Goals weren’t in short supply in Inter’s first two games of the season; 14 of them flew into the net during a 4-3 win over Fiorentina and 5-2 victory at Benevento.
Yet in the first major test of the season for Antonio Conte’s side at Lazio on Sunday, a lack of creative nous prevented them from turning possession and periods of dominance into three points.
The Scudetto contenders finished the game at the Stadio Olimpico with just under 60 per cent possession.
They made 597 passes and had an extra man on the pitch for 20 minutes, after Ciro Immobile’s fingertips mortally wounded Arturo Vidal.
For all that, the Nerazzurri mustered just three shots on target, one less than the hosts, rarely threatening Thomas Strakosha in the Lazio goal.
Even for their goal, a clinically dispatched Lautaro Martinez strike, Inter relied on a lucky bounce of the ball rather than any incisive passing or creative vision to set up the Argentinian.
The visitors’ next best chance came courtesy of a huge deflection on a Marcelo Brozovic strike, which thumped the post.
The trequartista in Conte’s 3-4-1-2 system is the player tasked with providing some spark and putting bullets in the chamber for the two strikers in front of him.
But it already looks like it could be a problem position for Inter, who provided far more threat down the flanks than they did from their midfielders Vidal, Roberto Gagliardini and Nicolo Barella.
Barella was tasked with the advanced role in Rome, and while he did a commendable job, making three key passes, it’s not his natural role.
In fact, the only player in the squad who could be described as a natural No.10 is Christian Eriksen, who continues to struggle in his efforts to convince Conte of his worth.
Since starting the season opener, the Dane made it onto the pitch for nine minutes against Benevento before being overlooked entirely at Lazio.
There’s no doubting Inter’s attacking firepower. Martinez, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez are a terrifying prospect for Serie A sides this season.
And the link-up between Lautaro and Lukaku produced Inter’s best move of the game, when they exchanged passes in a fast break early in the second half to create the space for the Belgian to shoot narrowly wide.
But they can’t be asked to do it all themselves, and the lack of obvious midfield lock-pickers was evident in the capital.
Lazio made more key passes than Inter, 12 to 11, despite completing almost 200 fewer passes in total.
It is food for thought for Conte after an otherwise swashbuckling start to the season.
Pathetic and embarrassing
The histrionics that went on around the two red cards were embarrassing, there’s no other word for it.
To be perfectly clear, Ciro Immobile was stupid to lash out in the way he did at Vidal and Stefano Sensi should’ve then known better than to raise his hand to Patric’s throat.
But the ridiculous reaction of the two ‘victims’ gives a bad name not only to Italian football, but the whole sport.
Immobile’s swat at the Chilean didn’t require the rolling around, peaking-through-the-fingers reaction and Patric’s playacting was even more excruciating to witness.
Surely these reactions are a form of cheating? Can they not be deemed worthy of punishment?
Football is more fun for everyone when there are 11 players on either side, and it’s more fun when those players are focused on playing well rather than tricking or deceiving opponents and referees.
To see players at two of Serie A’s biggest clubs resort to these underhand tactics was pathetic and embarrassing.