The fifth round of the Italian Serie A saw Inter under the Italian manager Antonio Conte, beating Genoa and coming back to win after three games played, including their draw in the Champions League last Wednesday.

Conte can be satisfied with the three points and moreover about the clean sheet, from his team. The first time one since Serie A started. Even though Genoa had poorly performed in the attacking phase finishing the game with zero-shot on target, it required Inter to defend well and keep the occupied.

Genoa’s performance was positive for about 60 minutes, while they were able to contain Inter’s attacks, with order and concentration, however, they were not able to trouble Samir Handanovic. They were not able to attack in numbers and made some technical mistakes and combined with a lack of confidence negatively influenced their creativity.

On the contrary, Inter dominated the first half, showing good ball possession, dominating the pitch, and creating some good chances, even though Perin had a comfortable game. It was only during the second half, with the changes made by Conte, that helped them win the game.

In this tactical analysis, we will examine how both teams approached the game, understanding the tactics put in place by Maran, and of course Inter’s approach. We will also highlight the difficulties Genoa had during the 90 minutes.


Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics

Maran started with a 3-5-2 in possession, with Mattia Perin in goal. The defensive line was formed by Bani, Zapata, and Goldaniga. In the midfield, they had Behrami, Badelj, and the young Rovella, with Czyborra and Ghiglione as wingers. Pandev and Pjaca were the strikers.

Out of possession, Czyborra and Ghiglione dropped to the defending line and created a classic 5-3-2 shape. Thanks to their concentration and organisation, Genoa were able to cover all the passing lanes options and space, allowing very little to Inter’s players for more than one hour.

On the other hand, Inter started with their classic 3-4-1-2 on paper. In this analysis, we will study why Inter struggled with their midfielders when in possession, and how Barella changed the game when he replaced Christian Eriksen after 58 minutes.

Inter’s midfield – Eriksen’s position

Conte’s team started strong and with confidence. The attacking was smooth and they dominated ball possession during the entire first half. The defensive line with Bastoni, Ranocchia, and D’Ambrosio did not face any type of danger, and the rotation of the midfielders is steady.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are the two offensive outlets, however, all the attacks during the first half were inaccurate or blocked. Although Inter had a positive approach, they were not able to find the right space at the right time and Genoa’s organisation did not make it easy.

From the image below we see how Inter builds-up from behind and we can analyse Eriksen’s positional play. The Dane struggled to find the right position on the pitch, often finding himself in the wide channels with a significant distance between him and Martinez/Lukaku.

Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics
Once Eriksen will receive the ball, he will receive the immediate pressing from Rovella, closing the lane pass to Lautaro. Ghiglione will press Perisic and at the same time, Lautaro will be marked by Goldaniga. Is possible to see how the midfield is dominated by Genoa’s players with no Inter’s bodies.

His position does not allow Bastoni to occupy the wide channels and at the same time, we can also check how the inside channel is left empty, with just Arturo Vidal against Genoa’s midfielders. In this case, Eriksen will receive the ball, and simultaneously, Genoa’s players will be quick enough to close all the passing options. Eriksen found himself often away from the central and inside channels and looked uncomfortable playing in between the lines.

Genoa’s defensive organisation

The first 45 minutes showed a compact team able to keep position and not leave too much space for Lukaku and his teammates.

Genoa were set-up well defensively and Inter had no players dropping deep in order to free the inside channels, and often tried to create passing options for Ivan Perisic and Matteo Darmian, supported by D’Ambrosio and Bastoni occasionally.

The three centre-backs from Genoa never came out of their defensive line and with the help of the midfielders were able to keep the danger away for the first hour of the game.

Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics
Ghiglione and Czyborra drop on the defense creating a line of five

The key change: Barella for Eriksen

The game changed when the Italian international Barella came on. The dynamism and positioning were completely different and Inter gained a key player who was missing in the central channel. He was able to find space between the lines, which Eriksen was not capable of doing. Making a breakthrough between the defenders, which until that moment had always been compact and organised blocking most of the attacks.

A one-two combination completed with a great finish from Lukaku, where we can once again appreciate the importance of Barella in Conte’s system.

Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics
The first goal from Inter. Barella is playing between the lines, receiving a pass from Brozovic. He will turn and play a one-two combination with Lukaku that will put the ball in the back of the net

The Italian national received passes from Marcelo Brozovic and he triggered the goal that finally broke Genoa’s solid defensive structure. After a good pass to Lukaku, the Belgian had the opportunity in showing off some amazing 1v1 and dribbling skills before putting the ball behind Perin.

Zero-shots on goal: Genoa’s limits

After today, Genoa have now reached 270 minutes without scoring. A more absurd number is that it is more than 135 minutes since Genoa last had a shot on target. You can only score goals by having shots on target. This is something that Maran needs to rectify quickly if he is to keep Genoa in a highly competitive league.

Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics
Behrami is about to pass Pandev, but we can analyze how far he is. He will be easily anticipated from Bastoni

From the image above, we can see how Genoa was trying to build up in attack but there is a significant gap between the forwards and midfielders. Even the length of the arrow shows how long the pass had to be and how close instead Bastoni was to Pandev. Achraf Hakimi who had replaced Perisic a few seconds earlier was watching out for Pellegrini who had replaced Czyborra at the end of the first half, while Ranocchia and D’Ambrosio were marking Pjaca.

Genoa tried to play balls long, but Pandev and Pjaca always had their back to goal but were poorly supported by the midfielders who and very well pressed by Inter’s defence. The overall impression was that Genoa were trying to play for a draw. It was a no-go strategy offensively and led to extremely passive behaviour, leaving majority of possession to Conte’s team.

The closing goal

After Lukaku’s goal, Inter continued attacking with brilliant football aiming to score a second in order to secure three points.

The footage of the second goal captures the passiveness of Genoa’s players from a corner almost ten minutes before the end. The good delivery from Brozovic finds Ranocchia who flicks the ball onto the second post, where D’Ambrosio simply has to tap it in.Serie A 2020/21: Genoa vs Inter – tactical analysis tactics

Genoa’s players have all eye’s on the ball

All Genoa’s players were ball watching and forgot to mark their assigned players. They misjudged the flight of the ball and at the same time have been slow to react to the second ball even though the score was not in their favour. The analysis shows a passive attitude of Maran’s team which cannot be justified against a top club such as Inter.


Conte can be happy with the overall performance of his team. He also had the opportunity to perform a good turnover with five changes during the game, resting some players so that he can prepare for the next game away against Shakhtar, which is already crucial for their Champions League group stage ambitions. The real jigsaw to solve seems once again to be Eriksen, and understand how to make the player fit in. Maran on the other hand needs to quickly adjust the offensive movements of his team as Genoa has not scored in the last three games including Saturday’s game. Next week is their derby against a Sampdoria side in great shape and it could be decisive already.