Inter: The Unforgettable Year of 2021
The stats that matter most to Nerazzurri fans
Football is a science and over the past century, Serie A has established itself as a world leader when it comes to ingenuity in today’s game.
It took them a decade of quackery, but Inter has finally showcased their best and brightest in the world of Calcio academia.
Let’s get nerdy and take a look at two of the peninsula’s best senior scientists, Antonio Conte and Simone Inzaghi, and observe how they overpowered Stefano Pioli to win the Summer and Winter titles of 2021.
Total Domination of Serie A
Of 43 Serie A matchdays contested during the calendar year, the Nerazzurri triumphed 32 times, drew eight games, and remarkably only lost on three occasions.
During the first half of 2021, Antonio Conte impressively beat Juventus, Atalanta, and (Simone Inzaghi’s) Lazio to wrestle first place from the clutches of Il Diavolo, which had slipped up at Spezia on Match Day 22, losing 2–0 away at the Alberto Picco.
One hand on the Scudetto
But the best was saved for Milan just a few days later. Romelu Lukaku supplied a pin-point delivery to the back stick for Lautaro Martinez for a one-nil lead and Samir Handanovic’s heroics denied Zlatan Ibrahimovic twice and a certain equaliser from Sandro Tonali.
Martinez then capped off a brilliant team goal, tucking home an Ivan Perišić cutback. Lukaku had too much pace for Franck Kessie, steaming away to the edge of the area to ram home under Gigio Donnarumma, effectively catapulting his side to a four-point lead in the Classifica.
Il Diavolo had been driven out from the top of the Serie A standings, exorcised by Padre Antonio and Inter cruised to the title.
What about Mister Inzaghi?
As you can see above, Inter’s biggest victory came under Simone Inzaghi against Bologna in September. Essentially, it was Inter’s captivating away form that deserved the plaudits with successes at Verona, Fiorentina, Sassuolo, and Roma.
Serie A: 104 Goals scored, 33 conceded
Not even a gung-ho Atalanta, who fell one short of a century of goals — could match it with Inter’s attacking dynamics of Lukaku-Martinez-Eriksen (under Conte) and then Dzeko-Martinez-Calhanoglu.
Milan and Juventus were statistically obliterated as Inter earned the titles of Best Defence and Best Attack of 2021, achieving a goal difference of +71 along the way, 22 more than their Nerazzurri namesakes in nearby Bergamo.
Atalanta’s year was nothing short of sensational and Gasperini’s win percentage of 65.1% is a reflection of that. However, the Conte-Inzaghi partnership of 74.4% further magnified the inferior accomplishments of the rest including Pioli at Milan (62.8%) and Pirlo-Allegri at Juve (60.5%).
Albeit, Juventus and Sampdoria were the only clubs to withstand the Benemeata onslaught, both sides poaching four league points from Inter. Udinese is the sole club that can boast a clean sheet as Luca Gotti scrapped a nil-all draw from Conte in January.
Following that disappointment at the Dacia Arena, Inter assembled a stunning eleven-game winning streak which included that 0–3 victory over Milan, ending the Rossoneri’s lead at the top of the Classifica which lasted twenty-one rounds.
That streak would then metamorphose into a season-best seventeen-game unbeaten display. Just as Inter had done precisely 50 years earlier, she’d overwhelmed her red and black city rival to clinch the Campionato on the 2nd of May.
Half a century ago those Nerazzurri names included Facchetti and Boninsegna. This time, glory was dispatched via the right boot of Christian Eriksen and the left foot of Achraf Hakimi as the Benemeata overcame Crotone at the Stadio Ezio Scida.
The Moroccan, nutmegging Alex Cordaz for 0–2 to mathematically sow up the Scudetto, audaciously summed up his club’s dominance throughout the campaign with that one brash manoeuvre.
Like Hugh Heffner waltzing his way around the Stadio Playboy Mansion, Inter had its way with the League, winning a 19th Serie A title by an emphatic TWELVE points.
Milan finished in a distant second position after leading the Classifica by two points at the halfway mark. Fast forward to Round 20, Inzaghi’s Inter leads by one point (3 point improvement) with a game in hand as 2022 gets underway, an arduous task for Pioli to overcome. Even Alexis Sanchez is getting in on the action.
Formidable Serie A attack
For the first time since the Angelillo-Firmani attacking combination of 1958/59, an Inter side possessed two strikers that contributed 15 goals or more.
Romelu Lukaku banged in 24 (of 89) goals for the term while Lautaro Martinez hit 17, and 9 others netted 3 or more times. While Angelillo and Firmani struck 53 of 77 goals (a whopping 69%), the Lukaku-Martinez combo comprised 46%, a testament to comprehensive teamwork from the entire squad which bore the fruits of a famously strict Conte training regime.
Conte now stands alone as the only coach to ever win the Scudetto twice with two or more games to spare. Here are all of Inter’s 104 goals of 2021.
El Toro Martinez struck 22 times in 2021, the highest tally of any Inter player. To think that he’d started his footballing days as a central defender. In all, 22 Nerazzurri players contributed to 42 scoresheets, 9 of which realised goals under both coaches.
Conte extravagantly signed Lukaku for €74m and Hakimi for €43m. After conquering the title unequivocally, the Allenatore resigned and the club sold the pair for €115m and €60m respectively.
Christian Eriksen came at a cost of €27m and his replacement, Hakan Calhanoglu, was prudently snapped up on a free transfer. The ex-Milan midfielder has made the difference for Inter’s title defence so far under Inzaghi.
Edin Dzeko also arrived gratis, finding the back of the net eight times so far. Capturing Hakimi’s place in the squad was Denzel Dumfries at a cost of €12.5m, the Dutchman already establishing himself as the Moroccan’s rightful heir.
Scoring on three occasions in the first few months, the former PSV defender has reproduced Hakimi’s goal quota (3). Same outcome but at a saving of €47.5m. Ottimo.
Simone Inzaghi’s time to shine
Clearly inheriting a weaker squad from Conte, Inzaghi but was able to inflict the same pain on Maurizio Sarri and Lazio by luring Joaquin Correa, an intelligent acquisition that deemed Andrea Pinamonti as surplus to requirements.
The arrivals of Dzeko and Correa have mitigated the bleeding from the Lukaku transfer wound. In fact, Inzaghi-ball (August to December) has surpassed *Conte-piede (January to May) at a rate of 2.57 goals vs 2.29 goals per game.
However, Conte triumphed in Serie A at the monumental rate of 75% with 18 wins from 24 games. Incredibile!
Each coach showcased their own individual strengths, and there is no sign of an Inter slowdown under Simone Inzaghi, who is proving that it doesn’t matter how you start the season.
In Inzaghi’s defence
Since the 3–2 win over Napoli in November 2021, Inter hasn’t conceded a goal. That’s six clean sheets in a row while simultaneously belting in seventeen big ones.
That’s seven consecutive wins for the Benemeata while their adversaries have dropped league points like it’s hot. While Milan and Napoli have only accrued seven league points in that period (15 for Atalanta), Inter harvested eighteen to lead by four.
Inzaghi has kept his opposing managers scoreless on nine occasions and is a deserved Winter champion.
The goals keep flowing
Martinez has eleven goals, Dzeko eight, and Calhanoglu six in 2021/22. That’s already two more than the Turkish international managed at Milan during the entirety of the 2020/21 season and he’s now on course to beat his career-best of nine in Serie A, and possibly his career-best of eleven at Hamburg.
Perišić and Correa have chipped in with four each while the midfield, defence and bench have chimed in with twenty more.
Inzaghi can finally demonstrate
We could delve deeper into Simone Inzaghi and compare his first six months of 2021 at Lazio to his Inter-switch, but that could be considered a futile argument on the grounds of a seemingly disparate playing roster and insufficient transfer funds on Claudio Lotito’s part.
It’s like being a woodcutter with a blunt axe, as Maurizio Sarri is finding out with the Biancocelesti. Nowadays at Inter, Inzaghi has sharpened the axe and is gleefully using it to chop down all those that come before him.
The latest Inter transfer of Robin Gosens, and a possible deal for Torino’s Bremer, will undoubtedly make Inter the most feared team in Italy.
For Antonio Conte, the axe may swing from a different angle should he fail to deliver a trophy in London’s north.
Romelu Lukaku, who played a winning role in last season’s Scudetto, has expressed his regrets in regards to departing Milano for Premier League action.
“I hope from the bottom of my heart to go back to Inter and not at the end of my career but when I’m still at a good enough level to win more trophies.”
“I always said that I love Inter and I’ll play for them again. I really hope so. I fell in love with Italy.
It literally reads like a love letter. Perhaps the same sentiments have also crossed the mind of Professore Antonio Conte in recent months.
For now, Inter’s laboratorio sportivo calcio remains in competent hands.
*Loose reference to contropiede as I was clutching for a term.
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