With December fast approaching Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale are sitting pretty 5 points clear at the top of Serie A. This lofty perch is something the Inter supporters have become very comfortable with over the last few seasons following the Calciopoli scandal which awarded Inter two titles previously credited to Juventus and the subsequent monopoly that has been enjoyed by them as a result ever since.
However, after a year’s consolidation following promotion from Serie B and heavy investment over the summer, Juventus looked at a glance to be in a position to worry Inter’s dominance and hold over the league title. In reality these thoughts were somewhat premature, as the Old lady’s squad although much improved in quality and depth, still has a way to go in order to match Inters level of squad maturity, in particular when considered against the fact JoMo’s, or should I say Massimo Moratti’s, cheque book hasn’t exactly been closed during the transfer window either.
So aside from those with one eye on stocking up interest in Serie A, most other observers always knew it was merely a formality that Inter would win another Scudetto. Admittedly nothing in football is certain, and there is still a long way to go – but I would venture one would struggle to find anyone aside from the most optimistic of Juve fans to put money on someone other than Inter for the title.
I feel nothing emphasises this more poignantly than the sacking of Roberto Mancini. Having won the title in his last three seasons at the Inter helm, he was replaced by Mourinho as it was felt Jose represented a better chance of bringing the Champions League to the blue and black half of Milan.
It was generally accepted knowledge that the traditionally big guns in Italian football were still recovering from the ramifications of Calciopoli, and therefore winning the Italian league doesn’t represent much of an achievement for Inter at the moment. The Champions League was the one that all concerned with the club really wanted, the league title wasn’t just expected – it is a given.
In his first season Jose duly delivered the Scudetto, but it has to be said he didn’t make many friends along the way. JoMo’s ’management style’ has always been considered controversial at best, he certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste, but at his previous club Chelsea the fans and media had loved him for it. Unlike in England, Italy did not take so well to Mourinho’s brash approach to press conferences, the media perceived him as arrogant and when his Inter began to fall short of peoples high expectations, his life has been made all the more difficult.
Inter won the Serie A title in Jose’s first season at a relative canter, although they did nearly conspire to throw it away towards the end due to their own complacency. However, the style of football and approach to the game of the team was less pleasing to the eye and the heart than the Mancini reign before it. In the eyes of the Inter fans this was palatable in so far as the side were winning. If this brand of football wins the Champions League for the team than that is ok. When Inter were comprehensively removed from the Champions League by Manchester United that year, more questions were asked of Mourinho, and more sympathy was felt towards Mancini for his fate.
Jose dealt with this in his usual confident way and told all who would listen to wait for next year. With a few key additions in certain areas all would be well. Patience was the key. Unfortunately for Mourinho and Inter at least, this time around his team have started out in much the same vein – cruising at the top of Serie A, however Champions League performances have been far from inspiring.
Drawn in a group with current Champions and treble winners of last season, Barcelona, the task of progressing from the group was never going to be easy. None the less second place in that group should have been assured as a minimum and with one game left to play this is still to be guaranteed.
Jose has found wins in Europe hard to come by, and combined with the fact Barcelona have somewhat unexpectedly dropped points too, qualification has become complicated to say the least for Mourinho. Compounded by the poor showing in the recent defeat to Barcelona, which despite their troubles guaranteed the Catalans progress to the knock out phase of the competition, Mourinho has now found that his one previous constant, boss and club owner Massimo Moratti, has begun to question the sides leadership.
Following a press conference in which Jose stated his squad was not able to cope with the demands of domestic and European football, Morratti drew the line as he feels he has provided his manager with every weapon he has asked for. To be fair to Morratti I have to agree with him. Mourinho himself has stated on a number of occasions that his signings were everything he could have asked for. So where does the blame ultimately lie?
There is no question that the knives are out for Jose. He has a number of detractors who would like nothing more than to see him fail and embarrassed. So far in Europe he has by his standards largely underachieved and perhaps more importantly his team have often been found sorely lacking in both quality and application.
The brand of football Inter fans enjoyed under Mancini is long gone. It was never ‘Arsenal Esque’ but compared to what is offered now it was ‘samba’ football. Inter do realistically have the personnel on paper to turn things around and I for one am not foolish enough to bet against Jose Mourinho, but the Special One isn’t looking so much so anymore and his side need to come up with something special in the second half of the season to redeem their enigmatic coach and save their season from a premature close.