Inter boss Simone Inzaghi believes Hakan Calhanoglu "doesn't realise how good he is" after a stunning debut performance against Genoa on Saturday.

After joining from city rivals Milan in the close season, Calhanoglu marked his first appearance for the Nerazzurri with a superb goal and an assist for Milan Skriniar in his side's 4-0 win.  

Those two goal involvements came inside the first 14 minutes – it took him nine games to achieve that at the start of his Milan career.

Arturo Vidal added a third in the second half before former Roma man Edin Dzeko marked his Inter bow with a header in the 87th minute.

Champions Inter have now scored three or more goals in four successive Serie A home matches for the first time since 2011, when did they did it in six games.

Inzaghi was not surprised by his side's dominant display, and the former Lazio boss was particularly pleased with Calhanoglu's contribution.

"I was pretty confident the team would do well, as I've seen them working with enthusiasm and hunger since July 8, eager to learn new concepts," he told DAZN.

"We couldn't have asked for a better start, especially in front of our fans back in the stadium.

"Calhanoglu is a great player, able to unite quality and quantity. He ran so hard for the team as well. Every time I played against him, he caused me problems.

"We were fortunate enough to pick him up and I think he can get stronger, because he doesn't realise how good he is."

 

Inter lost last season's top scorer Romelu Lukaku to Premier League side Chelsea this month and Inzaghi confirmed that the club intend to dip into the transfer market to replace him, despite the arrival of Dzeko.

"Naturally we need to complete the squad, as Romelu Lukaku's departure was unexpected," he added.

"Dzeko has already shown what kind of player he is. Hopefully we'll bring in someone else who can score big goals."

Saturday's win at San Siro means Inter have won each of their last seven Serie A meetings with Genoa by an aggregate score of 25-0, while they are the first side to have scored four or more goals in their first game of the season in three successive campaigns since they did so between 1959 and 1961.

Hakan Calhanoglu hit a stunning goal on his Inter debut and Edin Dzeko followed suit as new coach Simone Inzaghi was treated by his team to a 4-0 win over Genoa.

After defecting from Milan to join the Rossoneri's city rivals in the close season, Calhanoglu also managed an assist at San Siro, setting up the opener for Milan Skriniar.

This was about as ideal an opening-day outcome as former Lazio boss Inzaghi could have imagined, with his team two goals to the good inside quarter of an hour, making light of the changes that have followed their Scudetto success last season. Arturo Vidal got the third in the second half before Dzeko marked his Inter bow with a classic header in the 87th minute.

Inzaghi's predecessor Antonio Conte quit in May, Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi have departed in big-money deals, and as recently as Friday evening the influential technical chief Gabriele Oriali was "relieved" of his duties, but this did not look like a team in crisis.

Veteran striker Dzeko has arrived from Roma, and both he and Calhanoglu starred here, clicking immediately.

Stefano Sensi slotted in just behind targetman Dzeko in a 3-5-1-1 formation, but it was a defender who made the sixth-minute breakthrough. Calhanoglu notched nine assists for Milan in Serie A last season, and his first for the Nerazzurri arrived when his whipped corner from the right was headed powerfully into the left corner of the Genoa goal by Skriniar.

Genoa's marking left a lot to be desired, but there was little they could do to prevent Inter stretching their lead in the 14th minute with a delicious goal from Calhanoglu, who collected a short pass from Dzeko and thrashed a 25-yard shot into the bottom right corner.

Dzeko hit the crossbar with a deflected shot on the turn from Matteo Darmian's cross, and Ivan Perisic was denied a goal by a VAR offside verdict after sprinting through and beating Salvatore Sirigu, who had earlier saved well from Marcelo Brozovic.

Perisic was again marginally offside before he teed up Calhanoglu to rifle into the top left corner after the interval, and that meant another Inter goal did not stand.

They found a third goal in the 74th minute though, substitute Vidal drilling in from close range after Dzeko's shot was parried out. Nicolo Barella teased the ball into Vidal and he converted, with Dzeko later meeting Vidal's delicious delivery and making no mistake. Just like Inter all afternoon.


What does it mean?

This was about as smooth a start as the new regime could have hoped for, the early goals putting paid to any tension after the close-season upheaval. Beating a distinctly limited Genoa side can only tell us so much, with the real tests still to come, but Inter looked slick and the new recruits acquitted themselves admirably.

Dream start for Calhanoglu

The only disappointment for Inter's new playmaker came when his celebrations were short-lived the second time he found the net, due to Perisic straying offside. He came off after 76 outstanding minutes, receiving a big hug from Inzaghi. By half-time, Calhanoglu had chalked up a goal and an assist, among three chances created, an instant Inter hero. He created two further chances before being awarded a rest, and a deserved ovation.

Kallon catches the eye

Sierra Leonean striker Yayah Kallon looks a real prospect for Genoa, and on just his second Serie A appearance he gave Inter's defence cause for concern. Kallon should have buried a chance just before half-time but swept his left-footed shot wide of the right post. He drew a solid save from Samir Handanovic at the start of the second half before being substituted soon after. His talent is raw and he played just six passes in 54 minutes, while having only 20 touches, but the 20-year-old is one to watch.

What's next?

Inter will be back in Serie A action on Friday, when they travel to face Hellas Verona. Genoa have to wait an additional two days for their next game, a home encounter with Napoli.

Inter announced the exit of another key figure behind their Scudetto success as influential technical chief Gabriele Oriali was "relieved of his duties".

Oriali, who has been working in the same role with Euro 2020 champions Italy, departs Inter three months after head coach Antonio Conte walked away from the Serie A winners.

Former Italy midfielder Oriali, 68, who was a World Cup winner in 1982, returned for a second spell on the Inter backroom staff when Conte was appointed two years ago.

At the time, Inter said Oriali was "back where he belongs", yet the two parties will now go their separate ways.

There have been reports in Italy that Oriali may follow Conte to his next job and serve again on his staff.

Conte was linked with Tottenham soon after his Inter exit, which came just weeks after the Nerazzurri won the Scudetto for the first time in 11 years, but he has yet to take up a new appointment.

Inter said in a statement on Friday: "FC Internazionale Milano can confirm that as of today Gabriele Oriali has been relieved of his duties as first team technical manager. The club would like to thank him for his work and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours."

The brevity of that announcement offered no explanation for Oriali's departure, yet with a new coach coming in, in Simone Inzaghi, it was perhaps inevitable that changes behind the scenes would follow.

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti, who was a player at the club when Oriali previously served from 1999 to 2010, separately issued a glowing tribute, striking a different tone to Inter's statement.

 

On Instagram, Zanetti described Oriali as "one of us" and said: "Inter fans do not forget those who leave a mark in the history of this club, just as I cannot forget the days, the work, the moments shared with Lele [Oriali] and Antonio Conte in a long, tiring ride, full of obstacles but extraordinarily successful.

"All this with one goal every day: the good of Inter, ahead of anything else. Do not forget the days at work with Antonio Conte for a group that will remain in the history of Inter with an indelible championship.

"The story of Lele Oriali tells it: with great regret we lose a winner, a real man and above all a great Inter fan. A huge hug to Lele and a huge 'good luck' for the next challenges, the new goals. Inter is and will always be your home."

Simone Inzaghi did not expect to be without Romelu Lukaku heading into his first season as Inter head coach.

Lukaku, who scored 24 Serie A goals last season to help Inter win their first league title since 2010, was sold to Chelsea last week for a reported £97.5million (€115m).

Inter needed to sell players as they deal with financial difficulties compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, and they had already sold full-back Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain.

Meanwhile, Lukaku's former strike partner Lautaro Martinez has been linked with a move to London as well, with Tottenham reportedly agreeing a fee for the Argentina forward, though that move seems likely to depend on Harry Kane's future.

In the wake of Lukaku's departure, Inter have bolstered their squad with the arrival of experienced striker Edin Dzeko, from Roma, and Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, who has arrived from PSV. The Nerazzurri had previously signed Hakan Calhanoglu on a free transfer from rivals Milan.

Inter start their title defence against Genoa on Saturday and, ahead of his first league game in charge, former Lazio coach Inzaghi revealed the club did all they could to keep Lukaku, who is poised to make his second Chelsea debut on Sunday against Arsenal.

"It was an unexpected and unplanned departure," Inzaghi told a news conference on Friday, also confirming Inter are in the market for another forward.

"It is normal that I, [chief executive Giuseppe] Marotta and [sporting director Piero] Ausilio tried to convince him.

"In the week I trained him, I understood why he is so decisive and loved. When he decided, he came to tell me honestly that Chelsea was his dream. We talked to him but the choice was made by the boy. With Dzeko and another signing, we will cover his departure."

 

Asked about Inter's ambitions for 2021-22, Inzaghi said: "I think that Inter's goals are certainly ambitious.

"I don't like making proclamations, but what will make the difference will be the motivations of the boys: during the retreat they showed me that they have a lot of them, I'm confident.

"We will do everything to ensure that things go the right way. It will obviously be a season with difficulties, but the goal in all of us is the match against Genoa.

"There is an excellent relationship with the club, a team level is still missing something but so far I am happy with the players who have arrived.

"We know that there have been some sales, such as that of Hakimi, that of Lukaku and the problem of [Christian] Eriksen. Dzeko would have been my request regardless of Lukaku's situation. Dumfries will need to settle down."

The 2021-22 Serie A campaign commences on Saturday following a busy close season that saw more than half of the 20 teams change head coach.

Antonio Conte departed Inter after guiding the club to their first Scudetto in more than a decade, with Simone Inzaghi being plucked from Lazio, who in turn turned to Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri's former club Juventus decided to end the Andrea Pirlo experiment after just a year and opted for a familiar face in six-time title winner Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

Luciano Spalletti is back in Serie A with Napoli, meanwhile, and Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy with Roma some 11 years on from his hugely successful stint with Inter.

There will be just as much focus on the dugouts as the field when the new season gets up and running this weekend, then, and some coaches are facing a tougher challenge than others.

Stats Perform looks at what the managerial changes could mean for some of Serie A's biggest clubs.


Inter 

In: Simone Inzaghi

Out: Antonio Conte

Conte will go down in Inter folklore as the man who ended the club's 11-year wait to return to the top of Italian football.

In an ideal world, one in which the Nerazzurri were not in a position whereby they had to sell star players to balance the books, Conte would still be in charge at San Siro.

As it is, though, Inzaghi will be at the helm this coming season and is in a rather unenviable position of having to pick up where Conte left off, minus the goals of Romelu Lukaku.

Inzaghi has his own vision but does not differ too much from Conte in terms of tactics, both coaches favouring a 3-5-2 formation of sorts throughout their careers.

Moving the ball forward quickly will be the aim, with Milan (90) the only side in Serie A last term to register more direct attacks than Inzaghi's former side Lazio (89). By comparison, Inter were third on that list with 80.

While the structure will remain largely the same, losing Lukaku and influential wing-back Achraf Hakimi – albeit with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries arriving – means Inzaghi will need to get more out of others if Inter are to retain their crown.

 

Lazio

In: Maurizio Sarri

Out: Simone Inzaghi

The man tasked with replacing Inzaghi at Lazio is Sarri, who endured mixed fortunes during his most recent two stints in Serie A with Napoli and Juventus.

Having come so close to ending Juve's stranglehold on the title in 2017-18 while at Napoli, the 62-year-old won the Europa League in his solitary season at Chelsea and was then given just 14 months at the Allianz Stadium.

His stint in Turin came to an early end despite leading Juve to top spot, his style of play – coined 'Sarriball' – deemed too distant from what Juventus typically expect from a head coach (more on that later!).

At the Stadio Olimpico, Sarri will have more freedom to put his spin on things as he looks to build or improve upon last season's sixth-placed finish. A back four, rather than the three-man defence Inzaghi favoured, can be expected.

Sarri teams are known for their verticality, meaning they like to move the ball forwards. Lazio, as already touched upon, are a good fit in that regard.

They ranked lowest in the top eight last season for build-up attacks (83), which is defined as the number of open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the opposition box.

The big question, though, is whether Sarri has the personnel to turn Lazio into top-four regulars in the same way he did at Napoli. With Immobile taking on the Gonzalo Higuain role up top, it might just be a possibility.

Juventus

In: Massimiliano Allegri

Out: Andrea Pirlo

While a lot of clubs mentioned are entering the unknown with their managerial appointments, Juve know exactly what they are getting in Allegri.

The 54-year-old guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019, having also previously lifted the Scudetto at Milan.

Only one coach in the Bianconeri's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190, while Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of the returning favourite.

This Juve side has changed since Allegri's first stint, though, and it may take him time to make this team his own again following the aforementioned reigns of Sarri and Pirlo.

Whereas Sarri and Pirlo were a little complex with their tactics and what they expected from players, Allegri will take a different approach. That is not to say Juve will not be able to chop and change things under Allegri, as they did in his previous spell.

One aspect that will surely differ from last season is the number of goals Juve score. They found the net an underwhelming 56 times from open play last season from an expected goals return (xG) of 54.3.

By comparison, champions Inter scored 65 open play goals from a near identical xG as Juve of 54.6. With the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo set to stay at the club for at least one more season, there is hope of reclaiming the title this time around.

 

Roma

In: Jose Mourinho

Out: Paulo Fonseca

The highest-profile of the incoming coaches in Serie A this season, Mourinho arrives with his 'Special One' status still intact in Italy thanks to his success at Inter a little over a decade ago.

Mourinho won as many league titles in two seasons at San Siro (two) as he has in the 11 years since (one), while also lifting the second of his Champions League crowns, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during that trophy-laden stay.

The Portuguese won 62 per cent of his matches at Inter but that win rate has steadily declined and he won just 51.2 per cent of his games with Tottenham, leaving the club in April after just 17 months in charge.

Mourinho's sides were so often hard to beat, but Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him, making it his worst ever season in that regard and he did not even see it all the way through.

But could his career take a turn in the right direction in Rome? Mourinho's tactics have remained largely consistent throughout his career, no matter the club or country he is coaching in.

The back three largely favoured by Paulo Fonseca will become a back four and there will be particular emphasis on Bryan Cristante, a typical Mourinho player in many ways, to shield the defence and get the ball forward.

The addition of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea is clearly a Mourinho signing, helping the fill the void left by Edin Dzeko, but Mou's pragmatic approach is surely a concern for a Roma side that looked better offensively than defensively last season. 

Finding the correct balance will be key, and that ultimately depends on whether Roma have hired the pre-2015 Mourinho or post.

Napoli

In: Luciano Spalletti

Out: Gennaro Gattuso

With spells at seven different Italian clubs under his belt, including two years at Inter, Spalletti certainly does not lack of experience. After two years out of the game, however, the 62-year-old has to quickly prove he is not yesterday's man.

Spalletti made clear when he took over from Gennaro Gattuso that he will look to operate with a 4-3-3, though on the basis of pre-season it may well be a more familiar 4-2-3-1 come the opening day.

He inherits a talented squad that includes the likes of Piotr Zielinski, Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne – for now – in attack.

Napoli had no problems scoring goals last time out, with no team managing more shots from open play than their 493 and only Atalanta (77) and Inter (65) scoring more from non-set-piece situations than their 64.

Pressing is a big part of Spalletti's game and that makes Napoli a good fit as they ranked joint-second in Serie A last season for goals scored from high turnovers (nine), behind only Atalanta (10).

There are already a few rumblings of discontent behind the scenes with regards to transfer activity, but a kind fixture list ensures that Spalletti can hit the ground running in his quest to guide Napoli back into the Champions League.

Barely a month has passed since Giorgio Chiellini lifted the European Championship trophy at Wembley, and it would seem logical to expect Serie A to begin amid high fanfare.

This may prove to be the case, as the opening weekend of the season arrives, but a major talent drain from the Italian league since last term cannot be ignored.

Romelu Lukaku, Cristian Romero and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all moved on, swapping Inter, Atalanta and Milan respectively for Chelsea, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

To put those losses into greater context, of the 2020-21 Serie A end-of-season award winners, that is the MVP, the top defender and the leading goalkeeper all exiting the league.

Sweeping changes on the coaching benches also add to uncertainty as the new campaign begins, with a much-changed Inter hoping to successfully defend their title.


JUVE ON A SCUDETTO MISSION

After the folly of handing dugout rookie Andrea Pirlo the reins before last season, Juventus look to be on firmer ground this time with Massimiliano Allegri back as head coach.

They have brought in Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo, primed to play a Pirlo-like role on the pitch, and it seems Cristiano Ronaldo will hang around for the final year of his contract.

Rumours continue to encircle the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, but Allegri can likely count on his reliable flow of goals, just as he did for the 2018-19 season – Ronaldo's debut campaign in Turin and the end of the line for Allegri in his first stint as coach.

A six-time Scudetto winner, Allegri will look to get the best out of wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa as they enter their second seasons with the Bianconeri, while it remains to be seen how Paulo Dybala performs as he enters the final year of his deal.

Plagued by injury last season, Dybala started just 14 Serie A games, but results were often perkier when he played. Of those 14 games, Juventus won 10, drew three and lost one, with a points-per-game average of 2.4 when he played from the off, compared to 1.9 when he was absent or a substitute. The win percentage of 71.4 per cent when Dybala was in the starting XI (compared to 54.2 per cent when he was not) is in the ball park that Allegri will be eyeing.

 


INZAGHI STEPS INTO CONTE SHOES

Social media tells us Antonio Conte has been thoroughly enjoying his summer, topping up his tan and seemingly showing no regret over his Inter exit, which came in May, just weeks after he guided the Nerazzurri to title glory.

Conte reportedly left amid concern the club planned to raise funds with sales that have duly come to fruition. The loss of striker Lukaku feels like a body blow, given his influence, and persistent rumours suggest Lautaro Martinez could also move on. Achraf Hakimi is another big loss, but, as with Lukaku, a big fee was banked as the right-back proved a one-season wonder in Italy.

In have come coach Simone Inzaghi, who impressed at Lazio, while Edin Dzeko will be a straight swap for Lukaku in the forward line, albeit unlikely to carry quite the same threat. Former PSV star Denzel Dumfries can replace Hakimi in the attacking right full-back role, and Inter will hope his Euro 2020 form transfers to Serie A duty.

It is hard to see Inter repeating last season's success, and the comedown could be painful. They exceeded their expected goals total last season, scoring 84 goals against an xG of 75.3, and Inzaghi will look for more of the same.

They possess plenty of quality still, but they have likely lost Christian Eriksen for the long term too after his cardiac arrest on Denmark duty at Euro 2020. His survival was everything in June, and now his recovery is all-important. The knock-on effect is that Inter have lost a player who became important over the second half of the season.

So much has changed since that title was secured. Landing Hakan Calhanoglu on a free from Milan looks like great business, but consolidation with a top-four finish may be their limit in the new campaign. That, and being sure to secure city bragging rights again.

 


MOURINHO'S BACK AMID MERRY-GO-ROUND

Never mind Inzaghi and Allegri at Inter and Juve, now is the time to get used to the sound of Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, Vincenzo Italiano's Fiorentina, Luciano Spalletti's Napoli ... and Jose Mourinho's Roma. Milan rather feel like the odd ones out, keeping faith with Stefano Pioli.

A whirlwind of change has swept through Serie A, and it will be worth watching to see quite what impact Mourinho can have on a side who finished 16 points short of the Champions League places last term.

His 'Special One' reputation was enhanced the last time he coached in Italy, guiding Inter to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the 2009-10 campaign.

Spells at Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have followed, but Mourinho's cachet has diminished over the past decade.

Tammy Abraham has followed him in swapping London for Rome, with the Chelsea striker arriving, along with Eldor Shomurodov from Genoa, to pep up an attack depleted by the loss of Dzeko. Rui Patricio has joined fellow Portuguese Mourinho, and the goalkeeper's arrival from Wolves could prove a fine signing.

Roma won just five Serie A away games last term, and have only had fewer once in a season beginning in the 20th century (4 in 2002-03), while their shot conversion rate of 41.35 per cent can be improved upon, given they topped 50 per cent twice in the 2010s.

Most important for Mourinho, perhaps, will be to build on Roma's poor duel success rate (48.97 per cent) and cutting out the errors leading to goals (10 in 2020-21 in Serie A).

The duel figures are important and were the worst Roma had managed in at least 15 years, while the error count will be simply intolerable to the new boss. Only Bologna committed so many costly errors (also 10). Mourinho has his work cut out.

This should have been a season for Inter fans to enjoy, on the back of a title triumph and with European football returning to some semblance of normality.

Instead, they have lost coach Antonio Conte, top scorer Romelu Lukaku and standout wing-back Achraf Hakimi. Talk of a Tottenham move for Lautaro Martinez – seemingly linked to Harry Kane's future – has not been ruled out entirely.

It leaves the reigning Serie A champions picking up the pieces, with the club's dire financial situation dampening hopes of a successful title defence.

Although there have also been new arrivals, Simone Inzaghi and a 35-year-old Edin Dzeko clearly are not in the same class as Conte and Lukaku.

Inter will be slightly different this season and it is highly likely they will be slightly worse for it.

Downgrade to Dzeko

In Lukaku, Inter have sold a player in his prime coming off his best campaign to date. In Dzeko, the Nerazzurri have brought in a veteran whose Serie A career just plunged to new depths.

Lukaku netted 24 times en route to Inter's Scudetto, while Dzeko's final year with Roma brought only seven league goals.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international did play a mere 1,825 minutes, but it was his poor form while on the pitch that saw him limited to 20 starts despite featuring in 31 matchday squads.

Dzeko's shot conversion rate of 10 per cent was higher than in two of his seasons in the capital and only margainally lower than 2017-18's 10.5 per cent when he scored 16 times. The decreasing frequency of his attempts was an issue, managing just 3.5 shots per 90 minutes, a trough to contrast to the 2016-17 peak of 5.3.

Inter's new forward fell some way short of his expected goals (xG) total of 13.3 – a failing only partially explained by the expertise of opposition goalkeepers, who prevented 3.6 Dzeko goals according to expected goals on target (xGOT) data, which analyses the quality of the shot rather than the quality of the chance.

Lukaku, on the other hand, outstripped his xG figure of 23.8, even if his attempts were only worth 22.9 xGOT.

It is not only as a scorer that Dzeko slips below Lukaku's standards either. Chelsea's latest record buy was a creative force last term, providing 11 assists. Dzeko had three.

 

Indeed, Lukaku crafted a team-high 52 chances – or 9.4 per cent of Inter's 552 shots across the campaign – while Dzeko laid on 29 (5.3 per cent of Roma's attempts). Dzeko was more involved in build-up play than Lukaku, averaging 49.7 open play sequences per 90 to his predecessor's 44.4, but he could not match Lukaku in terms of passing accuracy (68.8 per cent), passing accuracy in the opposition half (64.8) or passing accuracy in the final third (58.5).

Unsurprisingly, the former Giallorossi favourite also cannot play at the same pace as Lukaku. Dzeko was involved in only six fast breaks to Lukaku's league-leading 17, although he did score twice from such situations. Roma were second in the league in this regard – behind Inter.

But even if the Nerazzurri do slow slightly with Dzeko in the side, his work in moving the ball up the field is still comparable to Lukaku's. He had more carries (7.9) and progressive carries (4.5) than Lukaku last term, while operating in the same ballpark for carry distance (92.6 metres), attempted dribbles (2.9) and completed dribbles (1.3) – all numbers per 90.

The percentage of his touches Dzeko took in the opposition box (17.3) tallied closely (18.3 per cent for Lukaku), too, with the previously prolific attacker's game peculiarly now suited to work away from goal.

An aerial force

As part of his link-up play, Dzeko offers a clear focal point. His 60.4 per cent success rate in aerial duels ranked fourth among Serie A forwards with 100 or more such tussles. Lukaku won only 42.9 per cent in a category led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (65.7 per cent). Dzeko's 52 flick-ons also put him fourth.

But Dzeko's heading ability does also give Inter a greater threat inside the penalty area. The striker was joint-third for headed attempts (20, excluding blocks), with his 1.0 per 90 double Lukaku's 0.5. As with his feet, Dzeko was wasteful in this regard, scoring only one header while new Inter colleague Martinez nodded in four goals, but a greater sample size shows the danger he can pose. Since his 2015 Serie A debut, Dzeko leads the way for headed attempts (203, excluding blocks) and his 16 goals – making up 18.8 per cent of his total of 85 – are tied for third.

Dzeko therefore looks a good fit in an Inter side who last season topped the charts in succeeding with 24.6 per cent of their open play crosses, leading to a joint-high 92 headed shots and 14 headed goals.

Whether that crossing quality is still at the club is another matter.

Inter's wings clipped

Only nine defenders in Serie A last term attempted 100 crosses, but Hakimi, marauding up the right, was one of them. Within that select group, his crossing accuracy of 23.9 per cent ranked third – just ahead of Leonardo Spinazzola, another exciting wing-back and Dzeko's former Roma team-mate (23.5 per cent).

Hakimi's departure for Paris Saint-Germain robs Inter of that quality and the 36 chances he created. There is pressure on Denzel Dumfries, a €12.5million recruit, to fill that void. He created 41 chances in the Eredivisie last season, yet only five of his 50 crosses were successful.

That ability to deliver from wide positions is merely one of Hakimi's array of attributes, too, with the €60m man carrying the ball 22.7 metres further per 90 than Dumfries while also contributing a goal or assist every 178.1 minutes, compared to the Netherlands international's 308.5 minutes.

 

Inter should at least have increased creativity from midfield, where free signing Hakan Calhanoglu offers an upgrade on the recuperating Christian Eriksen. Calhanoglu, playing for rivals Milan, had league highs in chances created (98) and chances created from set-pieces (50) in 2020-21. Milan led Serie A in goals from set-pieces (16, excluding penalties), but Inter ranked joint-fourth (16) and will surely now improve.

Trying to run it back

If mixed results are anticipated from direct replacements for Lukaku, Hakimi and Eriksen, those moves at least indicate some unlikely joined-up thinking in spite of the chaotic nature of this off-season. Inzaghi's appointment also suggests Inter plan to change little from last season, even with the numerous notable departures.

Like Conte and Inter, Inzaghi's Lazio consistently lined up with a 3-5-2 formation in 2020-21, with their approaches also not dissimilar.

Lazio's press was a little more aggressive, allowing 11.6 passes per defensive action to Inter's 12.8 and also engaging in more pressed sequences (543) despite having slightly more possession (52.9 per cent) than Inter (52.0 per cent). Lazio also scored eight goals from high turnovers.

However, between the replacement of a speedy Lukaku with a slower Dzeko and Inter's pre-existing preference for build-up attacks (119) over direct attacks (80), Inzaghi's playing style might have to be a little more patient this term, even if the new number nine's physical presence will give them an outlet.

These are minor tweaks, though, that should mean Inzaghi can adapt to Inter or Inter to Inzaghi.

Defending champions have rarely had it so tough when preparing for a new campaign, but Inter have done all they can to ensure a new-look side can continue to find success.

Internazionale defender Alessandro Bastoni remains bullish about the club's Serie A title defence despite a tumultuous off-season which spilled over with fan protests in Sunday's friendly win.

Inter won 2-0 over Parma at Stadio Tardini as some of the approximately 500 fans in attendance brought banners and chanted abuse aimed at owners the Suning corporation, calling for president Steven Zhang to quit, barely months after their breakthrough Scudetto triumph.

Since lifting their first Serie A title since 2010, Inter have seen the departure of title-winning head coach Antonio Conte, who was frustrated as the club tightened its purse strings.

The Serie A champions have also sold Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain with Romelu Lukaku set to depart for Chelsea. Lautaro Martinez has also been linked with a move to Tottenham.

The largest fan banner read "Zhang if you want to save Inter, then you have to leave". Another read "Zhang, the time is over".

Footage emerged on social media of ultras singing "you have to sell" and "we’ll give you the money" and waving €10 bills.

Fans did offer support to new Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi who has taken over at a difficult time, with expectations lowered for their title defence.

Italy centre-back Bastoni is one of numerous Inter players to recently return to the club following a delayed break due to his Euro 2020 commitments, with others also participating at Copa America.

"We’ve only joined up with the group recently – we’ve got a new manager and we need to grasp his system," Bastoni told Inter TV.

"We’re ready to put our trust in him so we can perform well this year."

Former Inter star forward Hernan Crespo told the Italian media on Sunday that the Nerazzurri are "starting from scratch", criticising their handling of the transition after winning the Serie A.

Crespo said Inter are unlikely to defend their title given their off-season tumult, labelling Juventus the favourites.

Bastoni added: "These friendly run-outs are key because we joined up with the squad only recently, so we’ve not got that much time to prepare for a league campaign in which we want to do well.

"We have a league title to defend and we will try to do that in every possible way."

Inter will commence their Serie A campaign on Saturday 22 August against Genoa.

Romelu Lukaku returned for pre-season training on Monday and outlined his excitement to work under new head coach Simone Inzaghi, who he feels can replicate Antonio Conte's work with Inter.

The Nerazzurri coasted to their first Scudetto since the 2009-10 campaign as they clinched the title with four games to spare, courtesy of a 20-game unbeaten run at the end of the season.

Despite Conte's title-winning campaign, the Italian head coach left by mutual consent in May before Inzaghi, who was previously at Lazio, was appointed at San Siro.

And after returning to Italy following Belgium's Euro 2020 semi-final exit, Lukaku, who scored 24 times in 36 league outings while also providing 11 assists in 2020-21, revealed how hungry he is to work with Inzaghi towards further success.

"We had a good chat on the day that the club announced that he was going to be the new coach and we also spoke when I was at the Euros," Lukaku told Inter's media on Monday.

"My brother has also told me plenty about him. He's a good coach. I think he’ll help the team achieve so much.

"We hope we can all work together to continue down the path that we've started."

Only in 2016-17 at Everton did the forward (25 goals) score more times in one of Europe's top-five leagues than last season and the Belgian promised to chase more silverware in 2021-22.

"We now have a few weeks to prepare as well as we can for the new campaign," the 28-year-old added. "We hope to do well and achieve even more than last year.

"I’m thrilled to be back. We hope to continue down the path that we’ve started and to keep winning. All the players will work hard to make your dreams come true."

Inter get their title defence underway at home to Genoa on August 21 after facing Atletico Madrid on August 7 in their final pre-season friendly.

Inter have cancelled their plans to travel to the United States for the Florida Cup as a precautionary measure amid growing concerns surrounding coronavirus.

The Nerazzurri's announcement follows Arsenal's statement on Tuesday as both clubs made the difficult decision to alter their pre-season plans.

The two sides were due to meet on July 25 before facing either Everton or Millonarios on July 28 in Orlando.

A club statement on their official website on Wednesday said: "FC Internazionale Milano announce that they will not be travelling to the USA for the Florida Cup due to the current risks involved in international travel as a result of the spread of the pandemic, risks that have already caused Arsenal F.C. to withdraw from participation."

Last season's Scudetto winners reconvened on July 8, though this time under new head coach Simone Inzaghi after Antonio Conte left the club by mutual consent in May. And their pre-season preparations hardly got off to the best start as they just about managed to edge out Swiss side Lugano on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Inzaghi's men get their title defence under way at home against Genoa on August 21 and have bolstered their ranks this transfer window - Hakan Calhanoglu has joined from local rivals Milan, Matteo Darmian made his move permanent from Parma and centre-back Zinho Vanheusden signed from Standard Liege.

New Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi is bullish about his side's progress in pre-season after edging Lugano on penalties a month out from the start of the 2021-22 Serie A campaign.

Inzaghi took over from the departed Antonio Conte at the Italian champions this off-season with high expectations following last term's breakthrough Scudetto.

Inter's off-season leadership change along with the absence of several players in pre-season, following their Euro 2020 and Copa America commitments, has created some uncertainty about their readiness for their title defence.

The Nerazzurri's opening game of the new Serie A campaign is at home on August 22 against Genoa.

"The club is doing a great job and we'll be ready to go by August 22," Inzaghi told Inter TV after Sunday's 2-2 draw with Lugano, which the Nerazzurri won on penalties.

"It would be wonderful if we could celebrate with our fans welcoming the champions on the opening day, after a year and a half with empty stadiums. The support they give us makes such a difference, as we saw tonight."

Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Ivan Perisic were among those absent for the friendly with Lugano, which will be followed by matches against Pro Vercelli on Wednesday and Arsenal next Monday.

“Little by little we'll introduce the new players as they arrive," Inzaghi said. "[Stefan] De Vrij and [Marcelo] Brozovic will be back in the next few days."

He added: “[The Primavera players] are doing a great job but I knew they'd be up to it because Inter have fantastic academy. They need to keep it up though because we're going to need them until August at least.”

Inter face a reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho during a potentially tricky run of games from the end of September to early December as Simone Inzaghi's side attempt to retain their Serie A crown.

The Nerazzurri finished top of the pile in Italy last season for the first time in 11 years, though there has since been a change in the dugout as Antonio Conte stepped down and has been replaced by ex-Lazio boss Inzaghi.

Inzaghi's first competitive match in charge will be at home to Genoa on the opening weekend of the season, currently scheduled for the week ending August 22.

Inter have what looks to be a kind start to the campaign on paper, with their first meeting against one of last season's top six coming at home to Atalanta on matchday six at the end of September.

Inzaghi will travel to Lazio, whom he was in charge of for five years before departing for Inter in June, on matchday eight and will welcome his former employers to San Siro at the start of 2022.

The first Mourinho meeting comes late in year. He won the treble with Inter in 2009-10, and the Nerazzurri travel to Roma on December 5.

Roma then visit San Siro for the reverse fixture in April.

In terms of other headline fixtures, the Scudetto holders face rivals and last season's runners-up Milan in the week ending November 7 and again in the first week of February.

That first game with Stefano Pioli's side comes two weeks on from a showdown with Juventus and is followed by the visit of Napoli in their next match, albeit with an international break sandwiched between.

Inter conclude their campaign with a home match against Sampdoria in the week ending May 22.

Speaking after the 2021-22 fixture list was released on Wednesday, Inzaghi told his new club's official website: "We're working to make sure we're ready for our opening Serie A game.

"It's going to be an interesting, exciting match against Genoa. We'll be playing our first one at home and we want to get off on the right foot.

"In any case for now we're just focusing on preparing as best we possibly can while waiting for the players involved in the Euros and Copa America to return."

Inter's Serie A fixtures in full, subject to change:

22/08/2021 - Genoa (h)
29/08/2021 - Hellas Verona (a)
12/09/2021 - Sampdoria (a)
19/09/2021 - Bologna (h)
22/09/2021 - Fiorentina (a)
26/09/2021 - Atalanta (h)
03/10/2021- Sassuolo (a)
17/10/2021 - Lazio (a)
24/10/2021 - Juventus (h)
27/10/2021 - Empoli (a)
31/10/2021 - Udinese (h)
07/11/2021 - Milan (a)
21/11/2021 - Napoli (h)
28/11/2021 - Venezia (a)
01/12/2021 - Spezia (h)
05/12/2021 - Roma (a)
12/12/2021 - Cagliari (h)
19/12/2021 - Salernitana (a)
22/12/2021 - Torino (h)
06/01/2022 - Bologna (a)
09/01/2022 - Lazio (h)
16/01/2022 - Atalanta (a)
23/01/2022 - Venezia (h)
06/02/2022 - Milan (h)
13/02/2022 - Napoli (h)
20/02/2022 - Sassuolo (h)
27/02/2022 - Genoa (a)
06/03/2022 - Salernitana (h)
13/03/2022 - Torino (a)
20/03/2022 - Fiorentina (h)
03/04/2022 - Juventus (a)
10/04/2022 - Hellas Verona (h)
16/04/2022 - Spezia (a)
24/04/2022 - Roma (h)
01/05/2022 - Udinese (a)
08/05/2022 - Empoli (h)
15/05/2022 - Cagliari (a)
22/05/2022 - Sampdoria (h)

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta says the decision to sell full-back Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain was "painful".

The Morocco international signed for the Ligue 1 giants on Tuesday after the Nerazzurri accepted an offer reportedly worth an initial €68million with a further €3m possible through bonuses.

Hakimi shone in Serie A after joining from Real Madrid, contributing seven goals and nine assists last season as Inter were crowned champions for the first time in a decade.

Indeed, in Europe's top-five leagues last season, only four defenders were directly involved in more goals than Hakimi (16 – seven scored, nine assisted).

Although difficult, Hakimi's sale was believed to be necessary by Inter, who are attempting to recoup close to €100m in the transfer window while reducing costs, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Further departures are expected, with Joao Mario and Radja Nainggolan the most likely to leave, with Hakan Calhanoglu and Alex Cordaz their only signings to date.

Speaking at a media conference to unveil new head coach Simeone Inzaghi, Marotta confirmed Hakimi's departure was largely due to the financial situation the club finds itself in following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We begin a season that will be difficult, as usual," Marotta said.

"We are going through a difficult and in some ways disturbing time after the pandemic, also as a result of the world economy. As a reflection, football is now looking for a sustainable model.

"Surely, Inter want to continue on the same path as last season, looking at the economic and financial aspects. The owners want to build a competitive team, they've invested over €700million and football is paying the consequences of what has just happened.

"It's unthinkable to ask for the same efforts. We made painful choices like the one of selling Hakimi but always trying to give continuity."

 

Inzaghi was appointed last month after Antonio Conte left the club by mutual consent.

The former Italy international had departed Lazio a week earlier following five years in charge at the Stadio Olimpico.

Inzaghi won 134, drew 45 and lost 72 of his 251 matches in all competitions while at Lazio, the only club where he has worked during his coaching career so far.

"I spent 22 incredible years at Lazio, I felt well there, I was lucky to win as a footballer and as a coach, but it was time to change," the 45-year-old said.

"I had received many requests, but it was never the right moment to change. It's a moment that arrives sooner or later, I didn't think about it for too long."

Asked what fans can expect from his side, Inzaghi said: "I want my team to have intensity, stay in the game and react to what can happen.

"I coached [Stefan] de Vrij and I had played with [Aleksandar] Kolarov and [Samir] Handanovic. It's great to reunite with them, I will have a great relationship with them and the others.

"I like the daily pressure, otherwise I would not have accepted the Inter job. I have a great relationship with the directors, we must be able to handle the difficulties well when we face them."

Lazio have appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach following the departure of Simone Inzaghi.

Former Italy international Inzaghi left Lazio at the end of May after an impressive five-year spell in charge at the Stadio Olimpico, stepping in for Antonio Conte at Inter.

Sarri quickly emerged as a front-runner for the job and has been appointed on a two-year deal.

The 62-year-old has been out of management since being sacked by Juventus in August last year, paying the price for the Old Lady's shock Champions League elimination by Lyon in the last 16.

Nevertheless, Sarri did guide Juve to a ninth successive Serie A title, with his successor Andrea Pirlo unable to continue that run as the Bianconeri scraped a fourth-placed finish on the final day of the 2020-21 campaign.

Pirlo was then also fired, with Massimiliano Allegri returning to Juve.

Sarri boasts a win percentage of over 60 in each of his three previous roles and will be hoping to continue Inzaghi's fine work at Lazio.

The Biancocelesti finished lower than sixth only once under Inzaghi – though the sole campaign where they finished eighth, Lazio were able to console themselves with Coppa Italia success.

Lazio finished sixth in 2020-21 but Sarri will hope to emulate their 2019-20 season when they secured Champions League football by finishing fourth.

He will undoubtedly be keen to ensure the likes of Ciro Immobile, Joaquin Correa, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic stick around to aid their chances of a return to Europe's top table.

Inter have confirmed the appointment of Simone Inzaghi as their new head coach.

The announcement comes a week after Inzaghi left his position at Lazio, having spent five years in charge at the Stadio Olimpico.

Serie A champions Inter had been seeking a replacement for Antonio Conte, who departed by mutual consent after securing the Nerazzurri a first league title since 2010.

A brief statement on the Inter website read: "FC Internazionale Milano welcomes Simone Inzaghi as the new coach of the first team: the coach has signed a two-year contract with the Nerazzurri club."

Inzaghi won 134, drew 45 and lost 72 of his 251 matches in all competitions while at Lazio, the only club where he has worked during his coaching career so far.

Lazio released a statement on their website last Thursday confirming his exit, though did not refer to Inzaghi by name.

"We respect the change of mind of a coach and, before that, of a player who for many years tied his name to the Lazio family and the many Biancocelesti successes," the statement read.

The former Italy international, younger brother of Filippo Inzaghi, takes over at a time when there is financial uncertainty at Inter, with media reports suggesting they will have to offload players to help balance the books.

Massimiliano Allegri was linked with the Inter vacancy too, but he returned to former club Juventus to replace Andrea Pirlo.

As for Conte, he has emerged as a potential candidate for Tottenham, having previously won the Premier League with Chelsea.

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