By Mark Doyle
When Claudio Ranieri took charge of Inter in September, one of the first things he did was restore Giampaolo Pazzini to the starting line-up.
The former Sampdoria striker, who had seen a total of 90 minutes of action during Gian Piero Gasperini’s ill-fated tenure, immediately set about repaying the coach’s faith in him by netting the opening goal in a 3-1 victory in Bologna. That was September 24. Pazzini has not scored in Serie A since.
On Saturday night at San Siro, the Italian international was offered a glorious opportunity to end his goalscoring drought. Just minutes after watching Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale squander the opportunity to put the visitors 2-0 up with a weak penalty which was easily saved by Julio Cesar, Inter were awarded a spot-kick of their own when Damiano Ferronetti clattered into Diego Milito in the box.
|MATCH FACTS | Inter 0-1 Udinese
Milito was the obvious candidate to take the penalty, having already scored two this season. However, it was Pazzini who took possession of the ball. This was his shot at redemption; his chance to end the agony of 696 minutes without a goal.What followed, though, was almost inevitably disastrous, Pazzini skying his spot-kick after striking the ball off his standing leg as it gave way underneath him.
It was almost comical in its execution yet nobody at the Giuseppe Meazza was laughing: Not Pazzini, not his team-mates, not the fans, not Ranieri and especially not president Massimo Moratti.
A minor resurgence of late has not disguised the fact that Inter have very serious problems at the moment.
Pazzini’s horror miss beautifully symbolised the Nerazzurri’s current lack of potency up front.
Indeed, on only two occasions this season have Inter scored more than one goal in the league, in a 4-3 defeat by Palermo on the opening weekend of the season and that aforementioned victory over Bologna.
Pazzini is not carrying himself with any confidence at the moment and, while Milito showed plenty of endeavour against Udinese, he never really looked like scoring.
Clearly, Inter’s forwards are not taking the chances that are coming their way at the moment, but then, they are not being presented with many either.
Inter were struggling to create openings even when Wesley Sneijder was fit but they are now utterly devoid of ideas without the injured Dutchman.
The use of 4-4-2 against Udinese created a need for good service from the chosen wide players, Marco Faraoni and Ricky Alvarez, but neither man delivered in that regard. Faraoni, making his first start for the club, was game and provided a couple of inviting crosses from the right but, overall, he struggled to make a real impact.
As for Alvarez, he was particularly disappointing. After starting to show signs of what he could do last month, the Argentine is again resembling the player who looked so out of his depth in the early part of the season and he was hauled off at half-time for the second weekend in a row.
Admittedly, Alvarez’s substitution in Siena last Sunday was bizarre in that he had created a number of opportunities with some wonderful deliveries, but he was horribly ineffective against Udinese.
|PAZZINI'S KEY MATCH STATS|
But then, he wasn’t alone in that regard. Andrea Ranocchia was almost painfully bad.
The centre-half had a shocking game at the back and he played a part in Javier Zanetti’s dismissal as it was one of Ranocchia’s numerous misplaced passes which led to his Argentine team-mate's first booking for a desperate lunge on Pablo Armero.
Walter Samuel did not fare much better alongside Ranocchia. Time and time again the pair were caught out by straightforward balls over the top. They also drifted too far apart with alarming regularity.
It was no surprise that the winning goal came from a ball in behind with which Samuel and Rannochia had failed to deal, allowing Di Natale to claim possession before then passing on to Antonio Floro Flores, whose wonderfully-weighted pass left Mauricio Isla with a relatively easy finish. Quite where supposed left-back Christian Chivu was at the time is anybody’s guess.
On the evidence of Saturday night’s game, Inter do not just need one or two players in January, they need several.
Isla, of course, has reportedly been earmarked as a potential new arrival and the Chilean has publicly expressed his desire to make the switch. One wonders, though, if he is now considering staying put for another while yet.