Inter need to acquire an attacking midfielder during the January transfer window if they are to maintain their place in the Champions League and possibly remain in the Serie A title hunt.
The Nerazzurri suffered their first defeat of the 2017-18 season on Saturday evening, losing 3-1 at home to Udinese, and the result exposed flaws in their central midfield set-up.
Biscione tactician Luciano Spalletti has persisted with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation since joining from Roma but it does not suit the midfielders at his disposal. Against the Zebrette, Spalletti started Matias Vecino and Borja Valero in the two deep central roles while Marcelo Brozovic played in the attacking midfielder or trequartista role.
While Valero was operating as a deep-lying playmaker, Inter were in the game but the momentum changed when Brozovic was replaced by defensive midfielder Roberto Gagliardini and that meant Valero had to play in a more advanced role.
Most of the Nerazzurri’s victories this season have been scrappy and they have often had to grind out their wins but Udinese forced them into having possession and they lacked the guile to break down a tight Friulani defence.
The system Spalletti implements as well as the deep defending of the Zebrette did not suit the Biscione midfield.
Vecino is an energetic box-to-box midfielder but he is not a footballer that can dictate the play; Valero plays well in a deep position but lacks the speed to operate behind centre-forward Mauro Icardi; Brozovic can score some fine goals but does little else; and Gagliardini is an excellent ball-winner but he is simplistic in his ball distribution.
When Inter demolished Chievo 5-0 in Round 15, Brozovic played in the trequartista role but Valero was the midfield general and Joao Mario was an auxiliary playmaker. The unavailability of Gagliardini and Vecino for the game allowed Spalletti to start with a more creative midfield but it showed that they can be more fluid with the right set-up.
Although starting Valero, Brozovic and Joao Mario allows the Nerazzurri to be more fluid, it would be a shame to sacrifice Gagliardini and Vecino, who are solid contributors in the middle of the park.
If Spalletti wants to main a central midfield duo with predominantly defensive roles, he needs a creative midfielder that can provide extra spark as well as extra support for Icardi and wingers Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic.
There has been media speculation in recent months linking the Biscione with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United, Javier Pastore from Paris-Saint Germain, and Alex Teixeira from Inter’s parent club Jiangsu Suning and all three are capable of adding an extra dimension to Spalletti’s system.
Mkhitaryan has not featured recently in the Red Devils squad and he has reportedly fallen out with manager Jose Mourinho. The Armenian international can also play on the right-wing but he is a player that does well behind a striker and can provide as well as score goals.
Pastore is not a guaranteed starter for the Parisiens but he is a graceful midfielder who can glide through opponents and acquiring Teixeira would not require Inter to spend money. The Brazilian was also a prolific scorer when he was at Shakhtar Donetsk and has experience in European competitions.
Although Inter are in the battle for a Champions League spot, the Nerazzurri don’t often dominate games and have to rely on key players for goals. If they have more spark in midfield, they should be able to control more games and score more goals, and getting one of these targets should improve the team.
If Spalletti has one thing on his Christmas wish list, surely it should include a trequartista.