Inter blanked Borussia Dortmund out in typical Antonio Conte fashion last night. Once Lautaro Martinez fired them ahead, Dortmund probably had no chance. Antonio Candreva’s late goal drilled the final nail in the coffin. But the performance of Milan Skriniar failed to draw enough eyeballs, despite it being very resolute and compact.
While Stefan de Vrij gave an account of himself with the lovely ball that set up Martinez, Skriniar was just as important. Diego Godin had a fine game but often struggled against pace when pushed out wide.
While Dortmund clearly lacked a credible plan to attack due to the absence of Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer, Inter stood very firm. The fact that the German visitors registered only two shots on target says a lot about the performance.
Skriniar came into the game at the back of an average performance against Sassuolo. After a decent first 65 minutes, Inter leaked two goals and made it tough for themselves. Jeremie Boga’s pace had caused problems for Skriniar at the Mapei Stadium. But it was a case of letting their shoulders drop before the game ended.
It seemed as though Inter had shifted attention to Dortmund well before the Sassuolo game ended. That shift of attention helped too.
Skriniar won three tackles in the game and was dribbled past only once (via Whoscored). One of them was crucial, as he dominated Jadon Sancho off the ball in the second-half when Dortmund were on the counter. He was in a one-on-one against the Englishman but came out on top brilliantly. If he was beaten, Dortmund could well have scored.
That is a key part of Skriniar’s arsenal. He can be a giant on one-on-ones. His big physique allows him to use his body very well.
This season, the Slovakian has won one tackle per game, making only 0.5 interceptions per game. That isn’t an exceptional stat by any means for a central defender. But the way he uses his body is immense. That helps him not put too much effort into tackling. When called upon to tackle, he can do it- as evident from last night.
Even last season, Skriniar was only Inter’s 6th best tackler at 1.8. He was also their 6th best interceptor. But he was dribbled past only 22 times in the whole season. This shows that the former Sampdoria man picks his moments. Otherwise, he’d use his bulky frame.
Being the ball-playing defender that he is, Skriniar played the second-highest number of passes per game last season. He also had the second-best passing accuracy- 92.6 per cent (via Whoscored).
This season, he has played the second-highest number of passes– 67. But he boasts of the highest passing accuracy in the side- 95 per cent. That is a huge number. And it proves why he’s one of the best in Europe.
Yesterday was probably Skriniar’s best performance playing as the wide centre-back in the 3-5-2. It was even more special since the game was a must-win one for Inter. If they lost, qualification for the knockout stages would have got complicated.
While he has played as the left centre-back since the season began, his sound performance against Udinese may not mean as much as last night. Adapting to the 3-5-2 shape can take a while for a defender as young as him. But Skriniar has probably adapted a bit quicker than Godin, who was more used to playing in a flat back-four at Atletico Madrid.
Just about all the possession passes through Skriniar and the left side of the attack. The Slovakian’s technical ability is of huge importance, in that regard. And in a sense, playing as the left centre-back has tapped into his strengths too.
Lazio summer signing Denis Vavro has already hailed his compatriot’s influence on the pitch and his help in guiding the Biancocelesti defender.
“Skriniar is the best. I spoke to him before coming and he explained how Italian football is different to football in Denmark. It’s faster and you play with lots of short passes.”
24 is still a young age for a defender as good as Skriniar. Serie A boasts of experienced defenders like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Skriniar is still 10 years away from reaching that age. By the time he does reach there, one can only imagine what level he will be on.
He is already mature and immense. Despite being bulky, he is a cultured defender on the ball. That is a rare commodity to have in today’s era.