Inter’s exit from the UEFA Champions League should not come as too big a blow. While it was disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the world. Antonio Conte has hardly given too much attention to European competition and Inter weren’t going to go far in the Champions League this season anyway. The lack of depth in that side is a big concern.
Antonio Conte was open about it after Inter’s loss to Borussia Dortmund some weeks ago. Despite being 2-0 up, they fell to a 3-2 defeat to Lucien Favre’s struggling BVB side. After the game, Conte talked about the lack of depth. More than that, he was concerned by a lack of ‘champions’ in the team.
He said (via FootballItalia): “We have too limited a squad to face both Serie A and Champions League football this season. I mean limited both in terms of numbers and quality. Who do I call on? Nicolò Barella, who we signed from Cagliari? Or Stefano Sensi, who arrived from Sassuolo? I will always thank the players for giving their heart and soul, and I know that I am asking for the kind of strain that some find it difficult to deal with.”
Against Barcelona at the San Siro, the nerazzurri saw defeat against what was the Catalans’ second or third-fiddle side. Carles Perez, Carles Alena, Moussa Wague and Jean-Clair Todibo were all playing, while Inter had their first-team players playing. Perhaps, it wasn’t Inter’s first-team. Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi are out injured, leaving Conte to field Matias Vecino and Borja Valero.
While Valero had a good game, the lack of champions and winners in that side was culpable. There was often a lack of urgency in how they played. Some players did look tired- like they had been playing too many games. Despite having eight shots on target at home, Inter couldn’t even draw the game. Leading online bookmaker www.online-sportwette.net can’t see Inter winning Serie A, pricing them at second-favourites.
On the other end, they had a certain duo of Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic control the game from midfield. The Chilean won the ball back four times aerially, completing one tackle. He also came up with two key passes. His battler mentality added steel to the Barca midfield.
He took some burden off Rakitic’s shoulders. The Croatian had an impressive passing accuracy- 89, as much as Valero and playing as many passes as the former Real Madrid man too. The duo worked in cohesion. One was comfortable on the ball and controlling play from deep. The other was winning it in midfield and allowing Carles Alena the freedom to play.
Depth in those areas is exactly what Inter lack. Valero was being linked with a Fiorentina return in the summer and is not getting any young with every passing day. Matias Vecino does do a job sometimes, but he isn’t someone who Conte can describe as a ‘champion’.
Vidal is of that battling instinct that Conte would like in place of Nicolo Barella. At Barca, he has also been used slightly further forward. Rakitic, on the other hand, has won the Europa League with Sevilla, a Champions League title and multiple La Liga titles with Barca. He can easily play second-fiddle to his compatriot Brozovic.
It was Conte who brought the best out of Vidal at Juve. In the 2011-12 campaign, Vidal won as many as 5.4 tackles per game at Juventus. This number was at 4.9 in the 2012-13 season. This is the tenacity that a Brella back-up would need.
Both players will not cost as much as younger players like Rodrigo de Paul. Rakitic’s contract expires in the summer, while Vidal’s runs out in the summer of 2021. If not two of them, Inter need to have one of them.