Inter have shown cracks of inconsistency over the past few weeks, managing only one win in three and this recent form has derailed their title hopes, plunging them behind the free-scoring Atalanta in the table. However, with a game in hand over their competitors, they will be able to reclaim their spot in third place with a win over Torino, which will see them accumulate 68 points putting them in an excellent position to challenge second place Lazio who are also currently on 68 points. This will make the final few fixtures in Serie A an interesting watch as the two sides battle it out for superiority and a higher position in the table.
Torino, on the other hand, will be looking forward to the end of this season. Under Moreno Longo, they have struggled to establish a playing style and a personality on the pitch, which has culminated in the downfall of their campaign as they currently sit five points of the relegation places in 16th. Having reached a Europa League qualification spot under Walter Mazzari last year, this season has been quite a fall from grace and one that they will look to forget and grow from.
Inter lined up in their usual 3-4-1-2 formation with Lautaro Martínez and ex-Manchester United player Alexis Sánchez leading the attacking line, while Borja Valero played just behind them. As expected, wing-backs Ashley Young and Danilo D’Ambrosio played a crucial role during Inter’s build-up phases, as did Marcelo Brozović and Roberto Gagliardini. The back three was then compromised by Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij, and Diego Godin.
Torino set up in their preferred 3-4-2-1 formation with Andrea Belotti leading the line, partnered with both Cristian Ansaldi and Simone Verdi who provided extra support in the attacking midfield role. Ola Aina and Lorenzo De Silvestri formed the wing-backs, while in midfield Soualiho Meite was partnered with Tomas Rincon. Finally in defence, Nicolas N’Koulou, Armando Izzo, and Bremer made up the back three.
Inter’s attacking system
Because Inter were using a 3-4-2-1 formation their build-up largely revolved around the three centre-backs, who always have multiple passing options thanks to the nature of the formation, which opened up more passing angles and allowed Inter to become more versatile in the attack. Specifically, by having a back three, Inter had the necessary structure to stretch Torino’s defensive line. This was achieved through the distance between the centre-backs as well as the wing-backs who pushed up higher, as we can see below.
Even so, on both occasions, the three at the back formation aided Inter in their build-up process. For instance, in the first image, the strategical positioning of the centre-backs and wing-backs stretched Torino’s defensive line, which consequently opened up space in between the lines for a midfielder or striker to receive the ball, where the attack could then be progressed. Then with the second image, Torino’s attempt to nullify the central channels allowed Inter to utilise the wing-backs out wide, who were able to create overloads with the strikers and get in behind the defence.
We can see an example of Inter taking advantage of the stretched Torino defensive line in more detail below. As we can see, the two centre-backs off the ball carrier have been able to draw in two Torino players, while simultaneously the wing-back D’Ambrosio has also been able to draw in an additional player. This has the effect of opening up space in the middle of the pitch where Inter now has a 3 v 2 advantage against Tornio’s midfielders, which puts them in an excellent position to progress the attack further.
Nonetheless, we can now see an example of Inter utilising the wide areas, and more specifically we can see an example of the link-up play between the wing-back and striker as highlighted previously in this analysis. Here D’Ambrosio can pick out Martínez, thanks to Tornio’s overcommitment in the central area, who have a total of five players blocking the central passing lanes. As a result D’Ambrosio only has to beat Aina on the flank to link-up with Martinez where the overload can then be created.
In the end, the link-up is successful and D’Ambrosio is able to exploit the space in between Torinio’s left wing-back and centre-back, which allows the Italian to get in behind the defence and in a dangerous position.
Torino’s defensive measures
Even though I have already highlighted the effectiveness of Inter’s build-up play, Torino did put in some useful defensive structures to nullify and weaken Inter’s potential attacking options on numerous occasions during this game. For instance, as we can see below, they looked to block all the passing options towards playmaker Brozović who is normally a crucial asset for Inter during these phases, however by blocking him, they forced Inter to play the ball wide towards a less advantageous position.
Then once the ball was played wide, the corresponding wing-back from Torino’s 3-4-2-1 formation could press the ball carrier, while his teammates looked to cover the passing lanes. This was especially effective as the press rushed the ball carrier’s decision-making and pressurised him into making a pass towards Sánchez, who was now completely surrounded by three Torino players. From this Bremar is able to intercept the ball and regain possession for Torino.
Below we can see another example of Torino’s tactical emphasis on nullifying the role of Brozović during Inter’s build-up. What we should take note of here is the structural shift within Torino’s formation: originally they were in a 3-4-2-1 formation, however, now they are in more of a 3-4-3 formation which makes perfect sense considering that they need their first defensive line to be as compact as possible if they wish to keep Brozović out of the game.
Then as the play progresses, we can see Torino apply their pressing trigger once again when the ball is played out wide, as we have already highlighted previously in this tactical analysis. However, because the 3-4-3 formation has been adopted, the corresponding wing-back along with the now newly positioned winger can press the ball carrier from two different angles. And as we can see below, the player from Inter has no choice but the play the ball backwards where play is then recycled, and Torino can then regain their solid defensive shape.
Torino’s use of wide areas
Time and time again in this fixture, Torino looked to exploit the high positioning of Inter’s wing-backs during their attacks by creating overloads in the wide channels, where they could then either put a cross into Belotti or work a passing move on the edge of the box. In the image below although D’Ambrosio hasn’t pushed up high, the ball carrier (Aina) and Ansaldi have still been able to create an overload. This is a passing move that will be highlighted over the next few examples and serves to demonstrate the tendencies of Torino’s passing moves in attack.
In the example below, we can clearly see the Inter wing-back out of position, leaving only the three centre-backs to defend the overload, and this forces the Inter defenders to spread out to counteract the Torino attack. However, as a result of this, once the ball is played into Ansaldi, he is in a much more favourable position with a one v one against De Vrij in the elongated backline.
The ongoing persistence of Torino in creating overloads can be seen yet again in the image below, except this time an underlap is used in opposed to an overlap. This is especially important because it shows that Torino have been able to pinpoint the weakness in Inter’s backline between the wing-back and centre-back.
This space has been created because Ansaldi has been able to draw out D’Ambrosio from his position, which then puts the right-sided centre-back (Godin) in a bit of a dilemma on whether he should track the run of Rincon or maintain the narrow defensive back-line. In the end, he opts to match the run of Rincon which opens up space for Verdi in the box, however, the pass from Ansaldi is inaccurate and thus Rincon fails to get the chance to cross the ball into his unmarked teammate.
Even so, we can see another opportunity arise a few minutes later, with Aina on the ball following his underlapping run, he is able to draw in the right-sided centre-back and open up space for his teammate at the back post. Unlike the previous example, he is able to get the cross away, yet it proves to be inaccurate. Nonetheless, these examples presented do show us that Torino’s attacking approach was working in this game, and if it wasn’t for the inaccurate passes, these chances could have been ending up in the back of the net.
Inter looked to stretch play
During the later stages of the game, Inter used the full width of the pitch to full effect. In the image below we can see that the three forwards have spread out on the pitch in three separate lanes, this drags the two-outside centre-backs wider as they look to cover the wingers, while the central defender is forced to stay central due to the run of Sánchez, which consequently increases the gap between the defenders.
Then as we can see, once this gap has been created by the winger, it opens up the run for Brozović to run in behind the lines where he can receive the ball and make a cross into the box, towards the two other Inter forwards.
We can see yet another example below, however this time the centre-backs decide to double up on Martínez in the middle of the pitch which leaves D’Ambrosio totally unmarked on the right-hand side of the pitch.
In this tactical analysis, I have provided an analysis of how the match-up between Inter and Torino played out and highlighted how both teams set up against each other. To conclude, Inter were able to dominate this game with the majority of possession (60.2%) while Torino struggled to really get a foothold in the game after their early goal. Nevertheless, Torino will look to right their wrongs next game-week against Genoa, while Inter will feel comfortable in getting a win against relegation-threatened SPAL.