In a stunning evening of Italian football, Inter began their title defence in style by thrashing Genoa 4-0 at San Siro.
Simone Inzaghi’s first match in charge of Inter went spectacularly well, but what did we learn?
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1. Calhanoglu Runs Milan
He’s moved across town and swapped red and black for blue and black but this game made it abundantly clear that Hakan Calhanoglu still runs the city of Milan. The Turkish maestro was deployed alongside Stefano Sensi behind Edin Dzeko and absolutely ran the show.
The opening goal of the night came from a stunning Calhanoglu corner, and the Turk doubled the scoring later with a debut goal – a quick exchange of passes with Edin Dzeko was followed up with a thunderous strike from outside the area.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu created more chances than any other player against Genoa (5).
He introduced himself to the other side of Milan with a goal and an assist. ⚽️🅰️ pic.twitter.com/OL5n6GxuDZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2021
Calhanoglu continued to strut his stuff, creating a game-high 5 chances for the 77 minutes he was on the field. He even scored again only for a precision offside in the build-up to see the goal ruled out. There seemed to be no limit to his dominance and if Inter can keep playing games at this tempo, Hakan Calanoglu for free could end up being one of the signings of the summer.
2. Rovella needs some help
Nicolo Rovella is one of the golden boys of Italian football and he’s due to head to Juventus at the end of the season, but if he’s to lead Genoa to any sort of success in his last season with his boyhood club, he will need some help in attack.
Inter were extremely dominant but the way that Rovella was able to drift between and behind their midfield lines showed the youngster’s admirable courage and quality. It was notable just how much of Genoa’s play ran through the midfielder, even though he’s still only 19. But despite all the good play Rovella was able to generate, the likes of Yayah Kallon do not appear to be clinical enough to get the goals Genoa will need. His movement is supreme but at just 20 years-old he doesn’t have that killer touch in front of goal.
3. No Lukaku? No Problem!
Romelu Lukaku scored 64 goals in 95 games for Inter Milan, and so of course there were concerns when he was sold to Chelsea for £97.5m and his back-up was 35 year-old Edin Dzeko from Roma.
But this evening Dzeko proved that he is more than capable of filling Lukaku’s enormous shoes. Perhaps not directly, but his associative genius will elevate the entire Inter side to deliver more goals instead of relying on the Belgian striker. That’s certainly what we saw against Genoa, anyway, where the attack led by Dzeko was far too potent for the visitors.
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It was Dzeko’s carefully weighted pass that enabled Inter’s second goal, and then he scored Inter’s fourth himself with a bullet header having laid it back to Arturo Vidal who crossed it in for him. Dzeko’s movement was so intelligent one can only imagine the kind of link play he will be able to forge with Lautaro Martinez when the Argentine returns to fitness.
A goal and assist for Dzeko, a goal and assist for Calhanoglu and yes, even a goal and assist for Vidal. Dzeko was involved in everything, and everything was fantastic. Edin Dzeko is not as brilliant as Romelu Lukaku, but he’s so good at being himself that he doesn’t need to be!
Edin Dzeko’s game by numbers vs. Genoa:
6 touches in opp. box (most)
4 shots (most)
3 duels won
3 shots on target (most)
1 chance created
Off the mark for his new club. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/cAeKp4xYjl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2021
4. The Perfect Start For Inter
With the entire world watching Inter Milan try and begin their title defence without their star coach Antonio Conte, star striker Romelu Lukaku and star wing-back Achraf Hakimi, there was immense pressure for them to perform. To put on a show to prove they will be more than one season wonder champions.
Then six minutes into their opening game of the season they took the lead. And not only did they take the lead, but the man who scored it was literally named Milan. What a beautiful moment of sheer “narrative” that was as the stalwart Slovakian thundered in that header, giving Inter a lead they would never surrender and sending them back to where they ended last season: the top of the table.
5. Serie A is more wide open than ever
After nine years of Juventus dominance, Inter broke the monopoly last season and claimed Serie A in impressive fashion. Their team was so incredible that another era of dominance for the Milan side was feasible. Instead financial issues with Inter’s owners imploded the title-winning juggernaut, removing key components of that triumph.
This evening we saw from Inter that while they definitely have what it takes to compete for the the Scudetto, they aren’t going to be the machine they were under Conte. Yes the 4-0 win was impeccable but Genoa carved them open, and we mean wide open, on more than one occasion. If Yayah Kallon had slightly more composure, who knows how the game would have gone?
So yes, Inter are great but they’re not invulnerable. And between them, Milan, Juventus and Atalanta (plus outside shouts for Roma and Lazio depending how their squads adapt to the idiosyncratic ways of José Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri respectively) this is shaping up to be the most wide open Serie A title race for a generation.