Against Borussia Dortmund, Inter ended the first-half in sheer perfection. It was as good a scoreline as Antonio Conte would have liked. But the second-half performance was just bad, yet for some Inter fans, it was barely a surprise.
The Nerazzurri’s season has been one of two halves. They have let in seven goals in the second half in the Serie A. Every single Champions League goal they have conceded this season has also come in the second half.
Against Juventus, they conceded a late winner. Against Sassuolo, they were 4-1 up but let in two late goals to make things tough for themselves. In the away game at Brescia, a late goal saw the newly-promoted side come right back into the game. Away to Bologna this past weekend, Conte’s men found themselves 1-0 down by the hour mark.
At Dortmund, quite the same was the case. 2-0 up and playing some good football despite playing pragmatically, they slipped up. The players looked tired and Lucien Favre’s men ran rings around them.
Conte’s willingness to stick to his pragmatic brand of football allowed Dortmund to get on the ball. Against a bunch of tiring players, Dortmund thrived.
It is visible how Inter failed to commit men forward when the score was 2-2. They’re clearly sitting too deep, with only two midfielders and six defenders. Dortmund were playing in front of them and just having a good time.
This comes from how Conte failed to make the right substitutions at the right time. Stefano Sensi came on for Matias Vecino when the score was 2-2. Matteo Politano was brought on for Romelu Lukaku in an attempt to add more pace to the attack.
But Dortmund had already established a firm control on the game by then. Until it was 2-2, Conte didn’t make these changes, and they should have been made when Achraf Hakimi had made it 2-1 and Dortmund had grown into the game.
There seemed little point in having a quicker player up front when Dortmund had all the possession and had Inter pinned. Sensi does allow control in midfield, but what is the point of control when it could have come when Dortmund were still a goal behind?
These problems are similar to what happened against Barcelona, back when Conte had his side play too deep then as well. He made the Politano substitution in around the 75th minute – when Barca were already in the lead.
But the former Chelsea and Juventus boss justified the loss in another way. He told Sportmediaset (via FootballItalia):
“We have too limited a squad to face both Serie A and Champions League football this season. I mean limited both in terms of numbers and quality. Some players have to be on the field constantly and in the long run, you do pay for that. I am furious, because this cancels out all the good work.”
That is a point too, and it is a valid reason for why Inter slip up in the second-half often.
Nicolo Barella, Brozovic, and Sensi were key to the Inter midfield working in cohesion early in the season. After Sensi sustained the injury at Barcelona, the problems have mounted for them.
It shows that there’s a lack of depth and quality in that department. Brozovic has looked tried in the last 2-3 games, while Barella will need a rest soon. This lack of depth has already been seen in recent games and Conte has been right to point that out.
As the season goes on, these problems will keep cropping up more. It is vital that Conte has already identified them. The emphasis should be on adding depth in the upcoming summer transfer window. But Conte deserves equal blame for his approach against Dortmund.