In Focus: How Inzaghi can get Inter firing without Lukaku
He came, he saw, he conquered and then he departed — Romelu Lukaku has left a lasting legacy in Italy after just two seasons with Inter Milan.
The Belgian, 28, played a key role in ending the stranglehold Juventus had on Serie A, leading the way with 24 goals for Antonio Conte’s side as Inter claimed the title last term.
But his £97.5million move to Chelsea has left new Nerazzurri boss Simone Inzaghi needing to fill a void up front — and quickly.
Ahead of Inter's opening league match with Genoa this evening, we consider how the men from Milan can succeed without Lukaku leading the line.
Same shape, different manager
Conte left the San Siro at the end of last season and Inter turned to the Italian capital for their next coach.
Having impressed with Lazio, who finished just five points behind champions Juve in 2019-20, Inzaghi arrived in Milan with a reputation for maximising the ability of his players.
While in charge at the Stadio Olimpico, he was loyal to a back three — one of the trademarks of Conte’s Inter.
Inzaghi, 45, has the personnel to deploy his favoured formation and the players are used to playing in a similar set-up.
In theory, it should be a smooth transition.
Replacing Lukaku’s goals
Across his two seasons with the club, Lukaku netted 47 times in Serie A.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo (60) and Ciro Immobile (56) can boast a better record during that period and they are considered by many to be the best finishers in Italy.
Signing a replacement on a tight budget is not going to be easy and Inter may need multiple players to shoulder the goalscoring burden.
Edin Dzeko looks set to be the main man up top, having arrived from Roma this earlier summer.
The former Manchester City forward scored 119 goals in 260 appearances for the Giallorossi but managed just 13 in all competitions last term.
Duvan Zapata is another player linked with Inter and the Atalanta forward is reportedly keen on a move to the San Siro.
The 30-year-old's arrival would go some way to ensuring Inzaghi has enough goals in his team — he has scored a minimum of 15 in each of his last three Serie A campaigns.
Going all-in on Martinez
Believed to be a target for both Tottenham and Arsenal, Lautaro Martinez looks set to remain in Italy.
The £75m-rated forward enjoyed the most prolific league season of his career last term, scoring 17 times in 38 outings.
There is no reason he could not deliver a 25-goal season for Inter, especially if he replaces Lukaku as their designated penalty taker.
He had an expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes average of 0.55 last season and that was as the support act to the Belgian superstar — make him the main man and the goals will surely flow.
Inzaghi got the best out of Immobile, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa at Lazio, now he can do the same with Martinez.
A new creator-in-chief
Hakan Calhanoglu stunned the world when he swapped AC Milan for Inter after his contract expired.
He could well be the ace in the pack for Inter this season.
Inzaghi’s Lazio system significantly increased Alberto’s output and Calhanoglu has been earmarked for that role at Inter.
Speaking after he was announced as a Nerazzurri player, he said: "I like that tactical system. In this role under Inzaghi, I know that Alberto played, we are similar in some ways.
"I like the attention of the coach and how he talks to me. I hope that during this season I will have fun with my team-mates.
"The position? Without sacrifice, they won’t give you the shirt. I have to listen to what the coach wants, there’s time and then we’ll see."
Inter went into the last campaign as title favourites but this season is different.
They have sold flying full-back Achraf Hakimi and Lukaku, as well as losing Conte at the end of the season — all three were pivotal to their success.
This is a transitional season and should be treated as such.
Inzaghi delivered in Rome and he can do so in Milan if given the time.