It would be unfair to say that any single player deserves more credit than the other at Inter currently. While the Nerazzurri did lose to Juventus in the Derby D’Italia, they do look like a cohesive machine. Amidst all that, Marcelo Brozovic is one player that many have forgotten about.
It has been a season in which summer signing Stefano Sensi has arguably been Inter’s best player. Nicolo Barella’s signing has also been hailed as a masterclass. Few have realised that Brozovic too has been just as important. Despite that, there has little hullaballoo about the Croatian.
Brozovic has played as the deepest Inter midfielder this season but his job has not been about keeping things simple. Barella is the Arturo Vidal-esque battler in midfield but Brozovic’s role has just been important in that regard.
In fact, Brozovic has won the highest number of tackles per game in the Nerazzurri side. He has made the highest number of tackles- 29, making 2.7 per game (as per Whoscored). The Croatian has also made the second-highest number of interceptions per game – 1.6.
Antonio Conte has kept his midfield operating like a machine; a well-oiled engine. Everyone has their roles cut out it would appears.
Sensi often joins the front two to change a 3-5-2 to a 3-4-1-2. Barella goes about hunting for the ball like a wolf, using his physical approach to great effect. Brozovic has to keep changing from a defensive midfielder to a battler, depending on the situation.
In a midfield like this, every player has to operate perfectly to help Inter win. If one slips up, it takes a domino-effect. Sensi’s injury against Juve was proof of that. Matias Vecino struggled and because of that, Barella and Brozovic couldn’t get a grip.
It was a clear reflection of Inter’s lack of depth in midfield but the games prior to the derby have shown the quality that the current midfield three has. Brozovic has scored twice. One came in the first game of the campaign against Lecce. The second came in the Derby della Madonnina at the San Siro.
The way Brozovic helps out the defense is remarkable too. For a system like Conte’s, his defensive contributions help the nerazzurri be pragmatic and no-nonsense in their approach. This approach was very evident in Inter’s win against Lazio.
It was a complete performance from the former Dinamo Zagreb man, as evident from the heatmap. He was involved in the build-up from the back and was often found in advanced positions when the ball was in the final third. The midfielder took as many as 107 touches in that game.
He won as many as four tackles, losing just one out of the total five- highest success rate in the whole game for either teams. He also played the third-highest number of passes in the game.
It is performances like these that ring true Luciano Spalletti’s praises. The former Inter boss compared Brozovic to a ‘compass’ because of his intelligence and ability to thread passes all across the pitch. These abilities have also made him one of the best in the world in his position.
With football moving in a direction that sees teams play out from the back and win the ball back as quickly as possible, players like Brozovic are key. They keep things ticking like Miralem Pjanic would do for Juventus or how Rodri would do for Man City.
It is unfair to compare two players in different leagues. But Brozovic’s completeness can be highlighted by statistics that can point to his superiority in Europe.
Brozovic( 82.1) has played more key passes per game this season than Rodri (69.5), even though the Croatian has a slightly lesser passing accuracy. He has also won more tackles than Man City’s summer signing from Atletico Madrid.
Talking of Atleti, Thomas Partey’s performances in defensive midfield have been hailed by many. But Brozovic excels the Ghanian in every key aspect for that position. He has won more tackles than Partey (1.4) and has made more interceptions than him too.
Brozovic( 91.1%) has a better passing accuracy than Partey’s (87%). He has also played more passes than him.
Real Madrid’s Casemiro has won more tackles and has made more interceptions than Brozovic. But the Inter man’s on-the-ball stats are better than the Brazilian.
Again, comparisons in football aren’t meant to seek superiority. They are meant to show how good a player is. The way Brozovic exceeds many of Europe’s elites in many departments is reflective of how good he can be for just about every top club in the world.
And it is time the world sits up and takes notice of this man.
(All stats via Whoscored)