Serie A 2012-13 season review: Injury crisis destroyed Inter Milan's season

Claudio Villa

An injury crisis in the second half of the season completely derailed Inter's hopes, taking them out of Champions League contention and dumping them in mid-table.

9th; W16 D6 L16
FC Internazionale Milano

After finishing strongly under promoted youth coach Andrea Stramaccioni in 2011/12, Inter finally came into a season with some genuine continuity, with Massimo Morrati electing to keep 'Strama' on given the team's promising form. Quality additions were made in the summer: Antonio Cassano was brought in for Giampaolo Pazzini, Rodrigo Palacio, a proven goalscorer, was added and Fredy Guarin's loan move from Porto was made permanent. Inter's fans definitely had cause to be optimistic prior to the start of the season.

After an indifferent opening, Inter's season really kicked into gear at the end of September, going on a seven match winning run, culminating in a 3-1 away victory over Juventus that had the Nerazzuri knocking on the door of title contention. Unfortunately, the form didn't last but come January they were still well in contention for a Champions League placing. This is when the injuries began. First it was Diego Milito, succumbing to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Walter Samuel, Yuto Nagatomo, Rodrigo Palacio, Antonio Cassano, Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic and Walter Gargano all had spells on the sidelines before Inter's captain and leader on the pitch as well as off, Javier Zanetti, went down with a torn Achilles tendon. The upshot of these injuries was a major dip in form. With players playing out of position, Inter plummeted first out of Champions League contention, then out of European contention altogether before being dumped out of the Coppa Italia and ending the season in ninth.

In many ways, the injuries cost Andrea Stramaccioni his job, and his replacement Walter Mazzarri will want to have a good long look at the medical staff before the start of next season.

Most significant match

Juventus 1-3 Inter
Despite going into their early November encounter on a six match winning run, Inter were still the underdogs away to a Juventus side that cantered to the league title in the previous season and hadn't lost in the league since May 2011. Things didn't look good from kick off as Arturo Vidal gave the hosts the lead within the first minute and Juve were unlucky to go in at half time with just a single goal on the scoresheet. Whatever Stramaccioni said at half time seemed to work as Inter came charging out for the second period, Diego Milito equalising from the spot on the hour mark before putting the Nerazzurri ahead with 15 minutes to go. Rodrigo Palacio put the icing on the cake in the final minute as Inter stormed into (what looked like) title contention, in the process snapping their fierce rivals' 49-match unbeaten streak.

Biggest surprise

The signing of Tommaso Rocchi
After Diego Milito's season-ending injury in January, it was likely Inter would be in the market for a striker as backup to the prolific Argentine; however, that they ended up with a 35-year-old Rocchi was quite baffling. In his heyday, Rocchi was an effective and strong target man for Lazio and he also bagged his fair share of goals, but his heyday was a long time past when he arrived at the San Siro on the final day of the January transfer window. Out of favour with Lazio, his last goal had come 364 days prior to his move to Inter and it wasn't hard to see why, his lumbering presence providing little threat in his first few appearances as a substitute. After injury took down Palacio and Cassano as well, Rocchi was left as Inter's only senior striker, finally ending his goal drought in April's loss to Atalanta. His future remains to be seen but with Mauro Icardi arriving in the summer, Rocchi's chances at Inter will get slimmer and slimmer.

Biggest disappointment

All those injuries
Just what was it that caused 17 players, all from the same team, to suffer significant injuries during the second half of the season? Diet? Medical staff? Warm-up techniques? Maybe we'll never know, but it's safe to say that whatever the reason, it completely derailed Inter's season. In January, Inter were well in the hunt for the Champions League places, clashing with the likes of Napoli, Lazio, Fiorentina and the ever-improving AC Milan for a place in Europe's premier club competition. The ever-increasing injury problems saw them plummet down the table, and who knows where they'd have finished were it not for the over-crowding of their treatment room.

What needs changing?

Whatever was causing all of the injuries is what needs changing. Andrea Stramaccioni has been replaced by Walter Mazzarri so perhaps the new coach's methods won't induce so much strain on the side. Mazzarri is also legendary for his tactical consistency which is one thing Stramaccioni's side lacked, constantly flitting between 3-4-3, 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2 even when he had a full squad at his disposal, seemingly never quite sure which formation suited his players best.

Who's off in the summer?

As previously mentioned, Stramaccioni has already gone to be replaced by Walter Mazzarri in the dugout. Samir Handanovic has been strongly linked with Barcelona and you'd have to think that should a bid come in, the Slovenian would find it hard to turn down a move to Camp Nou. Antonio Cassano has been linked with a move to the Middle East to see out his playing days earning a king's ransom, Diego Milito has been linked with a return to Argentina once he regains his fitness and Javier Zanetti's Achilles injury at the age of 39 means that, despite him insisting otherwise, there is a chance that Inter's very own living legend may not play competitively again.

If Inter could keep one individual...

Fredy Guarin

Handanovic was by far and away Inter's player of the season, but if we assume he is off to Catalonia then Fredy Guarin is definitely the man Inter need to cling on to. He played most of the season in the number 10 role just behind the strikers, using his skill and passing ability to feed the players ahead of him. What he has over most traditional number 10s, though, is power. Able to play in a more withdrawn role, Guarin has the strength to bulldoze forward straight down the middle and the pace to get on to the flanks if needed. Consistently Inter's best outfield player, he added four goals and three assists as well as largely avoiding injury to become a key man in Inter's midfield.

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