Many times during the first half of the season Antonio Conte has called on the fans and media to see the glass half full and Inter’s 1-1 draw against Atalanta could definitely be a prime example of just that.
Despite finding the lead early in the first half through Lautaro Martinez, the Nerazzurri were lucky to keep hold of a point at the end, not only because of the 88th minute penalty saved by Samir Handanovic, but notably for a second half during which they were completely outplayed by Atalanta.
This can hardly be considered a surprise though, as this Atalanta side which took the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza by storm is the result of a long process and meticulous work by their craftsman Gian Piero Gasperini.
The former Inter coach is in its fourth year at the helm of the Bergamo outfit and is now reaping the fruits after patiently shaping a team that could reflect his ambitious idea of football.
Just as Conte remarked, Atalanta players can boast “some specific features which allow them to keep the intensity high for the entire 90 minutes,” something Inter are still missing at the moment.
Second half Woes
After taking yet another aggressive approach, which resulted in an early lead, Inter fell short in the second half confirming a worrying trend that had already emerged in some of the high-profile fixtures played by the Nerazzurri this season.
In fact, there are several similarities between Inter’s 1-1 draw against Atalanta and their 2-1 Champions League defeat away to Barcelona in October.
On both occasions, the Nerazzurri impressed in the first half but looked a completely different team after the interval – as a result of their inability to reproduce the high-pressing and quick build-up of the initial stages, they couldn’t cope in the long run with their opponents’ quality and physicality, with some of their key players also showing signs of tiredness.
This, however, leaves a question mark… Is Conte’s relentless style of play simply too much for the squad he has at his disposal or a could a few backups help Inter live up to their coach’s expectations?
Finishing touch needed
The Italian boss is aiming to build a team capable of playing intense football for an entire match, even against the strongest opponents, but is should be noted he has only had fives months in which to do so.
Given the progress his side has shown in such a short span of time, Conte deserves his club’s trust and support, as well as that of the supporters.
It was the Inter midfielders who struggled the most against Atalanta, as they became less able to support the frontline, leaving too much weight on the strikers’ shoulders, and it is there that the Nerazzurri need reinforcements in the winter transfer window.
Inter have already done most of the work in the past few months, bringing in a coach who has masterfully fit all the parts together, helping every individual to express their potential. All they lack is a finishing touch that can ultimately make the difference in the Scudetto race.
If Conte is given the tools to further raise the level of his team, then Inter are likely to present a serious threat for reigning champions Juventus right until the end of the campaign, and for the first time in years it is not a matter of mentality.