A comfortable 4-0 win for Inter Milan saw the home team retain their spot at the top of the Serie A league table on matchday 17. The only difference between Inter and Juventus currently lies in goal difference, so the four goals and clean sheet were welcomed. Genoa, on the other hand, sit bottom of the league and four points from safety while on a poor run of form. This tactical analysis will show the tactics that Inter employed and how their flexibility ultimately proved too much for the travelling team.
Inter lined up once again in a 3-5-2 formation which is commonplace for an Antonio Conte side. Genoa, on the other hand, lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation which may have been part of the tactics employed in order to create challenges for Inter. As Genoa were 2-0 down after 32 minutes, the 37-minute mark saw the away side shift to adopt a 4-3-3 variation for the remainder of the game in order to attempt to get back in the game.
During the game, Inter showed a variety of tactics. Having the ability to retain possession and create openings, as well as having the ability to counter-attack gave Genoa troubles which they were unable to cope with. Defensively, Inter were organized and controlled space between their lines well which limited Genoa’s ability to get on the ball between the lines. This resulted in Genoa having lots of ball possession around the back four and into the first line of midfield. With few opportunities to play forwards into key players or good areas with any real quality, Genoa struggled to create quality scoring chances.
Attacking in the half-spaces
In this analysis, what was interesting to observe as part of the tactical analysis of Inter is how the attacking midfielders influenced the game. Inter played with Roberto Gagliardini and Matías Vecino in the attacking midfield roles who operated in complete contrast to Genoa’s midfield players. Although playing in slightly different roles to one another, the commonalities between Gagliardini and Vecino lie in how they influenced the game facing forwards.
What the pair did incredibly well in the game was to play in the half-spaces and get into positions that they could play forwards from. Gagliardini’s average positioning was a little higher than Vecino as he showed more willingness to support the attack and get ahead of the ball. Vecino’s deeper position helped support the build-up phase and also helps create space higher up the field by attracting opposition players.
The above image sees Gagliardini initially dropping into a left-back position before moving in off the line into the left half-space. Positionally, he plays behind the first line of pressure which helps take the first three Genoa players out of the game. In contrast to the Genoa midfielders, Gagliardini is also able to orientate his body to receive the ball facing forwards which allows Inter to progress the ball. This positional play can be seen again in the below image but this time with Vecino operating in the right half-space. As Vecino is positioned just off the shoulder of Filip Jagiełło, his first touch on the ball is able to take Jagiełło out of the game. With this positioning and quick technical execution, Vecino helps Inter progress the ball once again.
As Gagliardini had a tendency to play higher up the pitch, he was able to contribute towards chance creation. The below image shows Gagliardini again operating in the half-space on the left-hand side and makes a positive run ahead of the ball into the penalty area. A crafty bit of movement saw Kevin Agudelo commit a foul which resulted in Inter increasing their lead to 3-0 from the spot. Having runs ahead of the ball and getting in the box can create a challenge for any team. Looking at chances created, Inter had 19 shots overall and 11 of which were from inside of the penalty area, as opposed to Genoa having one scoring chance from inside the box.
Providing a comparison between the two sides in getting on the ball facing forwards, the below image was one of many times in the game that the ball was played into Genoa’s midfield area with limited ability to play forwards. It’s possible the tactics Genoa employed were to try to draw out Inter and create space behind. Unfortunately, Inter were too smart and organized to fall for a trap. A small detail in the below image is to observe the body orientation of Antonio Sanabria who had dropped in to collect the ball in this image. As Gagliardini and Vecino illustrated an open body shape when receiving, playing forwards was an option to them. With Sanabria receiving the ball facing his own goal, playing forwards with the next action is limited.
In addition to getting on the ball in the half-spaces, Inter were also able to create chances by getting on the ball behind the Genoa midfield line. Through quick combinations and a change in tempo, Inter were able to unbalance Genoa and exploit space. The below image comes seconds before Romelu Lukaku scored his second of the match. From this central position, the centre-backs begin the narrow up which creates space on the outside shoulder for Lukaku and Esposito to get on the ball.
Comparing the two teams, one of the tactics that Inter employed and Genoa struggled with was having threatening runs behind the opposition backline. Genoa were forced to play long to find the front two and as they were unable to get midfielders on the ball facing forwards. As the front two were often competing for aerial balls, they rarely had runs in-behind the Inter defensive line. The below image illustrates the limited options Genoa had ahead of the ball and how Inter were able to create overloads and break down attacks.
Inter were extremely well organized and controlled the depth and distances between their lines which also limited both the quality and quantity of Genoa attacks.
In contrast to Genoa in attack, the below image shows Sebastiano Esposito threatening the space behind the Genoa backline. Inter were not afraid to play forwards quickly in the game when Genoa was out of balance.
The variety of tactics that Inter employed created challenges for Genoa when both attacking and defending. Conte’s side were incredibly well organized out of possession and made good decisions on when to counter, when to play forwards and when to keep the ball. Genoa at times showed some excellent play to retain possession and progress the ball into the middle third. There is a clear identity to how they like to play the game but on the day, they struggled to break down a well-drilled Inter side. With plenty of games and minutes left in the league, there is time for Genoa to turn a corner and stay in the league.