Ever since the biggest win, not only for the team but also Strama, of this whole season in Turin against Juventus, we have been seeing a continuous decline in results while at the same time producing shocking and at times clueless football. However, it has to be said that even during our run of consecutive wins earlier in the season the performances of the team on the pitch were also nothing to brag about and looking long-term this was never going to be a sustainable way of achieving results. I myself expected that we would go on a run of bad results, but what I also expected at this stage of the season, that the team would already have at least a clear understanding of the tactics/strategies/style of play that Strama has envisioned going further. Unfortunately, we have seen the same clueless performances for long stretches of games match after match and one has to wonder Ė What has happened to Strama that made him so crazy about the three at the back system which at this stage should be becoming obvious to everyone following and watching all of Inter matches that it is just not the proper tactic/formation as we lack the personel to perfect it.
We as fans and loyal supporters of this team can put forth many factors as to why such a disastrous spell of results and performances is happening, but the one that I would like to discuss in my observation and which IMO is one of the main reasons that can bring us back on the right track in terms of both results and performances on the pitch is tactical formations that suit the current players at disposal and plays towards their strengths.
Shortly before I start going into tactics and details, I would also like to comment on the transfers that were made as I waited to see what kind of players we would have before starting to write. Iíll start of with Schelotto who IMO was not even needed, but I guess was a request of Strama for his 3-X-X system. Other than that I view him nothing more than a rotational player at best, but once again hope to be proven wrong by his performances on the pitch. Next Kuzmanovic, who just looking at the recent game against Siena, is a huge upgrade to our midfield, in terms of both passing and starting play from the back. His defensive skills and positioning of course still leave a lot to be desired, but given time I believe he can really improve in that department and become a Motta type player for us in the future. And finally Kovacic, just WOW this came out of nowhere and honestly surprised me like many others I guess. This kid is our future and you can just see something special, pure class in him, he demands the ball like a true playmaker, very versatile with both feet, just an amazing talent with absolute world class potential. Even though we splashed some good money on him I believe this investment might just hit the jackpot and we need to use him right away without hesitating. Overall I would say we covered one of out main weaknesses, which was the midfield during this transfer window and have set ourselves for the summer to be able to focus more on defensive and attacking reinforcements for this team
THE CURRENT SYSTEM
So as we all now know our coach seems to be obsessed with the 3-X-X system and is continuously using it regardless of how pathetic we have been for a certain stretch of games. On occasions when we switched to other formations during games we started showing glimpses and potential sings of better play which could only signal that this system should be dropped, because we start looking much better regardless of how the team is set up only if itís not 3 at the back. Maybe earlier success with it has blinded Strama, but I just refuse to believe that and would think that Strama is certainly both intelligent and competent enough to see that we simply suck and need a change. From being a creative and versatile coach when he took over the team during the end of last season to a ultra defensive playing style that honestly just makes me sick watching it. I have stated from the beginning that Iím not and never have been a supporter of the 3 man defense system and have continuously been pointing out the fact, like many others on this forum, that we lack the needed personel and characteristics to successfully use this formation in the future. Below is the 3-X-X system and how I would position players and after that some tactical suggestions on maybe how this formation could be improved:
I will start from the defense and really no surprises here, but the problem I have with a back 3 is that I image the middle man, Samuel in this case, has to be good with the ball at his feet, ala a Hummels type of player, that can start play form the defense. What this gives is huge flexibility to the team, because when in possession the formation changes to almost a 2-1-4-1-2 in my proposed formation while when defending the formation once again changes to the standard 3 at the back with a destroyer in front of the defense, Cambiasso or Gargano in this case. Another potential counter to teams trying to quickly counterattack us with this formation is for the LCB and RCB to cover almost as fullbacks while the wingbacks track back, while the destroyer becomes almost like a second CB. Of course on paper it looks good, but this needs a lot of work and drills in training to perfect, so almost like a fantasy suggestion here.
About the wingbacks I think a lot has also been discussed in this forum about this subject and I also emphasize that the only player close to fitting this system is Nagatomo, even though he is good attacking but has obvious flaws defensively. Zanetti is just too passive for this position while Scelotto I view more of a RM/RW type of player who also might get caught out defensively. The one player that intrigues me in these wingback positions is Obi who I believe has all the right characteristics for this position at LWB/LB and a perfect example can be Alaba of Bayern who was a CM when he started and was converted to a LB and has become really good if not great for them. I can see the same development process for Obi only if he could finally stay injury free, but other than that I feel this is one of our weakest points in the 3-X-X formation and is limiting us at the same time. I would really love to actually see both Obi on the left and Naga on the right at wingbacks at some point if Strama still selects to stick to the 3-X-X system in the future.
Now the new revamped midfield gives us many options here, but the key is learning from the mistakes that Strama has made and consequently opponents have passed our midfield even without resistance it seems at times. I think a destroyer in front of the defense is vital in this case and the only two players for this position seem to be Cambiasso and Gargano. Strama has used Cambiasso higher up the pitch a lot of times already this season and while at time he was very effective at it, he was never able to track back against quick and technical teams leaving a huge gap in the middle and thatís why I believe he should be instructed to sit and protect the defense similar to how Mourinho used him while he was here. Like when I talked about the middle man/ball playing defender starting play from the back, this allows Cambiasso/Gargano then to be higher up the pitch next to Guarin/Kuzmanovic when in possession. Playing both Kuzmanovic and Guarin in the same midfield I think at this point would be suicide as the defense would have potentially no cover and leave a huge gap in the middle for quick counterattacks. Now about Guarin, I donít think he is a playmaker but rather a true physical Box-to-Box player and needs to be behind the now real playmaker of the team in Kovacic. The kid commands the ball always and is searching for it by consistently running into spaces and thatís why his prime position is behind the strikers as I think he has the ability to make killer passes and slice the defenses wide open with his passing and playing him deeper would only neglect all of these qualities.
As for the attack, Cassano is and has been the real and only creative force up to this point for us, but with the arrival of Kovacic I think he will have more space and thus open up play even more for Milito or Palacio to finish chances. Thus, he will potentially drop back deeper alongside Kovacic and both of them already showed some nice one-two passes and understanding amongst one another and will only get better with time. The big problem though is that our forwards, except Palacio, are quite slow and donít have much in the gas tank to consistently move for 90 minutes. What can free up space for the attackers is more long range shots from the midfielders and this way force the opposition to come out and in the process leave spaces open to capitalize.
Even though I had quite a long observation of our most frequently used formation this season, I still believe that even with the January reinforcements we still got a long way to go in order to truly perfect the 3-X-X formation and thus in the next topic I will discuss about the formations that I find most suitable given the players at Stramaís disposal.
THE BELOVED 4-2-3-1 FORMATION OR CLASSIC 4-3-3
One of the most used formations in todayís modern game and also the formation used by Mourinho that brought us the historical treble season is the first formation I would like to discuss, but I will emphasize that we potentially maybe are still 1-2 signings away in the attacking department to truly use this formation on a continuous basis. For this formation I would use the following players:
Once again starting from the defense, really nothing new and I think most would have the same back four that I suggest. Even though Pereira has sucked big time and is currently on pace to be a big flop for the money that was lashed out for him, I would still try him out more consistently at LB and see how he would do there in a couple of matches in a row and Nagatomo in place of Zanetti. As much respect as I have for Zanetti, I think the time is right for him to accept more of a bench role and this will only benefit us in the long run as we will have options on both sides of the pitch rather than just one, which is usually the case when Zanetti is one of the fullbacks.
Now, the two holding midfielder pairing really depends on the opposition that is played since now we actually have different combinations to choose from. The most optimum pairing that I would select is Cambiasso-Kuzmanovic at this stage, with Cambi sitting in front of the defense and Kuzmanovic being a bit more up the field distributing play. I actually even think that this formation might actually now bring out the best from Gargano in place of Cambiasso as he would not be required to distribute the ball up field, but rather try to find Kuzmanovic and let him do the work while he focuses on stopping the oppositions advances and not get caught out of position higher up the pitch and then have to track back like a wild man. Also we should not forget Benassi who should get chances in place of Kuzmanovic here and there not to stall his development totally or heck even try him out next to Kuzmanovic, I would actually be really interested to see what this would bring.
Talking about the attacking trio in this system, obviously Cassano needs to be put on the left wing which would allow him to cut inside or to provide his magical passes which he has provided quite a lot already from that position this season while also having Nagatomo bursting down his flank and giving him even more options since these two seem to have a good understanding of one another already and complement each other. The right flank is the big question mark for me, usually I would prefer a LEFT footed player, so that he could also cut inside and draw in defenders and the only player that we have close to that is Alvarez. The real problem here becomes, that both our flanks are actually very slow and that Ďs what I meant that we are still 1 or 2 potential signings away from fully implementing this tactic as I think we need a player in the same mold of Di Maria when he first came to Real or the Ukrainian Yarmolenko who could be a good alternative and someone to look into. The big dilemma comes who to put in the playmaker position and in this formation I would still choose Kovacic as this is a natural position and his strengths and qualities are simply made for this. Yes Guarin has had good displays also in this position, but he certainly isnít suited for the playmaker role and would even be better of playing as the right winger since he has great pace and is constantly able to beat players. Thatís why I think this formation will eventually require sacrifices ant not all of our best players can play at the same time. What else is important to mention, is that during Mourinhoís time at Inter, both the flanks, mainly Etoío and Pandev always tracked back and helped out the defense which unfortunately with Cassano is hard to even imagine, but at the same time if Guarin is played in the playmaker role, he sort of compensates for it since he naturally always tracks back and helps defending while Alvarez when played has always tried to help out with defending, so not a problem there.
The main striker for now still remains mainly Milito since I still believe he is a better finisher then Palacio and is more comfortable when shielding or protecting the ball while Palacio at times really looks clumsy in position. This is the other area where we truly will need good reinforcement, someone like Lewandowski would be just perfect, but unfortunately he is probably out of our price range and I have heard these talks about Icardi a lot lately so will have to probably watch him more often to see if he is really that good. Out fullbacks constantly cross the ball into the box whenever they get the chance, but the problem is that we lack that physical presence that would command those crosses, thus the emphasis should be that the ball has to stay on the ground when working it into the box and I believe we now have more than adequate and creative players with good passing abilities that can unlock opposition defenses.
The reason why I also added the 4-3-3 suggestion here as well is because like I mentioned previously regarding the main playmaker role in the 4-2-3-1 system. Now there is the opportunity to have different midfield combinations while having both Kovacic and Guarin at the same time. Below we see how the players could like up in the 4-3-3 formation:
The really big and only difference in this formation is that you bring the tradition playmaker deeper into the midfield and since Kovacic is quite good at dribbling from what I was able to see of him, he is very versatile and provides Strama with different formation opportunities since the main playmaker can slot into many different positions. At the same time you can also play Guarin in his most suitable position in the center of the midfield as the B2B player, while having cover behind in the form of the holding midfielder, once again either Cambiasso or Gargano. The big key is that once again there are many options as to which players to choose from Kovacic/Kuzmanovic/Guarin/Benassi that all can be played in those 2 center midfield positions. In a sense this gives license to both Kovacic and Guarin to go forward without worrying that there is no cover for the defense and knowing that usually either Nagatomo or Pereira are always high up the pitch and join attacks, this way the team would potentially have 5-6 players being involved in the attack at all times, which we rarely get to see nowadays with Inter.
THE BEST FORMATION FOR INTER AT THE MOMENT? Ė 4-3-1-2 OR 4-3-2-1
So I have covered already our situation with the 3-X-X formation and then also covered the 4-2-3-1 formation and as an alternative the 4-3-3 as well, but the most adequate and playing to our playerís strengths formation at the moment IMO is the 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1:
The defence stays the same as it was, while I also emphasize the need for the holding midfielder in the midfield trio because I have seen this as a very big weakness in our tactical preparation for many of our opponents and they had the luxury to run trough our midfield as if it wasnít even there sometimes. With this formation we really have almost all the necessary type of players that are needed to play this formation to the fullest: B2B player - Guarin, DLP - Kuzmanovic sort of, DM Ė Cambiasso, Playmaker Ė Kovacic. So all the vital areas are checked and now really it becomes a question of how fast will these new players be able to gel with the rest of the squad and then we would truly see too full extent the results that this lineup would bring. Also we have both Obi and Benassi that nicely complement this formation as well, as Obi can chance Guarin if needed while Benassi can go in place of Kuzmanovic as well.
I think now we have a midfield that will be comfortable with the ball and not be afraid and pass straight away to the nearest teammate available and another very important key thing that I have already seen glimpses of this season is constant team pressure on the opposition when they are in possession. We often criticize our team that smaller clubs play better than us, but what I think the main reason for that is that Inter themselves allows those teams to play with the ball and build confidence as a result. A very good example was the game against Roma, which is a very good technical squad, in the Copa match and when we started to press them almost from the centre circle they continuously lost the ball but at the same time we did not have the players to capitalize on their mistakes. Now we have all the tools to do so and only time will tell, if Strama is at least studying tape/film and learning how constant pressure impacts the opposition.
The big question here will probably be Ė How much are we willing to give Kovacic the reigns this early in his Inter career, but I have the utmost confidence in him and probably so does Strama or he would have never asked for the kid in the first place. But at the same time we have Cassano, who if drops deeper to form the 4-3-2-1 formation attracts most of the attention of the opposition defenses leaving much more room for Kovacic to operate rather than being the lone playmaker. For these two playmaker positions we also then have Alvarez who could slot in nicely if he could also stay injury free for once. Basically what we have now is that we are covered in almost all positions and right now itís only a matter if Strama has the balls to finally dump his beloved 3-X-X system and move to the obvious and most likely solution of the 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1.
Itís quite a long read I know, and maybe in a way I apologize for making you read so much stuff that has already probably been discussed on these forums a thousand of times, but as Inter fans I think we want to see our team not only get results, but get them in an efficient and exiting way of football. Iím not asking for Barcelona Tiki-Taka style of football, but I believe that now we have the players to improve our performances significantly on the pitch. Thanks all for reading and hope to hear some remarks/comments/criticism about the formations and how you view this current Inter going forward.