Inter face defensive confidence crisis
Inter Milan's defence will be under scrutiny when they play their first competitive match of the season at the San Siro on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League against Turkish debutants Trabzonspor.
Inter's two competitive games so far have ended in defeat, to arch-rivals AC Milan in the Italian Supercup in Beijing a little over a month ago, and on Sunday in Sicily against Palermo. But it was the manner of their 4-3 reverse to Palermo that was most worrying for coach Gian Piero Gasperini in his first season in the job.
Gasperini has already courted much controversy with his highly publicised switch to a back three from a conventional back four. The 53-year-old has always preferred a back three and enjoyed a certain amount of success with that system when coach of Genoa. But its rarity in modern football has already turned it into a major talking point in Italy.
Even before his Sicilian reverse Gasperini was forced to answer questions about whether or not he would change the system if it didn't work. Even club president Massimo Moratti was asked about whether his coach would change the system.
After one game Gasperini is already under pressure to alter his ideas, but he is adamant he will stick with it. Following the defeat to Palermo he said it was a lack of concentration rather than the system that were to blame.
"At the end we had the game in our hands and we could have won but things went against us and we lost," he said. "We have to think about it a lot, we were conceding counters from our own corners due to (a lack of) concentration.
"We conceded too many chances from counters. These things are unacceptable and we have to improve. It's not about one defensive system or another, it was due to a lack of concentration and also tiredness."
Club captain Javier Zanetti believes it is up to the players to learn to adapt to the new system, and quickly. "Obviously, there are things that need to be ironed out but we're all ready to do that," said the Argentinian veteran. "We have a coach with new ideas, everything's changed and we need time to develop what he's asking.
"I can see in everyone the desire to make things right, I don't know how much time it will take but we're trying everything we can to make the coach's ideas work. Gasperini has a different idea about football, every coach has his own ideas and that's the way it should be."
If anything, Wednesday's opponents are the ideal ones for a team suffering from a crisis of confidence. Trabzonspor have never played in the Champions League under its current format and are in fact only in the group stages on a wild card.
Turkish champions Fenerbahce have been barred from the competition as they are under investigation in their homeland over a match-fixing scandal. Trabzonspor appear on paper to be the weakest team in Group B and have no experience to count on either.
Last season, then Turkish champions Bursaspor also made their Champions League bow but they crashed out of the group stages after five defeats and a draw, having scored two goals and conceded 16. Already Trabzonspor's task seems to be a difficult one.