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Analysis: How Inter Milan won its 20th Serie A title and Inzaghi his first as coach

MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan stormed to a 20th Serie A title and earned a second star on the team shirts after dominating the league just like Napoli did last season.

The Italian title race was expected to be a closer fight this campaign but the defending champion stuttered from the start just as Inter impressed from the outset.

Everything appeared to click seamlessly for the Nerazzurri, who were helped by remaining relatively injury-free, and it was inevitable for a long time when they clinch the league on Monday.

It was even sweeter for Inter that it did so at city rival AC Milan, which also started the season hoping to secure its 20th Serie A trophy.

The 2-1 victory at San Siro lifted Inter 17 points clear of second-placed Milan with five matches to spare.

Here’s how Inter did it:


Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has finally graduated from his ‘King of Cups’ nickname.

The 48-year-old Inzaghi had never coached a team to a league title despite an impressive list of achievements.

With Lazio and then Inter, Inzaghi won three Italian Cups and five Italian Super Cups, earning him the title of “Re di Coppe” (“King of Cups”). He also steered Inter to the Champions League final last year.

The way he broke his Serie A duck has been particularly outstanding.

Inter ruled over the league. The Nerazzurri lost just one match — in late September — and have by far the best attack as well as the best defense.

Inter has 79 league goals, 15 more than the next best attack — Milan — and went on a 13-match winning run in all competitions at the start of the year.

That run was halted only last month in a shootout loss at Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16.


Inter has also garnered praise for its attacking flair. The team has been entertaining.

That aesthetic has been down to Inzaghi’s player management. While he tends to keep squad rotation to a minimum, he consistently uses all five substitutions available.

Inzaghi also rarely uses them before the hour mark, unless a player is on a yellow card. Inter has not had two players sent off for two bookings this season.


There was concern among Inter supporters when Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko departed in the offseason to leave the Nerazzurri without a center forward.

Those worries didn’t last long as new signing Marcus Thuram seamlessly slotted in as Lautaro Martinez’s new strike partner.

So much so, that Lautaro and Thuram have taken over from Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as Serie A’s most dangerous strike pairing

The 26-year-old Thuram — the son of former Parma and Juventus defender Lilian Thuram – has 12 goals and seven assists, while Inter captain Lautaro has a league-high 23 goals.

Another key signing that initially raised eyebrows was that of veteran Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer for 6 million euros (then $5.45 million) to replace Andre Onana.

That was a fraction of the 51 million euros ($57 million) that Inter gained from selling Onana to Manchester United, and has turned into a smart business deal.

While Onana has been somewhat of a flop in the English Premier League, Sommer has proved ever reliable between the sticks. Not only has Inter conceded the least in the league but the 35-year-old Sommer has kept the most clean sheets, with 17 in 30 matches.


Just under a year ago, Napoli was celebrating its first Serie A title in more than three decades.

It must seem as if almost as much time has passed since then for its fans.

Napoli, which is on course for the worst title defense in Italian league history, is on its third coach of the campaign and sits a woeful eighth in the table.

Since 1995, only twice has a team failed to qualify for the Champions League the season after lifting the Serie A trophy.

Roma and Lazio also went through coaching changes after mediocre starts to the season, and a horrendous month for Milan towards the end of last year put paid to its title hopes.

That left Juventus the last realistic challenger to Inter — far beyond expectations after a tumultuous year off the field for the Bianconeri.

Juventus even moved into the lead in January while Inter was involved in the Italian Super Cup.

But Juventus spectacularly fell away as it failed to win another match for more than a month. The Bianconeri have won just two of their last 12 league matches in a miserable run.

Inter, meanwhile, has churned out the victories in a charmed season.


AP soccer: https://ift.tt/aOCPrFv

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