On the 25th March last year, Claudio Ranieri was leading Inter Milan to a run of 2 wins in 13 matches and a 2-0 defeat to Juventus proved the final straw for club president Massimo Moratti. The day before Ranieri’s dismissal, Andrea Stramaccioni was leading Inter’s young crop to the championship of the inaugural Next Gen series, convincing Moratti that he was the man to oversee the transition from a tired squad still influenced heavily by the hangover from the treble-winning year of 2010, to a fresher, hungrier generation.
A season later and Moratti has sacked Stramaccioni after another year of frustration in which Inter finished ninth, 33 points behind Serie A champions Juventus. An injury crisis of bizarre proportions, hitting 17 players in total, saw the Nerazzuri fall from Champions League contention in January to the ignominy of mid-table in the second-half of the season.
Moratti, in his endless search for the revival of success, wasn’t buying the excuses and decided to make Stramaccioni his fifth managerial casualty since Jose Mourinho departed three years ago. The Italian oil tycoon has turned to Walter Mazzarri, having just called time on his successful four year reign at Napoli, in the hope he can turn Inter back on an upward curve. In Naples, he inherited a bottom-half Serie A side and transformed them into Champions League qualifiers, perhaps it is this record of turning mediocrity into sustained success that has appealed to Moratti.
But what has appealed to Mazzarri? Napoli had finished second and had just posted a financial profit for the sixth straight year. Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli’s owner, was unmoving in his support for the coach, yet Mazzarri has found a declining Inter, with a hire-and-fire regime in full effect and without the promise of European football for next term, a more attractive prospect.
Maybe it is because Inter are better placed to fight for trophies than Napoli and casting aside their respective league finishes of last season, it is not such an outlandish claim. Last November, it was Inter who ended Juve’s long-standing unbeaten Serie A run under Antonio Conte with a 1-3 win in Turin which moved them within a point of the Old Lady.
From that moment, disaster struck as Stramaccioni won only 7 of his remaining 27 matches as the dramatic injury curse set-in. Possibly, Mazzarri has seen the gross medical misfortune as more damaging to Inter’s challenge than any underlying squad malaise. He has already insisted on bringing the players back from their summer break two days earlier so they can work on their fitness with his conditioning coach Giuseppe Prondelli, whom he has brought with him from Napoli.
Tactics will also be an issue, with Stramaccioni failing to settle on one particular system and causing confusion as he shuffled between 3-4-3, 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, Mazzarri will likely to install the consistency of his 3-5-1-1 which served him so well at the San Paolo. It is no coincidence that his first transfer target as he arrives at the San Siro is rumoured to be Colombian wing-back Camilo Zuniga who served him so well at Napoli, opposite the right-sided Christian Maggio.
The spine of Mazzarri’s side is already in place with Andrea Ranocchia having started to show his potential at the back, behind a solid, experienced midfield duo of Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Gargano, with whom Inter have a “gentleman’s agreement” to sign permanently after a one-year loan spell.
A blow will surely come in the form of the evergreen captain Javier Zanetti finally having to call it a day at the age of 39 following a long-term leg injury, though Joel Obi, Samuele Longo, Marco Benassi and Ibrahma Mbaye have all suggested there is much promise in Inter’s next generation. Keeping hold of Freddy Guarin should be a priority of Mazzarri’s, having been a rare shining light in Inter’s disappointing season in attacking midfield, he will fit into a similar role in which Mazzarri produced excellent form from Marek Hamsik at Napoli.
The 51 year old manager seems well-placed to deliver continuity and possible success to Inter, though it remains to be seen just how patient Moratti will be with his new coach. The move from Napoli to Inter, at this moment in time, seems like regression but for Mazzarri it may be a very astute decision.
Injuries were the flaw of Strammacioni, find a solution to that and Mazzarri may finally give Moratti just what he is looking for.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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