Inter Milan, 2023/24 Serie A winners

Inter Milan are back on top of Italian football thanks to an unassailable 17-point lead over their city rivals, AC Milan. The Nerazzuri have equalled Napoli’s fastest-ever run to clinching the Serie A title with five games to spare. 

Their 20th Scudetto triumph would have arguably been the sweetest as Inter defeated archrivals Milan to make it six consecutive Derby della Madonnina victories. The 2-1 win was achieved thanks to goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram, although Fikayo Tomori struck late on to make it a tense finale.

Including the 5-1 thrashing last September, Simone Inzaghi’s men have now scored 14 and conceded only two goals in the last six derbies to assert their dominance in the City of Milan.

A second star on their logo will officially mark that distinction to signify 20 Serie A titles, with only Juventus also having more than one star. 

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Notably, Inter are the only club to win the Serie A twice in the last five seasons, as it has gone around since Juventus’ nine-year title streak ended. They have remained consistent during that period with at least a top-three finish in each campaign. 

The competitive nature of recent Italian topflight seasons is also emphasized by the fact that for the third year in a row, the Scudetto has been won by a coach who had never won it before in his career.

AC Milan vs Inter Milan gets heated

Inter were dominant from the get-go as they were top of the table for almost the entire season and registered 27 wins, five draws and only one defeat so far (a 2-1 loss at home to Sassuolo in September).

Despite the Round of 16 eliminations to Bologna and Atlético Madrid in the Coppa Italia and Champions League respectively, Inter opened up an early gap at the top of the table and kept that distance from their rivals.

Marcus Thuram is one of the major success stories of their campaign as the Frenchman emulates his legendary father’s 2001/02 and 2002/03 Serie A titles with Juventus. The striker quickly struck up a lethal partnership with Lautaro Martínez and made the potentially devastating departures of Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku a seamless adaptation. 

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Inzaghi, SIMONE Inzaghi

Inter have played some brilliant football all season, probably one of the most exciting to watch around Europe’s top five league which is thanks to Inzaghi’s fantastic work behind the scenes.

It is pertinent to note that the brains behind this wonderful Internazionale team is not even the best footballer in his family. Despite three Italy caps and one Serie A, a European Super Cup, four Coppas Italia, and the Supercoppa Italiana during his playing career with Lazio, Simone only began to step out of his elder brother Filippo’s shadow during management. 

Having been thrust into the first team job after six years working with Lazio’s youth teams, Inzaghi won a single Coppa Italia and two Italian Super Cups in five seasons at the Stadio Olimpico, as well as delivering a top-four finish and two fifth places.

Eager for the next step in his managerial career, Inzaghi left the Italian capital in 2021 to replace Antonio Conte who had just guided the club to the 2020/21 Scudetto but were about to go into full-blown crisis mode. The sales of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi prompted Conte’s exit and those big departures caused understandable fan unrest.

Yet, Inzaghi carefully moulded his Inter team into a more attacking version of Conte’s in spite of the strikingly similar 3-5-2 shape. The three-year journey has had its fair share of glory and despair and only 12 months ago, a pair of victories over AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League semifinal marked a turning point as Inter competed impressively in their first Champions League Final in 13 years.

This meant Inzaghi was able to keep his job despite a disappointing Serie A season and they used the Champions League final loss to galvanizing effect as Inter have been transformed into a dominant force since, outclassing their domestic rivals.

Inzaghi has now won five cup competitions and the Scudetto in only three seasons and this first league title of his managerial career would shatter his previous reputation as a cup specialist. 

The 48-year-old deserves huge credit for keeping faith in his ideas and playing an attacking brand of football with the back-three system. 

Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 system is constantly adapting as Inter can either press high or let the opponents have the ball. They can build up play from the back with short passes and also relieve the pressure with a long pass to their strikers who can hold up the ball and feed the advancing midfielders. 

The measure of Inter’s adaptability is epitomised by the positioning of Hakan Çalhanoğlu who arrived from AC Milan during the same summer as Inzaghi as a Trequartista. Çalhanoğlu now operates in a deep-lying playmaker role where he was a key component of the Nerazzuri’s title triumph.

Recruitment and Leadership

Having been a serial overachiever given the budget at Lazio, Inzaghi has found perfect working conditions in Milan where his superiors work hand-in-hand to deliver a reliable pool of talents.

At least four regular starters left the club including André Onana, Romelu Lukaku, Marcelo Brozović and Milan Škriniar while the likes of Yann Sommer, Davide Frattesi, Benjamin Pavard and Marcus Thuram have proved to be key signings. 

Marcus Thuram

Meanwhile, new club captain, Lautaro Martínez stepped up on and off the pitch alongside key figures such as Federico Dimarco, Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella.

Martinez was already the team’s marksman but the extra responsibilities only served to improve the World Cup winner who is already on a career-best 23 goals and five assists in 29 Serie A games. 

Much of Inter’s success hinges on a winning mentality and smart recruitment choices which have been very crucial to the team’s improvement. Alongside Çalhanoğlu, Thuram and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who all came in on free transfers, Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi are set to follow in the summer.

The Black and Blues are far ahead of their rivals in terms of planning, hence it is no surprise to see that Inzaghi has already won six trophies with Inter. This tally is their third best for a coach in the modern Serie A era since 1930, behind only Helenio Herrera and Roberto Mancini who won seven each.

Simone Inzaghi is undoubtedly one of the elite managers in European football, it may have taken so long but he has finally made his own name at the very highest level of the sport. 

That name must now be considered regularly when the biggest clubs are about to make a managerial appointment.

Watch this space.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin
April 23, 2024
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Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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