In our first Classic Calcio Analysis, Thanos Chelas takes a look at Internazionale’s home league clash with Udinese in 2009. In what would turn out to be a historic season, Inter were looking to return to winning ways after defeat away to Sampdoria.
Date: 3 October 2009
Venue: San Siro
Occasion: Serie A 2009/2010, Matchday 7
Jose Mourinho’s Inter lined up in their more common formation for the 2009/2010 season: a 4-3-1-2 with Esteban Cambiasso protecting the defence and Wesley Sneijder in the trequartista role looking for space to receive the right pass, positioning himself between Udinese’s midfield and defensive lines. Sulley Muntari and Dejan Stankovic provided speed and energy in the Inter midfield while also making penetrative runs into their offensive third. Inter’s full-backs attacked when the ball was on their side with the weak side full-back staying behind and creating a three-man defence against their opponents’ two forwards.
Udinese coach Marino Pasquale chose a pretty basic 4-4-2 shape with the full-backs overlapping and underlapping with their wingers. On the left Simone Pepe played as an inverted winger, making inside runs to find space to shoot with his right foot, and leaving space on the wing for Aleksandar Lukovic to exploit. On the right there was Alexis Sanchez , who played closer to the line and tried to take advantage of his speed against a slower opponent in Christian Chivu. Udinese’s forwards did not join the midfield duo to help with the build-up play.
Both teams looked to attack as fast as possible with the other team in defensive transition, which led to quite an entertaining game to watch.
Udinese’s positional flaws leave space for counter-attacks
As we can see from the above picture , Udinese’s lack of horizontal compactness and the lack of at least one forward joining the midfield to help build-up play led to their two central midfielders playing almost vertically to each other in order to move the ball up the field. This positioning resulted in a lot of free space on the opposite side of where the ball was played, which made them extremely vulnerable against a counter-attack, especially against a team and a coach that specialized in this kind of game.
Again, in this situation after an Udinese throw-in from the left, Udinese’s two central midfielders, as well as Pepe and Antonio Di Natale, are all on the left side with Antonio Floro Flores and Sanchez inside the box. Nobody is occupying the huge space in front of the box which leaves Udinese in danger. They were lucky in this situation as Julio Cesar misplaced a pass for Muntari, who would have been free to run half of the pitch.
Inter go in front but not for long
Inter managed to open the score in the 22nd minute with Stankovic through a counter-attack which started by stealing the ball from the deepest Udinese central midfielder and attacking quickly with four players against Udinese’s three remaining defenders.
But Inter weren’t smiling for long because in the 27th minute, after a Gokhan Inler dribble past Cambiasso, Inter’s last midfield player, the inability of the Inter defence to play an offside trap on Di Natale allowed Udinese’s Italian captain to tie the score.
After the equalising goal, Udinese changed to a more conservative approach. Now one central midfielder was staying closer to the centre-backs, the team was not pressing high or in numbers and they were attacking with less players than before.
This attitude led to Inter having the initiative, possession of the ball and sometimes a very high line of defence, which was dangerous with fast players like Di Natale and Sanchez ready to counter-attack against two slow centre-backs in Walter Samuel and Lucio.
Udinese, by managing to tie the score almost immediately, would force a mainly counter-attacking team like Inter to attack in the opponent’s half for the better part of 60 minutes. In doing so, they almost managed to get a point.
Mourinho changes formation in search of winning goal
Mourinho changed Inter’s shape in the 72nd minute, with the introduction of striker David Suazo in the place of Muntari. Inter’s shape was now like this:
Suazo and Eto’o were the two forwards with Mario Balotelli joining them from the right as the third one. Sneijder was now on the left but had the freedom to go into the centre, although almost all of his movements were in the left half-space. Sneijder’s esoteric movement left space for Chivu on the wing to attack and cross the ball from deep, mainly targeting the back post.
With the game tied in the 88th minute Mourinho, instead of making another attacking change, substituted Lucio for Davide Santon. This move was probably made on the basis that Santon was much faster than Lucio, thus making Inter less vulnerable to the counter.
Mourinho’s changes did not make the difference against a team that was willing to sit deep if needed. At least not until the 93rd minute, when Sneijder – attacking the left half-space – received a pass from Eto’o on the right and scored a crucial, late winner.
For highlights of this great game, click here.
Thanos Chelas is a new contributor to Tactical Calcio. He writes about football for his own blog: Il Mister Football Analysis and studies Economics. He lives in Athens, Greece and can be found on Twitter @ThanosChelas.