Thank God football is not an exact science. But, sometimes, simple – and apparently trivial - equations seem to work. For example: playing with two forwards is better than playing with one forward only. In Internazionales's case: this is the truth. Last saturday, in the impressive win in Florence (1-2), Inter played with two authentic strikers (Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito) for the third time in 24 games.
The trend would convince even the more skeptic: playing this way, the squad obtained seven points in three games. The skeptic we are talking about is the Inter coach Walter Mazzarri. The Nerazzurri fans had to wait until the 26th of January to see their two Argentinian idols together in the starting eleven. The game ended in a 0-0 but the foundations of this new intuition were laid. The South-American duo made its second appearance in Inter-Sassuolo (9th of February) and the Beneamata won 1-0... with a goal by the center-back Walter Samuel. But the match was dominated by Inter.
Against Fiorentina, Walter Mazzarri lined up the most offensive Inter of the season: the talentuous Hernanes and Fredy Guarin as inside forwards behind the two Argentinian strikers. The playing style didn't change: cointainment and counter-attack, containment and counter-attack... and so on.
But this time Inter had more aces in their hole: every time they attacked, they created problems to Fiorentina's defense. The plays started on the flanks above all (an outstanding match by Yuto Nagatomo); then, the ball was given to the Brazilian or the Colombian inside midfielders, who assisted the two strikers. Sometimes, the crosses came directly from the full-backs. It's true that Hernanes added much quality in the middle of the pitch, but with two strikers as Palacio and Milito (and Mauro Icardi as first replacement) Inter is clearly more dangerous and – let's say it clearly – more pleasing to watch.
Let's take a glance at the latest ten games, to see how Mazzarri chose his offensive players, and the result he obtained.
1st December: Inter-Sampdoria 1-1. Palacio was the only forward, with Alvarez and Guarin as inside forwards behind him.
8th December: Inter-Parma 3-3. The same as the previous week: Palacio as center forward, with Guarin and Alvarez behind him.
15th December: Napoli-Inter 4-2. In the bad loss at the San Paolo, Palacio was the only true forward on the pitch with Fredy Guarin as second striker and Alvarez as inside forward. But not always does the position on the pitch tell the truth: Guarin is not a second striker, he exploits his qualities in a more backward position.
22th December: Inter-Milan 1-0. Once again, "El Trenza" Palacio was the last of the Mohicans. Behind him there was Guarin. Juto Nagatomo gave an essential contribution playing – de facto – as offensive left winger.
6th January: Lazio-Inter 1-0. Mazzarri chose the same scheme he adopted in the first days of December: Palacio was the only forward with Guarin and Alvarez behind him.
13th January: Inter-Chievo 1-1. One man alone in the middle of the Scaligeri's defense: Rodrigo Palacio. Kovacic and Alvarez played far from him and Inter desperately struggled to find a goal against one of the worst defenses in Serie A.
19th January: Genoa-Inter 1-0. In the worst match of the season, Mazzarri chose a very strange scheme, with Palacio as a second striker, Milito as center-forward and Alvarez as offensive wing. We cannot consider such a scheme as a 3-4-1-2, because it was 3-4-2-1 with one striker – Milito – as central point of reference.
26th January: Inter-Catania 1-0. Milito and Palacio played for the fist time as attacking duo. But there was Alvarez between them who penetrated and cut inside. The result: the three players stepped on each others' feet, shooting on the target only one time each.
2nd February: Juventus-Inter 3-1. La Vecchia Signora gave a football lesson to Mazzarri, who played with Palacio as center forward and Alvarez immediately behind him. Milito and Botta entered when the game was already compromised.
9th February: Inter-Sassuolo 1-0. Milito and Palacio were the attacking pair, with "El Trenza" more avanced than "El Principe", and Hernanes and Guarin as inside-forwards.
15th February: Fiorentina-Inter 1-2. Milito and Palacio played as classic forwards, with Hernanes and Guarin behind them.
There's another interesting case that is worth talking about: Inter-Roma 0-3. In that match, both the teams played with one striker...at least on paper: Mazzarri advanced Alvarez (who's not a forward) on the same line occupied by Palacio, keeping Guarin too far from the box. Roma played with Francesco Totti as falso nueve, with Alessandro Florenzi and Gervinho as authentic forwards, that cut inside starting from the flanks. The players with the right skills, placed in the right position: that was enough for Rudi Garcia to dominate the match. A lesson that Mazzarri might have finally understood.