Inter Milan: Why the Three-Man Defense Will Not Last

Alessandro RaffaContributor IISeptember 3, 2011

ROME, ITALY - MAY 29:  Javier Zanetti of  FC Internazionale Milano celebrates after victory in the Tim Cup final during the Tim Cup final between FC Internazionale Milano and US Citta di Palermo at Olimpico Stadium on May 29, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Throughout his coaching career, Gian Piero Gasperini has implemented two distinct traits upon his teams: a possession-based game and a three-man defense. He has received praise from world football icons Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson for his style of play and tactical ability. But these two greats were referring to the way Gasperini's team possessed the ball, NOT his three-man defense. 

Many Inter fans were critical of Massimo Moratti's choice to place Gasperini in charge, and rightly so; he was inexperienced at the highest level, and Inter had title-winning ambitions. I was initially skeptical about his hiring, but then I proceeded to remember the intricate passing game that his Genoa side implemented and became excited at the prospect of Inter playing such attractive, attacking football. My excitement did not last long however, as I then reminded myself that Inter had thrashed Gasperini's Genoa side 5-0 not too long ago.

The reason for the failure? Probably because Genoa were facing a top European side, coached by a tactical genius in Jose Mourinho. I began to wonder: although Gasperini was inheriting a team with more talent, surely Inter would suffer the same beating they bestowed on Genoa if they attempted a three-man defense against a top European side. 

Inter proceeded to let in 10 goals in their preseason fixtures, confirming my belief that a three-man defense is simply outdated. This defensive style is no longer a part of the modern game because football has evolved. Wing-backs are now prevalent in the modern game, and their attacking prowess, along with the offensive players' improved skill, have dismantled three-man defenses that become stretched, disoriented and simply outdone by top sides. Gasperini needs to modernize his idea of how the defense should line-up (Italian football had been dominated by three-man defenses up until the modern game developed) or risk suffering the same fate as Rafael Benitez.

Another reason as to why this defensive line-up will not last is simply that Inter do not have the right players to implement the setup's strengths. Three-man defenses thrive when the defenders have great pace and tenacity to stop play high up the pitch before it becomes dangerous. Inter's three best center-backs (Lucio, Ranocchia and Samuel) all lack pace and, while playing a high line, will be susceptible to the long ball over the top to a striker who can outrun them. The best defenders for this setup are Chivu and Cordoba, and neither of those players can cut it with the top forwards any longer.

Pressure from President Massimo Moratti will also be a factor in how long the setup can last. The fans were humiliated in having to watch cross-town rival AC Milan lift the Scudetto, as well as seeing their team get beaten 5-2 at home to Schalke 04. This team's passionate fans do not want to see a replay of the Rafael Benitez situation, and Moratti would not want to suffer the embarrassment of having to find a mid-season replacement in two consecutive seasons. If the opposition continues to dominate the three-man defense of Gasperini, expect Moratti to waste no time in forcing his coach to change the setup immediately.

The factor that I believe will lead to the demise of the three-man defense at Inter is the quality of wing-play in Serie A that will have a field-day stretching Inter's defense and scoring goals for fun. AC Milan can place Pato, Robinho and Cassano on the wings against Inter. Juventus can go with Vucinic, Elia and Krasic. Roma will have no problem fielding Lamela, Bojan and Pjanic against the three-man defense. Napoli will put Cavani, Pandev and Lavezzi wide to make Inter suffer. Simply put, if you want to play a three-man defense, do not do it in Serie A.

I expect Gasperini to switch over to a four-man defense within the first month of the season. What do you think? All comments are appreciated, follow me on Twitter @FCInterBlogGFT !