Inter Milan mentality criticised but Stefano Pioli's issues are simpler
Inter are coming off a nightmare run of games ahead of Sunday's clash with Napoli, failing to win in over a month and somehow allowing half-time leads of 2-0 and 2-1 to turn into a 2-2 draw against AC Milan and a 5-4 defeat to Fiorentina.
In the endless post-mortems which followed the collapse in Florence, Inter were accused of lacking grit and a united mentality, but the squad is full of grinders. Gary Medel isn't called The Pitbull for nothing, Danilo D'Ambrosio delivered an impassioned speech earlier in the season when things were going wrong, and even substitute Eder is a presence in the changing room.
Geoffrey Kondogbia endured a difficult first season to emerge this year, while both Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic run up and down the pitch for 90 minutes. If there's anything wrong with the Nerazzurri, it is that they have too many "team guys" who just aren't very talented.
What hurt against Fiorentina is that Inter used Medel in the backline -- he doesn't know the role -- with D'Ambrosio and Yuto Nagatomo, who have never learned it. Maybe sporting director Piero Ausilio shouldn't have given new deals to two of these players?
Inter coach Stefano Pioli was wrong to park the bus against both Milan and Fiorentina but as he seeks to return his side to the type of form that saw them record nine straight wins in all competitions between December and January, there is a slither of hope in Napoli's wretched record at the San Siro.
For all the beautiful football they've played over the years, Napoli generally aren't the kind of opponent that causes trouble at Inter. Even accounting for the years they spent outside of Serie A, the Partenopei have only won there twice in 23 years, and just once since returning to the top tier under Edy Reja in 2007.
Far from perfect planners, at least the Partenopei don't fire coaches at the drop of a hat, and wait to develop their players. Centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly is now a prized asset after a difficult first season. Inter, for their part, expect quick fixes all the time. It really shouldn't be a surprise that the team can't quite hack it. Psychology could well play a major role, sure, but it is the result of work, preparation and consistency. It's not the underlying issue, it's a symptom.
Maybe giving Jeison Murillo consistent playing time would work eventually. Unlike Koulibaly, the Colombian began his time at Inter well last season before dropping off. The same goes for Roberto Gagliardini and Kondogbia, who need to become more rounded. Candreva needs to improve, while the aforementioned defensive blunderers need to be corrected.
A good idea would be to avoid keeping the team so stretched, as well as trying to deny Jorginho and Marek Hamsik -- two very talented players known to struggle in big games -- of space.
Reminding Gagliardini to track his man (something he has forgotten to do in the last fortnight) will help immeasurably, as will using Joao Mario again, the Portuguese international chipping in with gusto since replacing Ever Banega.
There is some hope of a result on Sunday. After all, Napoli need the win more, finding themselves four points short of a Roma team that has a derby to play. The pressure could tell, if Inter are good enough. The trouble is, they've proven not to be too many times this season.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.