After that pulse-pounding Inter Milan game, it’s nice to take a moment and reflect on what happened as we get ready to move on. That’s why chatting with Serpents of the Madonnina writer and longstanding friend of the site David McFarland—whose Twitter handle, until recently, included the phrase “Udinese Enjoyer”—is such a pleasure. We started out breaking down the game, but it didn’t take us too long to range way off topic.
Viola Nation: What did you think about this morning’s (or afternoon’s, or evening’s, depending on where you’re at) festivities? Did a point each feel fair or was someone robbed? And was the really nice pre-game reception for Cristiano Biraghi just an ambush to distract him from Denzel Dumfries steaming in at the back post?
David McFarland: A draw seemed perfectly fair and square to me. There were a few chances that really should have been goals, but I’d say neither team can have too many regrets. The expected goals metric backed that up; Inter had a total of 1.00xg compared to Fiorentina’s 1.05xg. I wouldn’t say either side had any spells of dominance either. The second half especially was about as back-and-forth as you can get.
VN: With Milan winning today, the Nerazzurri are now 4 points back. Do you think they’ll catch the Rossoneri, or are they going to Pazza Inter their way right out of this? And if they do, how much blame does Simone Inzaghi shoulder, and will last year’s scudetto soften that blow?
DM: I’m slowly (and painfully) coming to accept that this just might not be Inter’s year. The worst part is that I had next to no expectations back in August, but the red-hot form Inter showed in the first half of the season gave everyone a mountain of optimism. Perhaps we were a bit premature to picture a second star on next season’s kits but this collapse has stung. It’s the hope that kills you. It’s definitely not out of the question that Inter will catch up to Milan and Napoli but it’s the Rossoneri that are playing like champions and grinding results like Conte’s Inter did a year ago, whereas Inter looks mentally defeated. And yeah, Inzaghi has to get a lot of blame for not having anything resembling a Plan B (seriously, has he heard that formations other than the 3-5-2 exist??).
But truth be told, the moment Inter lost the title came back when Lukaku and Hakimi were sold for 190 million and in turn replaced by an aging Dzeko, an unproven Dumfries, an inconsistent Calhanoglu, and an injury-prone Joaquin Correa (though he does rival Sottil in the handsomeness department [ed. note: how dare you, sir]). That’s simply not how you build a team that can win title after title and we’re learning that the hard way. With the roster only getting older, it’s going to take a fair amount of spending this summer to take Inter back to the promised land in the future, though I do still trust that Inzaghi is the man for the job.
VN: I heard a bunch of rumors start up suspiciously close to kickoff that Inter are planning to grab Nikola Milenković. Do you think that’s realistic? And holy smokes, how terrifying would a Milenković-Škriniar-Bastoni partnership be? I think that’d be the best back three Italy’s seen since the Chiellini-Bonucci-Barzagli troika was at its best. Any other moves you’re expecting or hoping for? I feel like this Inter team has some older guys (by which I mean, like, my age) in key spots but they all seem to be playing pretty well.
DM: I’m not sold on Milenkovic being starter-caliber at Inter but it’s hard to find a depth piece anywhere near as good. And boy does Inter need depth. The first-choice back three is perhaps the best defense in Italy (with the exception of de Vrij, who’s been in mediocre form this season) but Danilo D’Ambrosio and Andrea Ranocchia aren’t getting any younger. Federico Dimarco has shown flashes here and there but I don’t think Inzaghi trusts him to carry a significant load. I think/hope Inter goes for Bremer (who looks like a beast) to replace de Vrij, but as long as we can get Milenkovic for 15 million or less, both moves should work simultaneously.
VN: What’s been the biggest surprise in Serie A this year? I’m not sure if it’s that Mourinho hasn’t alienated literally everyone at Roma or if it’s Torino and Verona jockeying for the top half of the table, but I’m all ears.
DM: Torino and Empoli would have been easy picks at the midway point of the season but both have tailed off sharply since, so I’ll begrudgingly say Milan. To be top of the table and well on the way to the Scudetto considering their absurd amount of injuries and lack of movement in the transfer market is an awe-worthy feat. Despite not adding a starting-caliber RW or AM and losing Simon Kjaer to a season-ending injury, Stefano Pioli has Milan picking up results left and right. The Rossoneri’s young core only seems to keep improving as well and goals seem to be coming from everyone these days.
Also deserving a shoutout is Fiorentina. You guys know more about the Viola than me, but it’s really impressive how Italiano has made his mark so quickly and made Beppe Ball nothing more than a distant memory. Plus, despite losing one of the best strikers in the league midseason, results haven’t really changed, which is a credit to the well-oiled machine Italiano has crafted Fiorentina into. I can’t wait to see what some of the new guys can do after a full off-season and it feels like you’re just one summer of investment away from Europe.
VN: Do you really enjoy Udinese?
DM: Who doesn’t? (Don’t answer that please) Well, especially when Beto is on form. I know he gets a lot of flak for a rather unorthodox playing style and some incredibly long legs, but the 24-year-old’s 8 goals are only three short of Victor Osimhen’s tally, one of the best strikers in the league. His stocks are admittedly low right now after failing to score in 2022, but I have a feeling Beto is in for a big 2022/23. Even taking Beto out of the equation, sometimes you just have to appreciate a team that is solely committed to making opposing fans question the meaning of life year after year.
Thanks, David! At least you’ve got Gerard Deulofeu to soothe the pain. For the other side of our talk, SotM has you covered.