Simone Inzaghi has made a flying start as Inter Milan manger
Simone Inzaghi has made a flying start as Inter Milan manger

Simone Inzaghi returns to Lazio this weekend after enjoying a successful start to life in charge of Inter Milan.

The Italian ended a 22-year association with the Biancocelesti when he refused a new contract to accept the challenge of replacing Antonio Conte at the Serie A champions.

After losing key men over the summer, a difficult time was predicted for the new boss — but the 45-year-old has Inter unbeaten and riding high in third.

Ahead of the Stadio Olimpico clash, we assess whether the Nerazzurri can go on and retain the title under Inzaghi.

Testing summer

After securing their first Scudetto in 11 years last season, a summer of turmoil followed at Inter. 

First, they were delivered the hammer blow of manager Conte resigning just a week after the title win following disagreements with the club’s hierarchy.

To make matters worse, it then emerged that the champions were facing serious financial difficulties — and as they looked to raise funds, no player sale was declared off limits.

Star man Romelu Lukaku was one of several outgoings as he joined Chelsea
Star man Romelu Lukaku was one of several outgoings as he joined Chelsea

After announcing a record loss of £211million, an official statement read: "The club swiftly initiated a rebalancing policy with two primary aims: to ensure financial stability and to maintain a competitive team on the field."

High-profile sales predictably followed.

Romelu Lukaku left for Chelsea for £97.5m while influential right-back Achraf Hakimi joined Paris Saint-Germain for an initial £50m as the core of their title-winning side began to dismantle.

As they looked to rely on free transfers for the rebuild of their squad, confidence was low among the fanbase.

The ideal candidate

The man tasked with steadying the ship was Inzaghi, seen as a slightly uninspiring choice among supporters.

But, most importantly, he has previous experience of working on a shoestring budget.

He helped Lazio punch well above their weight for much of his reign, guiding them to four top-six finishes in his five seasons as permanent manager. 

He also picked up the Coppa Italia in 2019 and helped secure their return to the Champions League a year later after a 10-year absence.

The free signings of Hakan Calhanoglu, Edin Dzeko and Joaquin Correa were typically smart additions, while the shrewd captures of Denzel Dumfries and Zinho Vanheusden boosted the ranks further.

Overall, the club managed to record a £145m profit while also ticking the box of keeping their squad competitive.

Hitting the ground running

Inter Milan are unbeaten in Serie A this season under Simone Inzaghi
Inter Milan are unbeaten in Serie A this season under Simone Inzaghi

Not only are they competitive — you could argue they have been even better under their new man.

An unbeaten start of five wins and two draws sees Inter’s tally of 17 points comfortably surpass the 12 points accrued at the same point last season.

Inzaghi has kept with the 5-3-2 formation which worked so well under Conte, but there are subtle improvements which have enhanced the side this term.

Their statistics per 90 minutes for goals (3.14), shots (16), shots on target (6.14) and chances created (12) are all up on last campaign as the Nerazzurri have looked to attack more.

Inzaghi also has his side pressing higher up the field, but their defensive solidity has remained, boasting the fourth-best defence in the league with only eight goals conceded.

On their slight change in style, defender Stefan de Vrij said earlier this season: "Many concepts have remained the same, as well as the formation.

"That doesn't regard just the defence, but the whole team. Now we propose an attacking football. We press high. We create many opportunities.

"Maybe we still need to find some balance, but these are the things that have changed."

Taking on the mantle

Edin Dzeko has provided more of a focal point in attack compared to Romelu Lukaku last season
Edin Dzeko has provided more of a focal point in attack compared to Romelu Lukaku last season

Lukaku’s departure left a big void, but it has so far been filled convincingly by Lautaro Martinez and new man Dzeko.

The pair make up two of the top three scorers in Serie A, with five for Martinez and six for his experienced Bosnian strike partner.

All in all, 34-year-old Dzeko has been a revelation since his free switch from Roma.

Alongside his impressive goalscoring numbers, the veteran striker has been vital in Inter’s change in style, providing more of a focal point to their attack than even Lukaku did.

Where Dzeko lacks in pace and dynamism compared to the Belgian, he is making up for it with his impressive link-up play.

The numbers show Dzeko is performing higher per 90 minutes for passing (22.11), forward passes (7.26), aerial duels won (1.55) and touches (45.43) than the new Chelsea star.

Former Inter goalkeeper Walter Zenga said: "With Lukaku, the space in behind was attacked more. 

"Now there is Dzeko, who comes deep to get on the ball. And when Inter do this it creates extraordinary combinations.

"As a substitute, he immediately made a difference. What he has done since moving is unparalleled. He is finding goals at a pace that was not imaginable."

Race for the title

While Inter have seemingly improved, they may face a tougher title challenge this time around.

Napoli have a 100% record in their first seven Serie A games after a stunning start under their new man Luciano Spalletti, while rivals AC Milan have dropped only two points.

Also, it would be foolish to discount Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus despite a slow start in the Italian top flight.

But according to former defender Marco Materazzi, anything is possible for Inzaghi’s Inter.

"This year there are five or six very strong teams. There is Napoli that is doing very well, AC Milan and Juventus that never dies, you will see that they will arrive too.

“It is a strong Inter team that is worthy of being Italian champions. It can do great things."

Victory against Inzaghi’s former side could further outline their credentials to do just that.

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InterSimone InzaghiSerie A

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