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Victory in Lille gives Inter some optimism to take into Serie A

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By Andrew Harding

Thursday 20 October 2011

After this season's UEFA Champions League groups had been drawn, it was Lille who was seen as the greatest threat to Inter’s chances of dominating the group. You could therefore forgive some smiles breaking out across the faces of Inter tifosi, travelling back from northern France with three points and the knowledge that they were now in the top spot of Group B. It’s a position which Inter were expected to hold. What’s interesting is that the set of circumstances that have been inflicted on the Nerazzurri this season have given such a standing a bizarre element of surprise.

Their form in Serie A has been abysmal and there have been many reasons attributed to how Inter find themselves only just above the relegation zone. A long-running problem appears to be the short-term culture that has engulfed the club since winning the Champions League two years ago. The idea that the spectre of Jose Mourinho hangs over the head of anyone who takes the reins of the team has only been given greater weight as time has gone on.

Under Mourinho, the team appeared sufficiently motivated to go beyond themselves for the good of the collective. In such a process, player egos become somewhat distorted in line with the accolades picked up along the route of glory. There is no doubt that this is a symptom of great coaching but when Mourinho departed after their fine achievement in the Santiago Bernabeu, that support network of motivation needed replacing.

Since then, Inter have enjoyed only small phases of good form and have been unable to maintain any direction. The players had become so used to Mourinho's methods and the success that had lead to, that anything else was bound to be questioned. Indeed, the key phase of form they picked up under Leonardo’s guidance last season was partly seen as a result of players being given freedom to do what they wanted to do rather than having a distinct structure to adhere to. The pattern of last season with Rafael Benitez and Leonardo and their differing approaches has re-emerged this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s fate has been similar to Benitez, looking to utilise his own preferred style, only to be met with more questions than answers and to subsequently be replaced by a Coach with a more facilitating nature, this time being Claudio Ranieri.

Prior to their game away to reigning French champions Lille, Wesley Sneijder told the press present that “the season starts now”. The following 1-0 victory was then met with responses from Moratti and Ranieri, reaffirming such a belief of this result serving the purpose of restarting their campaign and that morale and confidence had been given a timely boost. Lille’s performance was tinged with disappointment and they arguably sold themselves short but such a victory for Inter should boost the morale at the club, as should the solitary goal they scored.

The only goal of the game was the only genuine highlight and was a perfect illustration of what Inter can do when correctly motivated. The attacking trio of Sneijder, Mauro Zarate and Giampaolo Pazzini were aided by a surprisingly static Lille defence but the goal showed that the footballing talent that Inter possess cannot be questioned and that it is rather the case of the application of the given talents that is under observation.

The fact is that following Tuesday’s victory in northern France, Inter are in pole position in Group B. It is a far cry from their current standing in Serie A and Ranieri will be aiming that their European exploits in Lille will translate to matters in the peninsula swiftly so they can climb up the table. Champions League qualification will be the minimum requirement this season and while there is a considerable distance to go, downward trends can quickly set and are often difficult to purge. A run of victories is required for confidence to grow amongst the Nerazzurri faithful regardless of Moratti and Ranieri’s words.

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