Simone Inzaghi’s future at Inter emerged as a subject of intense speculation last season as Nerazzurri bowed out of the Scudetto race at the halfway point. Fast forward half a year, the ex-Lazio head coach is one of Serie A’s best-performing managers, worshiped by the fans and feared by his rivals.

After a title-winning 2020/21 campaign, sandwiched by a brace of runner-up finishes, Inter had to settle for finishing third in Serie A last term. The team’s inability to fight Napoli for the title cast significant doubt on Inzaghi’s long-term prospects at Giuseppe Meazza before an electrifying tail-end of the season threw him a lifeline.

Reaching the Champions League final, where they lost to Manchester City, and lifting the Coppa Italia trophy for the second year on the trot convinced Inter chiefs to stick with the 47-year-old. Fans had not shared the board’s optimism, deeming Inzaghi unfit to spearhead the club’s title charge.

Unfazed by a growing skepticism amongst the Meazza faithful, Inzaghi knew what he had to do to turn Inter into the Scudetto frontrunners. From finding appropriate roles for every player at his disposal to a meticulously orchestrated recruitment campaign, the Italian manager laid the groundwork for a title-winning season before its start.

Inzaghi resurrects Acerbi & Calhanoglu

When Inzaghi asked the Inter powerbrokers to capture Francesco Acerbi as an emergency signing to plug defensive leaks in September 2022, many saw it as a career suicide. Landing an aging center-back with a history of performing for mid-table sides and a poor track record at Milan made Nerazzurri fans question Inzaghi’s sanity. 

But at 35, Acerbi is playing the best football of his career. Inzaghi has given him the benefit of the doubt, with the Italian veteran repaying that trust with a mesmerizing form at the heart of the Inter backline. The former Lazio man has formed a formidable defensive unit alongside Alessandro Bastoni and Stefan de Vrij.

Leading by example, Acerbi has helped Inter become a defensive force to be reckoned with, conceding a league-low seven goals this Serie A season.

Another ex-Milan star has found his place under the sun at Meazza. Hakan Calhanoglu built a ‘Dr Jakyll & Mr Hyde’ type of reputation during his topsy-turvy time in the Rossoneri shirt. Often forced to shift positions, the Turkish midfielder never reached the promised heights despite his undeniable talent. 

Playing at left wing oftentimes saw Calhanoglu ‘run around like a headless chicken’ before he decided enough was enough. In the summer of 2021, he swapped allegiances in the city, trading the red-black jersey for Milan’s arch-rivals. It has proved a career-defining decision. 

Unlike his former coaches at Milan, Inzaghi has grasped the 29-year-old’s strengths and weaknesses, finding the best way to put his qualities to good use. He did for Calhanoglu what Carlo Mazzone did for Andrea Pirlo, making a groundbreaking decision to deploy the Turk as a deep-lying playmaker instead of an advanced midfielder. 

Entrusted with the keys to the Inter midfield, Calhanoglu has become the best version of himself. Using creative freedom and his technical and tactical prowess, he has quickly made fans forget about Marcelo Brozovic. As a result, Inzaghi’s ingenuity yielded the best deep-lying midfielder in Serie A. 

Inter choose signings wisely

Milan ran the show in the summer. Rossoneri went above and beyond in terms of flexing their financial muscle to reinforce a squad that barely secured a top-four finish last season. And while their neighbors picked quantity instead of quality while splashing out €120 million in the process, Inter chose to go for ‘smart’ signings. 

When talks to bring Romelu Lukaku back for another loan broke down, Inter didn’t lose their heads. Instead, they found a profile suitable to partner captain Lautaro Martinez and forged another prolific attacking relationship. And the best thing is – it didn’t cost a dime!

Marcus Thuram was a step away from joining Milan – per multiple domestic sources – but stood Rossoneri up to link up with Inter. The 26-year-old’s strike in a 4-0 humbling of Udinese on Saturday night marked his 12th goal contribution in Serie A this season. With six goals and as many assists, he’s the second-most industrious forward in Italy this term.

Davide Frattesi is still trying to find his feet at Inter. But it’s only a matter of time before the Sassuolo loanee would inherit Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s place in the engine room. Widely considered one of the country’s hottest prospects, the 24-year-old has a bright future ahead of him, with Inter primed to reap the benefits.

Then, there’s Benjamin Pavard. Convincing the 2018 World Cup winner to leave Bayern Munich wasn’t a small feat. However, Inter did just that in the last transfer window. Though the Frenchman is currently on the sidelines injured, there’s no doubt he’ll be crucial to Inzaghi’s set-up once he comes back.

It gets better. Inter heavily relied on Federico Dimarco to cover the left-hand side on his own last season. Now, they have Carlos Augusto. Monza’s 2022/23 hero signed for Nerazzurri on a season-long loan with an option to buy in mid-August, handing Inzaghi another dependable option at left wing-back.

What are your thoughts about Inzaghi now?

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