However, during his 7 years (2 with the youth team and 5 with the senior squad) at Lazio, he had displayed a highly harmonious and pleasing style of play, which was very well organized. This allowed him to win two Italian Supercups and an Italian Cup during the years when Juventus was practically unbeatable in Italy.
In his first season with Inter, unfortunately, he lost the league title due to a poor performance in the second half of the season between January and May 2022, effectively handing the title to Milan.
In the last season, 2022-23, Inter finished third in a league that was dominated from start to finish by Luciano Spalletti's Napoli, with the Nerazzurri never posing a real threat.
However, it was in the Champions League that Inter truly excelled, reaching the final for the first time in 13 years since their last Champions League victory under Jose Mourinho (which was also the last time an Italian team won the Champions League).
They fell short in the final, facing off against Pep Guardiola's seemingly unbeatable Manchester City, who had previously dominated the reigning champions, Real Madrid.
In the final against the Citizens, the superiority of City may not have been as evident. Rodri's goal stemmed from a well-constructed play by the English side, with the Spanish midfielder arriving from deep and capitalizing on the fact that Inter's defense was all packed into their own penalty area.
However, if it hadn't been for an incredible miss by Romelu Lukaku from point-blank range, the game could have taken a different turn.
In this season, Inter has let go of players like Onana, Lukaku, Skriniar, and other key players. However, they have adequately replaced them with the likes of Pavard, Frattesi, Sommer, and Arnautovic.
After 5 rounds of the league, Inter finds themselves at the top of Serie A with 5 wins in 5 matches, including a resounding 5-1 victory in the derby against Milan.
System of Play in Possession:
In possession, Inter never forces the play. If the game situation allows for it, they prefer building up from the back and favor lateral chains, particularly involving Dimarco and Dumfries, who are both athletic players with excellent technical qualities.
However, if the opponent's first line of pressure doesn't permit building up from the back, as was often the case in this match, the team adapts to a maximum of 1-3-3-4 formation. In this scenario, Sommer tends to bypass the opponent's pressing lines with a direct attack, primarily targeting Thuram.
System of Play out of Possession:
Out of possession, Inter sets up in a 1-4-4-2 formation, which becomes a 1-5-3-2 when the opposing team is in the final third.
It's an organized team where Lautaro and Thuram direct the play towards the sides of the field. Dimarco drops back to integrate the defensive unit, shifting to a back four. Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, and Mkhitaryan typically remain flat, aiming to block vertical passing lanes.
If opposing attackers start playing between the lines (between midfield and defense), Bastoni and Darmian step out of the defensive line and apply strong pressure on the ball carrier, even venturing beyond the final third.
In this case, De Vrij is left in a 1v1 situation, while either Bastoni or Darmian, depending on who isn't pressuring, tightens the defensive line, and Dimarco integrates into the defensive unit.
Ball Possession Phase:
In the ball possession phase, Inter transitions to a 1-3-1-3-2 formation, with Bastoni, De Vrij, and Darmian positioned narrowly to attract the opponent's first line of press. The three midfielders rotate extensively to seek vertical passes, although they succeeded infrequently.
Dimarco and Dumfries stay wide to exploit the flanks, while Thuram operates higher up to engage in direct attacks. Lautaro often drops into the middle to provide an additional passing option and to offer support when attacking directly towards Thuram.
In the development phase, Bastoni (51 passes), Mkhitaryan (51 passes), and Dimarco (42 passes) distribute the majority of the balls. This suggests that Inter attempts to use the left flank to overcome the opponent's pressing lines in the development phase, a pattern corroborated by the Heatmap Zone data.
Sommer has the highest pass success rate in bypassing the opponent's press, often employing direct attacks primarily directed towards Thuram.
Lautaro frequently moves between the lines to provide an additional passing solution.
Dimarco and Dumfries rarely enter the central part of the field, partly due to Mkhitaryan and Barella's presence on their respective sides. They tend to stay wide, particularly Dimarco, who plays along the touchline.
This positioning provides him with a better field of vision, the ability to link up with midfielders and the forward, and the opportunity to close passing triangles to evade opponent marking and attack depth.
The 5th midfielders on both sides are highly involved, with Dimarco, Mkhitaryan, and Bastoni on one side, and Dumfries, Barella, and Darmian on the other.
Dimarco has a higher pass percentage (22.5%) compared to Dumfries, with 50% more successful passes.
Inter predominantly utilizes the left side of the field with Dimarco in search of crosses or deep deliveries.
On the other hand, Dumfries is more often involved in passing and attacking the goal, a conclusion supported by the shot zones during the match, which were significantly more active on the right side of the penalty area.
In the finishing phase, Mkhitaryan has the highest number of successful passes in the final third with 12 passes, followed by Bastoni. This indicates that Inter aims to have as many players as possible in the opponent's final third during the finishing phase.
The lines are staggered, and when the opponent's defense is well-structured, Inter remains composed and avoids forcing plays, especially given the presence of strong long-range shooters like Mkhitaryan and Calhanoglu.
If the wide routes are closed off, they look to move the ball horizontally in the opponent's final third.
The defensive line is often bypassed through combinations and 1v1 situations, especially on the right side of the field, with Dumfries seeking to link up with the forwards and get into one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper.
On the opposite side, Dimarco is utilized for his precise and driven crosses (resulting in the 1st Inter goal) and the forward runs of Bastoni, who posed a frequent threat to Vincenzo Italiano's team.
It's noteworthy that Inter took a total of 21 shots, with 5 taken by Lautaro and 6 by Thuram. What's significant is that 8 shots were taken by Dumfries (3), Mkhitaryan (1), Dimarco (2), and Calhanoglu (2). This indicates that while Inter relies on its forwards, they also aim to involve as many players as possible in shooting positions.
Phase Without Ball Possession: First Defensive Action
The first defensive action aims to force the opponent to the outside. Lautaro and Thuram block the vertical passing lane, and Dimarco often drops back to integrate the defensive line, especially when the ball is uncovered in the opponent's final third.
The formation shifts to a 1-4-4-2, and when the ball is played to the strong side, there is an immediate press on the ball carrier. The midfield slides into the ball zone, maintaining good coverage on the weak side.
The defensive setup is designed to close down various areas of the field. Dimarco integrates into the defensive line, regardless of the presence of the opponent, slightly separating from Bastoni. In this way, during the shift, Dimarco moves up to become the 5th midfielder. Calhanoglu descends conceptually to position himself in front of the defense.
Even if there isn't strong pressure from opponents, he remains almost indifferent to the ball, positioning himself between the lines, ready to disrupt any potential plays. The idea is to eliminate any possibility of passing near the edge of the penalty area.
Lautaro and Thuram are positioned along the ball line, prepared to attack the depth during transitions.
The midfield maintains a flat 4-line when the ball is in the opponent's final third, but often drops below the ball line, aiming to congest the central area and direct play toward the flanks, as observed in the previous table. The goal is to close off the central zone, forcing the opponent to play wide.
Defensive Lateral Play:
The team prefers to channel the ball to the wide areas, away from the goal. This also facilitates counterattacks through the flanks during transitions.
Analysis of the Defensive Line:
The defensive line is organized and flat. From a 3-man defense, it transitions to a 4-man defense with Dimarco, or a 5-man defense if Dumfries is also integrated, although this latter scenario occurs rarely during the match.
Devrij consistently stays within the defensive unit and is responsible for preventive marking. Bastoni and Dumfries, on the other hand, detach from the defensive line to press the ball-carrying opponent.
The clear intent is that once they separate from the unit, only two things can happen: either they regain possession to facilitate a fast defensive transition, or they halt the action with a tactical foul, which occurred three times in the first 30 minutes of the match.
In the offensive transition, Inter applies strong man-marking, with the team pressing the opponent individually. If the opposing team manages to break the initial pressure, Inter typically halts the action with a tactical foul.
The objective is to have as many players as possible near the ball, ready to attack the opponent for ball recovery and the opponent's goal, as seen in the 1-0 goal.
In the defensive transition, Inter remains organized, without rushing or taking unnecessary risks. Players adapt effectively to various game situations. If there are conditions for a quick counterattack, they still prefer the flanks. Otherwise, they manage possession starting from the back.
- Organized in the phase without ball possession.
- Strong team personality.
- Organized and composed in ball possession.
- Technical quality in every position.
- Key player: Lautaro Martinez.
- The team currently has demonstrated no significant weaknesses.
The defense is well-organized in movement, but the high pushes by Bastoni and Darmian inevitably leave space in the defensive area. When facing opponents who allow ball circulation without strong pressure, the work of the attackers is crucial.
Bringing four players in line with the defense could be a solution to consider, with the forward pulling Bastoni or Darmian out, then playing the ball to the wingers in the created space.
- Counterattacks in defensive transition, with Dimarco and Dumfries attacking the depth alongside Lautaro and Thuram.
- Offensive transition phase with a strong presence of players near the ball, leading to the opening goal of the match.
- Quality in long-range shooting from Mkhitaryan and Calhanoglu.
"Now let's analyze how to emulate this tactic in Football Manager 2023."
As we have already mentioned, the starting formation is a 3-5-2, which transforms into a 1-3-1-3-2 during the build-up."
Roles and instructions:
Goalkeeper: Sweeper-keeper on support is the best choice to replicate Sommer’s role
The defensive trio
For the defensive trio, we have two ball-playing defenders in defend and one central defender in a covering role.
Actually, for the left central defender, Bastoni, we can choose also a wide center back role to better replicate his movement of stepping out to engage the opposing attacker and his frequent forward surges more effectively.
However, in the game, the trio consisting of two ball-playing defenders and one central defender provides better defensive coverage.
"I believe this is the best defensive combination in Football Manager 2023.
Therefore, we can leave Bastoni as a ball-playing defender and instruct him to dribble more to replicate his movements when carrying the ball out
Inter focus more on the left flank rather than on the right, Di Marco works together with the advanced forward Thuram and the mezzala on the left side forming triangles to build the play.
Di Marco stays wider and crosses from the byline, so to replicate his role, I chose a wide-back on support and instructed him to cross from the byline, take more risks, close down more and mark tighter.
On the other side, Dumfries is also running forward very often but he build the play passing the ball to Barella and to Lautaro when he drops deep down to get the ball and link the play.
Dumfries does not focus on crossing so much as Di Marco and Inter as we said focuses the play more on the left side. For Dumfries I chose a complete wing-back who often overlaps, but I told him to dribble less and cross less often, and to pass the ball shorter.
Now the midfield trio. Our man in front of the defense, Calhanoglu is a deep lying playmaker in defense, he is the team playmaker and he is helped by Bastoni and Dumfries too. I instructed him to press more and mark tighter because I want him to help defense.
For the other two midfielders, Barella role on the right is more a Box to Box midfielder, I saw many creators tend to set him as a mezzala, but I think a BBM is more close to what he is in reality because has both defensive and offensive duties and needs to cover the entire field.
A mezzala can't perform these tasks as effectively as a box-to-box midfielder."
For the left central midfielder, Mkitharyan, he is a mezzala on support, he is less involved in the defensive phase, focusing more on aiding the build-up by interacting with Di Marco on the left-center and Thuram upfront." He often drops deeper, where he can also leverage his ability in long-range shots Posing additional threats to the opposing defense."
I instructed him to run forward, roam from position, press more often, shoot more often.
Lastly, the attacking duo, while Thuram on the left is a simple advanced forward with no instructions, Lautaro Martinez on the right is a deep lying forward in support and I instructed him to shoot less often because I want him to drop back and receive the ball and link the play with the midfielder (Barella) and the right back (Dumfries). I also instructed him to dribble more.
As for the team instructions, in possession as we said Inter focus more on the left side, so I chose focus the play on the left side, it is an instruction that can be used together with overlap left (the same is if you want to use both instructions, focus and overlaps on both sides, you can do it, it is not a bad choice in the game). For the right side I want Dumfries to overlap, but I did not select focus on the right side.
Inzaghi wants his team to build from the back so play out from the defense is a must, but also to exploit the spaces, so pass the ball into spaces is also an important instruction.
The width is fairly wide, I already told Di Marco to stay wider, so I don’t need to choose extremely wide width. Tempo is slightly higher while passes are shorter because we want to play safe without taking the risk to lose the ball.
For the final third phase, Inzaghi does not play a tikitaka style, forget about it, but also does not want his team to hit early crosses and play too fast, he plays patiently but not too much, so I did not select any of those instructions and leave the players decide.
In transition phase, when possession has been lost, as we said before, Inzaghi does not want his team to counter-press immediately neither to regroup and stay back, so I did not choose any of those 2 instructions.
I chose “counter” because when possession has been won, Inter starts fast counter-attacks as we saw in the match won 5-1 against AC Milan where Milan had the possession for the most of the first half but Inter scored with 2 fast counter-attacks after winning the possession.
I add “distribute quickly” to the GK instructions because Inzaghi wants his goalkeeper to do so.
In the out of possession phase, the defensive line is a standard one, it’s another thing we clearly saw during the match against AC Milan, when the opponent had the ball, Inter was waiting and they were not defending too high.
But the pressing line is high as we can see in other matches, where also the two forwards presses the opponent. Pressing is more often and also prevent short gk distribution is selected.
Why did I select drop off more? Because in the game the AI always plays long ball behind our defense and that is how the AI scores the most of their goals, so I used this instruction to help my defense.
Trap outside is also an instruction we can choose to force the opponent to play near the touchline where they have less options.
This is all for this tactic, as you can see I won all the competitions, scored a lot of goals and conceded very few being the best attack and best defense of Serie A.