Antonio Conte’s reign as Inter Milan manager got off to a flying start with a comprehensive victory over newly promoted Lecce. Brozovic gave Inter the lead after 21 minutes, before Sensi doubled the advantage 3 minutes later. Lukaku topped off an impressive debut tapping in following a keeping fumble on 60 minutes, before a red card for Lecce’s Diego Farias made sure no comeback was on the cards. A wonder goal from Candreva rounded off a resounding opening day for Inter, who impressed under their new manager.
Inter’s Line Up Lecce’s Line Up
Conte opted for his traditional 3 at the back, with Asamoah and Candreva playing wing backs, whilst Lukaku started up front with Martinez. Lecce started with a 4-2-3-1, with new signing Lapadia leading the line and top goal scorer from last season La Mantia on the wing.
Inter impressed in this opening day victory, and a number of tactical elements stood out. The role of Asamoah on the left wing brought back memories of Alonso during Conte’s Chelsea spell, fundamental to a lot of Inter’s attacking play, especially in the first half. Always offering up a switch to the play, his average position on the pitch shows just how high he was expected to play, whilst also showcasing his importance as an attacking outlet.
At half time alone, he had received the ball 32 times, often from long switches of play, and this increased to 54 by the end of the match. He assisted the opening goal, and created 2 chances in the match, showing his attacking output.
His positioning giving the Lecce backline a problem was compounded by the lack of tracking back from Falco (see influence map above), who left his defender 2v1 on a number of occasions. This was particularly evident for the goal, and as Lecce took a narrow shape against crosses, Inter overloaded the back post through Asamoah’s high positioning (highlighted below).
The cross came in, and Asamoah was able to lay it back to Brozovic first time (off picture), who finished expertly.
Sensi and Brozovic were particularly impressive in the three-man midfield alongside Vecino, often leading the high press when possession was turned over in the opposition half. Pressing as a three, they often turned over the ball high up the pitch, Sensi particularly impressing with his energy and willingness to press. His performance dashboard shows below that he was able to win the ball in the opposition half on a couple of occasions, key to creating chances.
Brozovic and Sensi’s partnership in midfield was also particularly impressive. In their first competitive game as a duo, they completed the highest number of passes between any two players on the pitch (37), always offering either player an outlet. Brozovic’s playmaking ability was also evident, as he completed 94 passes in the game. Like Sensi, he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work, making 8 ball recoveries throughout the match, again with two in the opposition’s half as a result of the high press.
Whilst this high pressing did mean they were able to win the ball back higher on the pitch on a number of occasions, it did also lead to the midfield being caught high up on the pitch when Lecce were able to bypass it. This enabled them to utilise the pace of Lapadia and Falco, who despite the 4-0 score line, impressed for Lecce. The warning signs were there early on, as Falco showed his ability to take on defenders and expose the lack of pace at the back for Inter after 6 minutes. The image below shows how open Inter were once the press was broken, and this did occur on a number of occasions in the first half.
Falco’s ability on the ball was underlined by his number of successful take-ons in the match, the highest with 6. Falco and Lapadia were key to any attacks that Lecce had, and they did manage to muster 17 shots, all be it plenty from long range and only 3 on target, totally an xG of 0.58 (via Infogols). Falco managed to create 4 of these chances, with Lukaku jointly topping him in the stats for the match.
The other area of worry for Inter going into the next match is the amount of crosses Lecce managed throughout the game. Often afforded time and space as the midfielders were caught up pitch, Lecce managed 21 crosses throughout the game, although admittedly these were mostly dealt with comfortably by Inter’s back 3. However, this could be an area of weakness with better delivery in the forthcoming games, and the open nature of Inter’s midfield may need to be addressed, as it allowed for a lot of 2v1 scenarios out wide.
Finally, Lukaku impressed on his debut, with his pace and power up front troubling the Lecce defence, particularly shown by his strong run in the first half, where he burst past a number of Lecce defenders, before unfortunately picking the wrong pass. However, he underlined his importance, topping the chances created charts for Inter (4), whilst scoring from his only shot on goal in the game. His link up play with Martinez was promising, all be it one way, creating 2 chances for his fellow striker. He bullied the Lecce centre halves throughout, and his sharpness isn’t in question following his reaction to the goalkeeping error for the goal.
In a promising victory, Inter managed an xG of 1.72 throughout the game, and this was despite 3 of their goals coming from a combined xG of 0.11, showing promising signs for their attacking threat. Their exposure at the back may be a worry, and although xG of Lecce was low, it was still concerning to see how exposed their back 3 was at times. Against a Cagliari team who have bought well, they may need their central 3 in midfield to be more restrained at times, however it is a promising start for Conte’s team.