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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Inter 1-3 Roma | Rome win individual battles to claim 3 points

Saiguhan Elancheran writes a detailed tactical analysis of the Serie A match that ended Inter 1-3 Roma.

In the latest Monday night football action, Inter welcomed the capital team to San Siro with the aim of avenging their defeat against the same opponents back in October last year. Both the teams went into the game having won their previous games with Inter winning 1-0 away at Bologna whilst Roma on the other hand pummeled Torino for 4-1 in the Capital city. The loss of Napoli at the hands of Atalanta in the early kick off brightened the moods of Luciano Spalletti and his team as his side wanted to close the gap with Juventus who have been the lone wolf at the top. Meanwhile a win would’ve lifted the home team to fourth place, within three points of Napoli.

Line Ups:

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Inter (3-4-2-1): 1. Handanovic // 24.Murillo – 17.Medel – 33.D’Ambrosio // 87.Candreva – 5.Gagliardini – 7.Kondogbia – 44.Perisic // 77.Brozovic – 6.Mario // 9.Icardi

Roma (3-4-2-1): 1.Szczesny // 2.Rudiger – 20.Fazio – 44.Manolas // 13.Peres – 6.Strootman – 16.Rossi – 3.Jesus // 11.Salah – 4.Nainggolan // 9.Dzeko

The away manager Luciano Spalletti made two changes to the side which scored four past Torino. He brought in Rudiger for Emerson and Rossi for Parades while Inter’s head coach Stefano Pioli rang in three changes to the side which won 1-0 at Bologna. He brought in Kondogbia, Brozovic and Icardi to replace Miranda, Eder and Palacio.

One thing to note was the system adopted by Inter during the game. In the game against Juventus, Pioli played the 3-4-2-1 and was not quite successful with it. But in the last game, it was visible that Inter played their trademark 4-2-3-1 under him and it was surprising to see them revert back to the back three. Spalletti would’ve made the change keeping in mind that Roma play in the same formation and would’ve taken the risk of playing a tight game with a similar formation but the result wasn’t a tight game. The below image shows Inter’s intention to play a back three.

Inter’s failed tactics

Right from the start of the game both the teams played direct with long passes from the defensive and middle third to reach out to the forward players and that was how the match panned out. In many instances Gagliardini proved to be the dangerous player for Inter as he often tried to play long balls to find their talisman Icardi. This was carried out in such a way that Inter couldn’t breach the Roma defence since they stayed very compact in the defensive stages. However the presence of Manolas and Fazio ensured that Icardi couldn’t get past them with their astute marking.

The above instance depicts the same case when Gagliardini plays a well lofted ball into the path of Icardi who manages to bring it down. This was particularly carried out in the transition between the offensive and defensive phases when Rudiger often joined the attack during the team’s offensive phase. The next image shows how Fazio recovered well to win the ball from Icardi and this proves the defensive advantage that Roma had over their opponents.

Inter were set up in such a way that the front three would press the Roma defence hard so that they couldn’t play out from the back. This happened in the game for the first five minutes which could went down as one of their best spells in the game. But it was evident from most of the instances that Inter failed to press their opponents like their manager would’ve wanted them to. The front three of Icardi, Mario and Brozovic often were separated and only one or two from the front three would press their opponents. This was mainly due to the back tracking of De Rossi when the defence had the ball. They always had an outlet from the back in De Rossi and thus one of the front three had to stay behind and this allowed the player with possession to pass the ball to the unmarked defender and then recycle possession.

This above image clearly explains the case as Manolas here (the man in possession) has free passing options in Jesus and far winger in the right flank. He is not being shut down immediately as Mario cannot afford to open up the passing line between Manolas and Rossi(circled) and Brozovic is slow to follow him into the other half. This allows Manolas the time on the ball to pass the ball to his teammates and start the next line of attack. 

Roma’s successful pressing scheme

One of the main reasons for Roma’s brilliant performance in the San Siro was their pressing scheme. It was often the high press made by Dzeko, Nainggolan and Salah that wreaked havoc for Inter in their defensive third. This was done as one of Strootman and De Rossi would join up front for the press. Inter were often caught in possession when they failed to provide support to the ball carrier in general. As the tactic involved playing long balls through wide and central areas, most of the players occupied positions very high up the field and this gave Roma the opportunity to press the player in possession with more numbers.

On certain occasions the high press was very visible and Roma were successful in cancelling out Inter’s plan of playing out from the back. It is evident from the above instance as both the passing options are cut(either marked or passing lanes blocked) and Murillo has now nowhere to go and is pressed by Jesus. Then he falls in a 2v1 along with Nainggolan. This scheme on the left flank has seen Jesus coming all the way from the middle third demonstrating the intent the Roma players had towards pressing up front. We can also witness the advanced positioning of De Rossi who played higher in certain instances to press the ball back.

In this case Murillo maintained his position and managed to pass the ball to the player who was in the centre. Once again the high positioning of Dzeko and De Rossi paid dividends as they were now successful in stealing the ball from the Inter defence in a dangerous position.

Few seconds after the first incident, here the central defender comes in a 2v1 against Dzeko and De Rossi and this time however he fails to keep hold of the ball and Roma win the ball in a dangerous position once again.

In certain instances the front three would fall back in order to help out the midfield and Nainggolan and Dzeko took the responsibility of falling back often and winning the ball back. They joined Strootman and De Rossi in the middle and this meant that they added the required numbers to gain the much needed numerical advantage. The same scenario can be seen in the below image as Dzeko has taken a very deep position in the centre and Strootman follows the player, creating a 2v1 here. This was very dangerous from Inter’s perspective because if he loses the ball then four Roma players will be on the break against 3 for Inter and that’s exactly what happened. However Inter were lucky enough to see it out and escaped from a 4v3 situation.

Individual battles

There were many things in the game regarding tactics as it was very intriguing from a tactical point of view. In a game in which both the teams play the same way and in the same set up, it is hard to crack either side and dominate spaces and it is upto individual battles to have the final say in the same and that is how the game fared. Roma on the day were the better team as they were better in the individual battles with the battle between Nainggolan and Gagliardini proving to be the telling one. On a defensive note, Gagliardini was left helpless on most occasions as the in-form Nainggolan was able to win the midfield battle against the young talent from Atalanta. Nainggolan was often seen easing past the youngster and scored two goals on the night with his signature finishing.

Another battle was a well worked tactic as Dzeko often won the aerial duel in his final third against Gary Medel. Medel who is particularly short for a defender often lost the aerial battle against one of the tallest players in the league, Edin Dzeko. Dzeko was also able to win challenges on the ground as well with his clever body positioning.

As the game was mainly based on the individual battles, one place where both the teams had a chance in gaining the upper hand was playing out from the back. As it was 3v1 in the back, one defender always had the opportunity to carry the ball forward and even penetrate into the other half. Roma, particularly Rudiger and Manolas took advantage of this aand one of these two were often seen taking higher positions along with the midfielders and it was Rudgier in most cases.

Via @11tegen11

The above image shows how Rudiger took advanced positions compared to the other two center backs and he was often seen driving the ball forward into the path of Dzeko and Salah. 


The result proved to be a great one for Roma as the home side had won its previous 8 games at the San Siro consecutively. On the day, Inter had kept the ball well against a side that likes to dominate the ball but it didn’t help them as they would’ve liked. One of major concerns for Inter was the absence of Miranda and it was evident that they missed his organising authority in the back. Two brilliant individual goals from Nainggolan won the game for Roma and this win sends them within 7 points of league leaders Juventus and 5 points ahead of Napoli while Inter sit at 6th place with 48 points.

Read all our tactical analyses here

Saiguhan Elancheran

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