Just a week ago, it all seemed to finally be moving in the right direction. After a painful start to the season, including some terrible losses and a coaching change, Inter looked to be turning the corner. Claudio Ranieri arrived to take command and seemed to be bringing back the old Inter, winning his first two games. This past weekend was going to be the signal to the rest of Serie A that Nerazzurri were back, as they faced Napoli at the San Siro.
Then referee Gianluca Rocchi stepped into the fray and it all seemed to collapse for Inter. But it is now up to the new manager to turn Saturday’s disaster into the moment that launches the club up the table.
Criticizing referees is not my favorite thing to write about, but Rocchi made a complete mess of this game, and there is no better way to put it. In the 41st minute he awarded a penalty and a second yellow card for a foul by Joel Obi that should never have been called a penalty, since it was clearly outside the box, nor a yellow card. Not to mention Obi’s first yellow card was probably even more questionable. The decision sent Inter’s players and coaches into a deserved rage from which they were never able to recover and refocus on the match. As a result, Ranieri was sent off for losing his temper at the half, the players played like the game was lost already and Napoli blew them away.
It seems Rocchi has a recent knack for sending off Inter players. In the last 16 games he has officiated involving the Nerazzurri he has shown them a red card seven times. Now I admit I have not researched that statistic much further, but on the surface it seems like an extraordinary number. Whether it actually is suspicious or not is beside the point, it is just the kind of thing Ranieri can use to instill the bunker mentality of “us against the world”, and that is exactly what they need right now.
As an observer, you can not simply throw away this result when analyzing where Inter are in their progress. Yes, they were down a man for more than half the game, but to crumble in the way they did shows an alarming lack of character. But if I were in Ranieri’s shoes, none of that matters now. All that matter is that his club were robbed and now it is time to come together and fight against all the enemies before them, perceived and real.
Losing by three goals at the San Siro is nothing short of a failure. But even with that result they are just seven points behind the league leaders and it is still only the beginning of October. If Claudio Ranieri is smart, and I suspect he is, he will use this game as the moment when Inter rallies around the flag and begin to play with the pride and strength that has made them a success in the not-so-distant past.