Milan Skriniar’s stock has risen in European football over the years. There was a while when he was linked with a host of top clubs. That time is still very much here, as Manchester City seem keen on signing the Slovakian. As good a player as he is, it could be time when Inter could make do without him.
There is no question about his qualities though. Skriniar is still very much a regular at the club, having established himself in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 shape beside Stefan De Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni and Diego Godin. He has made 24 Serie A appearances, also having played six Champions League games.
In Conte’s 3-5-2 shape, Skriniar hasn’t had the best of times though. The former Sampdoria man is the sort of player who was accustomed to playing in a back-four under Luciano Spalletti and back at Sampdoria. The change in shape hasn’t helped Godin, but Skriniar too hasn’t really found it easy.
The system does work to his benefit, as the 25-year-old’s ability on the ball is used to good effect. Inter build from the back sometimes, with the centre-backs distributing the ball out to the wing-backs, who lay the strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez in.
He has done that job very well, coming up with 65.2 passes per game while doing that with an accuracy of 92.3 percent. That is his best passing tally over the years. Playing usually as the left-sided central defender gives him the room to play the ball out.
But that position usually has central defenders who can cover up for the wing-backs when they move forward. It takes time to settle and not everyone can do that job. Skriniar indeed has won only 1.2 tackles per game– his lowest tally at Inter. His interceptions tally is at 0.8 only- the second-lowest since last season.
There have been games this season when pace in the opposition’s frontline has caught Skriniar off-guard. Playing as the right centre-back against Juventus recently, Skriniar was one of the worst players on the pitch. He won just two tackles, not winning a single interception or a single aerial duel.
In the 1-1 draw against Cagliari, he won just a single tackle and one aerial duel. A poor showing saw him get taken off in the second-half as he was constantly struggling in-front of Joao Pedro. The game ended as a draw and Skriniar’s showing didn’t help anyone.
Performances like these have come a lot of times this season. There have been some very good ones too, but it has been a rather average season overall. Stefan de Vrij has been the club’s best defender followed by Bastoni. That should speak volumes for how the season has been.
Last season was all about playing in a back-four beside proper full-backs, who would stay back at all times. This change in system has been a transition for a still-young defender like Skriniar. He is valued high by Inter because they know he can be a top-class defender in a flat back-four. Manchester City probably know that.
Inter have been linked with a move for Marash Kumbulla. The Hellas Verona man has the experience of playing in a back-three under Ivan Juric. He has played in a variety of positions in that back-three, attracting the attention of many big clubs like Napoli too.
In Kumbulla, Inter will have a readymade defender for the system. They can earn big money from the sale of Skriniar and invest it elsewhere.