This season’s Champions League has forced us to look again at several Italian teams that have long been away from the main decisions of European football, such as Napoli, AC Milan and above all Inter Milan, who on Tuesday stamped the qualification for the final in Istanbul after having been the executioners of FC Porto and Benfica. Between big names and young values in affirmation, the Nerazzurri have a very rich squad, with depth in all positions. How many coaches in the world can afford to leave footballers like Robin Gosens, Marcelo Brozovic and Romelu Lukaku out of their squad? It is the luxury that Simone Inzaghi is entitled to.
In the 3-5-2 that the Milan team usually presents, the attacking duo is made up of a more mobile striker, almost always the Argentinean Lautaro Martínez to the detriment of compatriot Joaquín Correa; and on the other, more powerful, than in the Champions it has been Edin Dzeko, but that in Serie A it has often been Romelu Lukaku.
But simply labelling the Bosnian and Belgian as “powerful forwards” is reductive, vague and does not reflect the specific importance of each one.
What we have seen in the Champions League is an Inter that starts with Dzeko and that sees in the former Manchester City and AS Roma striker a target in direct football. Not infrequently, the ball goes directly from the feet of a defender to the head of the Bosnian, who wins the aerial duel (59.32% effectiveness in these bids in the Champions League ) or at least hinders the opponent central defender to the point of the second call ball could be spared for Lautaro or for one of the midfielders.
And it is from that moment that the Nerazzurri attacks they flow and become dangerous, with great involvement of the full-backs (the most powerful Dumfries and the most refined Dimarco) and the participation of laborious midfielders, but with technical quality (namely Barella and Mkhitaryan). Dzeko is essentially a striker who generally limits every ball action to a touch or two.
Slightly shorter (1.91 m against 1.93 m) but bulkier, Lukaku has usually replaced Dzeko in Champions League games in stages of the matches in which the result pleases Inter and used his physical stature not so much to win the aerial duel, but to protect the ball, hold it away from your goal, temporize while your teammates climb the ground and, if necessary, move on to the dribble. Statistics show that, in terms of successful dribbling every 90 minutes, the Belgian has almost tripled the Bosnian in the Champions League (3.04 against 1.16) and almost doubled in Serie A (0.9 against 0.48).
Forwards live on goals, but this Inter has lived a lot in the Champions League on the extra finishing actions of their most powerful strikers.