Pessimism surrounded Inter after a dismal opening to the 2018/19 Serie A season but they have finally developed a winning streak and star striker and captain Mauro Icardi has been an integral part of the turnaround in form.
The Nerazzurri were sitting 14th in the Serie A table after losing two of their first four matches but they have won their last six games in Italy’s top flight and now they share second place with Napoli on 22 points.
Luciano Spalletti can be satisfied with the way his captain has been performing in recent weeks. Although Icardi has scored six times and provided two assists in eight Serie A games so far this season, all six goals have come in his last four league appearances including a double in the Biscione’s 3-0 victory against Lazio on Monday night.
The 25-year-old had missed the 3-0 win against Bologna in round 3 with a muscular injury and he had failed to score in the league prior to the 2-1 victory against Fiorentina, but he was involved in both goals against the Gigliati, scoring a penalty and then assisting Danilo D’Ambrosio for the winner.
Since converting that penalty against the Viola, Icardi has rediscovered his scoring form. Spalletti rested him during the 2-0 victory against Cagliari to keep him fresh for the Champions League game against Dutch side PSV Eindhoven but after that, the Inter centre-forward scored both goals in the 2-1 win against SPAL, headed the winner as they triumphed 1-0 over city rivals AC Milan, and produced the brace against Lazio.
His first goal was an example in knowing how to time runs into the penalty area and be at the right place at the right time. The Argentine held the ball up for Matias Vecino and he continued his run forward despite not getting the return pass from his teammate. Inter still worked their way into the box and the striker was unmarked at the back post to tap the ball in.
Icardi sealed the win in the second half when he received a through-ball from Borja Valero, controlled it with his right foot, swerved past Lazio wing-back Senad Lulic, and then struck the ball powerfully into the net with his left.
The former Sampdoria striker might not score the most spectacular of goals but he knows how to position himself like a true out-and-out striker and can score goals with both feet as well as his head.
He is not going to track back or greatly sacrifice himself like most forwards are expected to do in the modern game but Inter are playing to his strengths. He will terrorise opposing defences when he is left in the final third and he knows how to adjust his movements when he is in the vicinity of the penalty box.
Many football experts had tipped Inter to be the most likely candidate to break Juventus’ recent hegemony in Italian football but it seems that the Bianconeri are destined to secure their eighth consecutive Italian title even in these early stages. Despite this, Spalletti and his players are still featuring in three competitions and can remain a tough side to beat.
If the Nerazzurri maintain their winning streak, plaudits will likely be given to their prolific striker Icardi for his ability to perform consistently and steer his team out of poor start to the campaign.