Inter Attack the Right-Hand Side to Claim Victory against Verona

candIn their recent Serie A game against Verona, Inter attacked the right-hand side like few others teams have this season. By the end of the encounter, 51% of their attacks had originated from that part of the pitch, and given that the current league-leaders in attacking the right side of the field, Atalanta, average only 40% in that statistic, it’s probably fair to suggest that Inter turned up with a strategy in mind.

Under Luciano Spalletti, Inter aimed to keep the ball. They enjoyed 60% of possession against Verona, pinging passes around fairly sharply. At the back, these passes tended to circulate between the back four and holding midfielders Roberto Gagliardini and Matias Vecino, but once they progressed into attack, the focus inevitably shifted towards the right.

Along that touchline, Inter deployed Danilo D’Ambrosio at right-back and Andrea Candreva on the right wing. Add in the fact that Inter’s No. 10, the technically proficient Borja Valero, also drifted over to that side of the field, and Inter were clearly trying to create overloads through that part of the playing surface. Not to be outdone, Vecino followed the example of Valero by making some strong runs into the final third, normally into right-of-centre positions, and all of this, in conjunction, meant that Verona’s defenders were going to have their work cut out in covering their left flank.

Inter made further use of this right-sided movement by asking Ivan Perisic, their left-winger, to float into the middle of the pitch in order to get either in between the lines or up alongside centre-forward Mauro Icardi, something which allowed them to have a couple of targets to aim for when crossing. Of course, when it comes to crossing, it’s worth noting that Inter have arguably the most prolific crosser in European football. That man, Candreva, currently sits in third place in Serie A for successful crosses, with 2.1 per game, and, to go along with that, his eight unsuccessful crosses per game is far and away the highest number in the league.

Put simply, Candreva loves to cross, and against Verona, he did so on an almost ridiculous 18 occasions. This is his style and he is, of course, very good at it, but crossing is always a numbers game. It isn’t an efficient caper, as there is no guarantee you will find a teammate if there are plenty of players in the area. That means guys like Candreva are likely to miss the target a few times before hitting it, but due to Inter’s willingness to hammer the right-hand side against Verona, the numbers game eventually came through for them.

On 36 minutes, Inter kicked off an attacking move. Perisic, from the centre circle, whipped a quick ball out to Candreva on the right, and at that point, he had D’Ambrosio and Valero up in support. As he took his touch, though, Valero sprinted from his inside-right position to take up a true centre-forward slot in the box, so when Candreva inevitably curled in a cross, the Spaniard was up alongside Icardi. They were the options in the box. Icardi drew two Verona defenders towards him, and when he ball looped over his head, Valero was left unmarked and therefore free to tap in the opener. 1-0 Inter, and a combination of Candreva’s crossing and the Nerazzurri’s right-sided favouritism had done it for them.

Perhaps naturally enough, Inter continued to play in this way. It wasn’t simply “Get it to Candreva and let him cross it,” however, as they also produced some neat interplay between the likes of Valero and Vecino too, but Candreva was definitely a key figure in their plans. This wasn’t the horrendously one-dimensional Inter of the end of last season, the one where crossing was almost their only form of entry into the area, but that’s not to say they dispensed with Candreva’s talents either.

He kept on crossing, and after lofting a corner kick onto Icardi’s head, the Argentinian nodded a shot onto the crossbar. Then, a few minutes later, Inter worked the ball forward seamlessly to find Candreva on the right. Again, he looked for the cross, but could only generate a corner following a deflection. Perisic then scored from that corner, launching a torpedo-like volley into the back of the net, but the method, to bring about the corner, again involved the right-hand side.

They looked to Candreva to link up with Valero, Vecino and D’Ambrosio, not to mention any others who filtered into the wide areas, and they hoped that chances would follow. Fortunately for Inter, they did. Candreva hit five key passes, including his assist, and his numbers across the Serie A season suggest this wasn’t a one-off either. He averages 2.9 key passes per game – good enough for 2nd place in the league – and he’s also produced four assists.
Three of those four assists have come from crosses, so it’s fair to say that Inter look to Candreva to provide from the wide areas. He has the talent to find aerialists like Icardi, and under Spalletti, that hasn’t changed. Inter are now, however, a much better side than they were in 2016/17, and they have added some technical quality to really lift them as an attacking unit.

The club currently find themselves in 2nd place on the Serie A table, just two points behind league-leaders Napoli, and without any European competition to worry about, they can focus fully on domestic matters. This could be the season where Inter truly challenge for a return to the UEFA Champions League, and with a strong right-hand side and a nice combination of crossing and combination play in attack, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be optimistic about doing exactly that.