Simone Inzaghi will count his first season at Inter as a success even though he conceded the Serie A title to local rivals AC Milan, as his team’s chances of retaining their crown were in doubt last summer.
The 46-year-old will point to the Italian Cup and Super Cup, both won against arch rivals Juventus in dramatic style, and qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League which had eluded his predecessor Antonio Conte in his two years in charge at the San Siro.
Former Lazio forward Inzaghi has repeatedly said that the Inter hierarchy asked him for a top four spot and to reach the Champions League knockouts after taking over from Conte.
And last week he even told reporters that he would “rather drop points at home and advance in the Champions League”.
Inter lost the Scudetto during a two-month slump over February and March which coincided with their narrow defeat to Liverpool.
They had been four points clear of Milan and Napoli having played a game less at the start of February, but defeat in the Milan derby started a run of just one win in seven league matches—over then rock-bottom Salernitana—which lasted until a fortuitous triumph at Juve in early April.
From there Inzaghi’s team picked up form again but the only match they didn’t win of their final eight was a crushing 2-1 defeat in their game in hand at Bologna which denied them top spot and handed Milan an advantage they never let slip.
Losing the league to Milan will be painful for Inter fans but their team’s title credentials were in serious question before the start of the campaign.
Inzaghi arrived at Inter with the club about to go into full-blown crisis mode and folded in cheap replacements for departing stars, creating a new style of play which got the best out of the whole team rather than just a few key players.
A dramatic summer for the champions reached its lowest ebb when star striker Romelu Lukaku was sold to Chelsea, a transfer that enraged not just supporters but reportedly also CEO Giuseppe Marotta and Inzaghi.
Fans protested outside the club’s headquarters after Inter’s cash-strapped Chinese owners Suning sold Belgium forward Lukaku after having already offloaded buccaneering right-back Achraf Hakimi, a key figure in their first Serie A triumph since 2010, to Paris Saint-Germain.
The club’s financial problems were clear well before the league crown was claimed, and previous coach Antonio Conte left Inter knowing his team could be dismantled.
Lukaku was replaced by Edin Dzeko who has not got anywhere near Lukaku’s goal tally but the 36-year-old has used all of his experience to help knit the team’s play, while Netherlands full-back Denzel Dumfries has provided pace and incision on the right flank.
The sale of those stars helped Inter’s finances and on the pitch the likes of Marcel Brozovic and Ivan Perisic provided match-winning displays, helping Inter top the scoring charts with a more sophisticated attacking style than proposed by Conte.
Now after having a tilt at the title Inzaghi will have real pressure on him as he will no longer have the excuse of losing star players nor low pre-season expectations.