The Nerazzurri made great strides in the summer market, but Roma's visit marks the start of a period which will decide whether they can push Juventus close in the title race
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Last season marked the first time in eight years that Inter had finished without a title, but after the close of the summer transfer window on Friday many in Italy had them down as the unofficial kings of the market. Roma’s visit to San Siro on Sunday evening gives the Nerazzurri their first real chance to justify the claims of those supporters who believe that Andrea Stramaccioni’s outfit can now be true Scudetto challengers once again.
While champions Juventus brought in one of Serie A’s finest in Kwadwo Asamoah and added depth with the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Mauricio Isla, Lucio and Paul Pogba, their only purchase in attack – their main weakness in 2011-12 – was that of Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane has his positives, but he remains a far cry from some of the targets the Bianconeri had in their sights during the close season.
Inter, on the other hand, have progressed markedly as a unit thanks to their summer trading. Julio Cesar’s significant dip in form saw him shipped out for Samir Handanovic, arguably Serie A’s best keeper outside of the big three in recent years. They also brought in Matias Silvestre to replace Lucio, the under-performing Giampaolo Pazzini was swapped for Antonio Cassano plus cash, and other quality additions were made in the shape of Rodrigo Palacio, Alvaro Pereira and Walter Gargano.
|INTER'S SUMMER ADDITIONS
With new faces being brought in to each department, Inter suddenly look more capable of making forward strides than they were last time around. After a campaign which saw them led by three different coaches as they missed out on the Champions League by a significant margin, they were badly in need of an injection of class, and they appear to have got that. Title favourites they most definitely are not, but they can make a decent claim to be Juve’s most dangerous rivals this term, on paper at least.
But now that the deals have all been done – until January at least – it is on the field that Inter must back up the work which has been carried out, and Zdenek Zeman’s Roma arrive in town tonight to give them a real test of their mettle. Two unconvincing displays have been endured at San Siro in the Europa League already this season, and it was against the same Giallorossi that they opened their home campaign last term, picking up their only point under the ill-fated reign of Gian Piero Gasperini.
This time around feels different, but feeling and doing are two different things. Victory over Pescara and a good transfer campaign have given Interisti reason to believe, but the errors which have turned their European run so far into a rollercoaster ride need to be addressed if they are to strike any kind of real fear into Juventus. Some may nonchalantly throw up an arm and say, “It was only the Europa League,” but a failure to learn from what were effectively competitive pre-season friendlies would be foolhardy in the least, and Stramaccioni must tackle the issue immediately.
The forward line is looking good, with Cassano, Diego Milito and a rejuvenated Wesley Sneijder keeping out the likes of Palacio and Philippe Coutinho in last week’s league opener, while in midfield Gargano has added a real sense of diligence and direction. But there needs to be greater decision-making shown from the back four, with Juve and Milan both having shown over the past couple of years that it is in keeping opponents out that a title is truly won and lost. An inability to deal with their failures in this department could seriously undermine what has been an excellent summer for the club.
Until the introduction of Cassano, amidst his boisterous taunts in the direction of his former club across the city, Inter’s progression had gone on largely unnoticed, but a win against their first notable opponents of the 2012-13 campaign would signify that a huge step forward can be made on the field, too. This is where the long road back to the top begins.