to make the Barca comparison every time a team has possession and I hate that sort of thinking. Inter played a much shorter passing game because there was less reliance on counter attacking.

Thankfully there seemed to be a concerted effort to shoot from inside the area instead of launching missiles from outside. Over 20% of the shots that Inter took yesterday (14 total) occurred inside the keeper’s box. An additional 21% occurred inside the penalty area. I like the emphasis on higher percentage shots. We created those high percentage scoring opportunities mostly from low passes from the flanks to the center and from through balls to players making runs into the area.

The bottom line for me here is the bottom line. The game was won on all levels. Strama didn’t hide or play counter attack. He went after the win and continued attacking after he had the lead, knowing that Pescara could score, knowing that he was playing away and knowing what happened last season when Inter took a promotion team too lightly. All of this speaks well of the coach, his intelligence and his ability to put his personality into the team. Even if it’s only for this single game, the fact that he was able to accomplish those goals is a definite positive for me. And, as I have said in the pregame, all I am looking for here is improvement.

I don’t know what Inter will eventually rise from the flames of last season’s crash and burn. I won’t stop supporting this team if we have another 7th place finish. Sure I’ll be disappointed, but if I can point to one thing by next May, just one single thing and say, "That was a vast improvement over last season" that would be enough for me. My ego, having won The Treble, can handle almost anything at this point. Last May I looked at this team and I thought, if we had a complete 30 man upheaval, I could get behind that. Even though there were those two streaks last season where the greatness of the players was desperately fighting to come out, I would have been content to junk the project started waaaaaay back with Facchetti and start anew.

Yesterdays game with Pescara showed me improvement over last season, even if it’s just in attitude and a desire to bury the bones of last year's failures. I don’t know what will happen with this year’s team. I will continue to support this team no matter the table position just like I did before. But, I like the improvement that I already see, even if it’s just a first game against a promotion team. I like it.

So far.

FORZA INTER

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