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Inter’s Decline Under Rafael Benitez

Under Jose Mourinho, Inter gradually developed an aura of invincibility, and their defence – generally made up of Maicon, Lucio, Samuel and Chivu (or Zanetti) – had become the envy of the rest of Europe. The Nerazzurri had finally brought back the success of generations gone by, and despite one or two question markimgs over the overall age, the squad looked formidable with quality players in every part of the team; Julio Cesar, Maicon, Walter Samuel, Lucio, Cambiasso, Sneijder, Eto’o and Milito to name a few.

Having secured a historic treble, Mourinho departed to take the reigns at Real Madrid, and Benitez was brought in to replace him. Since that moment, things seem to have got steadily worse for Inter. First they were tactically outclassed in the European Super Cup by Atlético Madrid, although this was followed by a more promising performanace in a 3-1 win over Roma in the Italian Super Cup.

After only managing to win the much less prestigious of these two trophies, which Mourinho considered to be “on a plate” for Benitez, Inter haven’t showed any real signs of improvement. Convincing 4-0 wins over Werder Bremen and Bari have been two of the only high-points of their season so far, but Bari are rooted to the bottom of Serie A and Werder Bremen are languishing in 11th place of the Bundesliga following their recent 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Stuttgart.

Benitez has to be held directly responsible for this slump, as he has handled just about every aspect of the team extremely poorly. Firstly, he wasn’t given any money to build a side in his image, so it was absolutely vital that he didn’t attempt to make any major changes to the way the team plays. Possibly out of pure stubbornness, he has tried his best to do so anyway by using two returning young, raw talents on the wings; Coutinho and Johnathan Biabiany. These two youngsters have been used in an effort to play uncharacteristically (both for Inter and Benitez) attacking, high-pressing football, but this move simply hasn’t paid off. These two players lack the experience to assert themselves regularly at a high level, and Coutinho is much more comfortable when he is playing as a central playmaker. As a result, Inter have often found themselves “enjoying” large periods of possession but they have lacked the spark and intelligence to open their opposition up.

Benitez’ insistence on playing a high defensive line has been even more bizarre. Inter’s defenders are fantastic in the tackle, dogged, brave and generally dominant in the air, but they can also be made to look very ordinary if they aren’t used correctly (as demonstrated by Walter Samuel and Lucio’s struggles at their previous clubs). One of their undoubted weaknesses is having balls played in behind them, and the high line has already caused this weakness to become exposed on multiple occasions. Gareth Bale managed to humiliate the previously-proud defence three times at the San Siro, and yet Inter still failed to learn their lesson. Bale again had repeated success in the return match, and things got no better against AC Milan. Milan broke Inter’s long, proud unbeaten home record with relative ease by playing early balls over the top of the defence for Ibrahimovic and Robinho to run onto, and in truth, they could’ve scored several more goals from this simple, unsubtle method of breaking through the Inter defence.

Unless Moratti loses patience before it’s too late (which is perfectly likely, considering his track record), it’s entirely possible that Inter will finish second to Spurs in Group A of the Champions League and then get overrun in the first knockout stage if they are drawn with one of the big forces. Jose Mourinho will be the smuggest man alive, as if he wasn’t already.

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  1. David H

    November 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Easy on Benitez. Like McClaren at Wolfsburg, he’s been the victim of forces beyond his control. Mourinho would have been able to do nothing about the post-World Cup letdown w/o reinforcements which have been denied Benitez. And the injuries have more than decimated his side. I’ll give you the defensive high line disaster, but even there I’d credit him for not standing still. He was never going to be able to just copy Mourinho, not unless he had the exact same players, all healthy, all not suffering a post-World Cup letdown. He had to do something to try to effect a change. That it hasn’t worked out, *so far*, may be down to him, but give him some time already.

  2. J Moyo

    November 17, 2010 at 2:46 am

    After fail ing to win these two tro phies, which Mour inho con sid ered to be “on a plate” for Ben itez, Inter haven’t showed any real signs of improve ment.

    Infact Inter Milan won one of these two trophies..One of the sacred tenets of responsible journalism is sticking to facts..This article exposes you as one of those people on a rabid media agenda against Rafa benitez.. If you are going to criticize the man,, give us facts not a biased opinion disguised as journalism.

  3. lolrofl

    November 17, 2010 at 1:51 am

    hey dumb Mohammed, think before u speak. Mourinho’s so called defensive football managed to score 4 past Milan and yet benitez so called fking attractive football cant even scored a goal against milan with a 1 man advantage. now, how’s tht attractive?

  4. Rami S.

    November 16, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Benitez must shoulder some of the blame but also the injuries (too many to count) and the post World Cup experience which affected players such as Sneijder have been a reason behind Inter’s struggles.
    I mentioned on many occasions that Juve’s best summer move was not pursuing Benitez hard enough to hire him. He’s not for Serie A and I think his time with Liverpool was highlighted by a stroke of luck in the CL final win over Milan (through penalties)…

  5. Mohammed

    November 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Mourinho’s way was not to let other teams play football…as demonstrated best against Barcelona last season. Benitez might be defensive minded but his teams have never been as boring as mourinho’s to watch. He needs to change the player’s mentality to make it work. And to use the term “decline” when we’re not even half a season in is ridiculous. I’m willing to bet mourinho will be fired before Benitez will…anti football will not be tolerated at the barnabeau.

    • lolrofl

      November 17, 2010 at 1:52 am

      u r dumb. i have no respect to those who did’t know anythg about football

    • Robert

      November 17, 2010 at 7:00 am

      Mohammed you are a big fool and write like a fool too. No one fires mourinho. he leaves a club when he wants to, and he leaves a club better than he met it.

    • Mattus

      November 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

      You need to find your hat, It’s where you’ll find your brain.

  6. Sam Davis

    November 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    As a United supporter, this article make my heart smile. I said it when they hired him (still don’t know why they’ve done it), that he certainly wasn’t going to reach the heights that Mourinho had just a season before, and I (in an effort to mock him a little bit) predicted that he’d run them into the ground in the same way that he did Liverpool (after fluking his way to a CL win in 2005) and it looks like that’s what’s happening.

    I find it absolutely hilarious.

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