Pirlo: ‘A step back for Juventus’

Andrea Pirlo admits the 2-2 draw with Roma was ‘a step back’ in terms of performance for Juventus, but ‘we are a work in progress’ and explains what didn’t quite work.

The coach changed one player from the 3-0 win over Sampdoria, Alvaro Morata for Gianluca Frabotta, but that resulted in a transformation of their tactics.

Cristiano Ronaldo twice got them back on level terms after Jordan Veretout goals, even though Adrien Rabiot was sent off for two bookable offences on the hour mark.

“We faced two completely different teams this season, so I knew our approach would be totally different to the one against Sampdoria,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.

“It was a step back in terms of performance, but this is a work in progress and we haven’t had an opportunity to play pre-season friendlies to test these things out.

“It was ultimately a point gained, as we were a goal down twice and then down to 10 men, while we have some players like Arthur who haven’t really played for six months.

“We wanted to make the most of one-on-one situations, as we knew Roma would attack in numbers, but it didn’t go quite the way we hoped. It was always going to be tough against an organised team.

“We tried to keep the midfield lines tight to not allow space for the trequartista. At times it worked, at times it didn’t, but we are having to test all these situations during a match, seeing as we didn’t have pre-season friendlies.”

The way Pirlo sets out his players remains very fluid, with three at the back mutating into four, Aaron Ramsey in more of a free role, but always two in midfield.

“We have midfielders suited to a two-man system, so Bentancur, Arthur and Rabiot all have these characteristics and we have to put them in the condition to give their best.

“Unfortunately, these are all situations you can’t test out in training, it needs to be a match. Arthur needs time to adapt to Serie A and to our style of football, not to mention he’s not fully fit after so long out of action,” continued Pirlo.

“Bentancur played if anything too much last season, he ended the campaign exhausted and has been doing specific training work to get back into shape.

“We’re very glad to have Ronaldo, as he doesn’t just provide goals. He ran more when we went down to 10 men and that was a great help to his teammates.”

Dejan Kulusevski and Juan Cuadrado went wide this time around, but struggled to get genuine scoring opportunities.

“We knew it could be difficult down the wings, as Roma have very aggressive defenders. We should’ve spread them out more, but got the movements wrong and all went in the same direction, so that didn’t create the spaces we were looking for. These are areas where we can certainly improve.”

Pirlo was asked if Inter have more strength in depth than Juventus now they’ve brought in Achraf Hakimi, Arturo Vidal and Aleksandar Kolarov.

“I don’t know if it is better than ours, but it is certainly stronger than last season, as they brought in players of quality. I think it’ll be a battle to the very end. I told the lads substitutions would be important this evening, especially seeing what happened with Inter last night, and that was true.”

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EDF: ‘Radja wants Cagliari return’

Cagliari boss Eusebio Di Francesco claims Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan wants to return to Sardinia and ‘we want him back too’.

Nainggolan helped Inter beat Fiorentina 4-3 last night, but Di Francesco is hopeful of reuniting with his former Roma protégé before the transfer window shuts.

“Godin’s already here and I’m happy about that, then there’s Radja who wants to be back here,” he told Radio Rai.

“Nainggolan wants to come back and we want him back too, but we’re also weighing up other options.”

The 32-year-old played for Cagliari between 2010 and 2014, before returning on loan last season.

The Rossoblu, for their part, have already done business with Inter in 2020-21, signing Diego Godin.

Midfield competition is fierce on the blue side of San Siro, with Arturo Vidal recently arriving and N’Golo Kante still being pursued by Antonio Conte.

However, Calciomercato.com warns Inter will only entertain a permanent transfer for Nainggolan and will not accept any less than €12m.

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Report: Inter drop Skriniar demands

Inter have reportedly lowered their demands for Milan Skriniar as Antonio Conte admits the Tottenham Hotspur target could be sold for ‘a big offer’

The deal seemed to be drifting as it was reported on Friday that there was huge disparity between the two sides in their valuation of the defender.

That was followed by Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio appearing to rule out a transfer, but Skriniar was dropped for the 4-3 win against Fiorentina and Conte took a different stance on the matter.

“For me, he’s part of the project,” he told Sky Sport Italia after the game.

“It was a technical decision to play D’Ambrosio instead. We have lots of games coming up and he’s still at my disposal.

“I don’t know what would happen, however, if we received a big offer for him. We know the financial situation we’re in and we’re open to any solution.

“He’ll play like he always has.”

According to The Sun, the Nerazzurri have dropped their valuation to £45m (€49.3m) and could even go to £35m (€38.4m) as they look to fund a deal for Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante.

Until now, Jose Mourinho’s side have only been prepared to offer €30m (£27.4m) plus players in exchange.

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Highlights: Inter 4-3 Fiorentina

Inter’s first Serie A game is already a contender for match of the season, as there were so many twists and turns, not to mention fantastic goals and inspired passes, in this 4-3 win over Fiorentina.

There was no shortage of drama at San Siro, as Christian Kouame put the Viola in front after three minutes, Lautaro Martinez scored one and forced an own goal to turn it around.

Franck Ribery turned on the style with two magnificent assists to send Gaetano Castrovilli and Federico Chiesa on goal, while Dusan Vlahovic really should’ve made it 4-2 for Fiorentina.

Instead, Inter completed a last-gasp comeback through Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio, with substitutes Achraf Hakimi, Arturo Vidal and Radja Nainggolan all playing their part.

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Conte: ‘I can enjoy the Inter process’

Antonio Conte complains Inter were ‘unbalanced at times’ in their 4-3 thriller with Fiorentina, but also admits he must ‘learn to enjoy the process’ more.

The coach said he didn’t want the ‘Pazza Inter’ reputation, but it was out in full force as they were trailing twice at San Siro, scoring two goals at the 87th and 89th minutes to win 4-3.

“The three points are certainly important, but it’s only fair to evaluate the entire performance too,” Conte told DAZN.

“The positive is that we scored four goals and created many chances to get more. I think their goalkeeper (Bartlomiej) Dragowski did really well. We attacked in numbers and created problems for Fiorentina, but at the same time we weren’t focused enough to deal with their counter-attacks.

“The lads know we need to improve on this, as we must attack and defend in numbers. Balance is the key to everything, we were unbalanced at times this evening and paid for those mistakes.

“We must try to defend by going forward, not sitting back on our goalkeeper’s lap. We want to press the opposition. It was (Aleksandar) Kolarov’s first game, (Danilo) D’Ambrosio was playing as a centre-back, but the whole team has to work the right way.

“I was impressed by the way we attacked today, even if I think we had a few too many players going forward and that left some gaps for Fiorentina to counter into. We need to pay closer attention.”

Christian Eriksen started in the trequartista role, but is still struggling to fit into Conte’s tactics or make much of a difference in Serie A.

“We work with Christian in the same way as we do with the others. We try to get them all into the best condition. I think Eriksen has improved his intensity since he first arrived. He is playing in his ideal role, a trequartista behind two strikers.

“I think he had a good game. We know he has some qualities and we try to bring those out. Sometimes it happens straight away, sometimes it takes a little while, so I have faith and patience. He is a good lad and works hard for the team.

“I hope a spark will definitively light him up and allow him to find his way.”

Conte almost walked out over the summer, citing disagreements with the club and directors, but now admits he has to change too.

“After my first year at Inter, I realised the focus is so much on the results that people forget there’s a journey we need to go through. I believe the journey is important and even defeats are teachable moments, so must be relished.

“A coach should enjoy the process more and I need to work on that. I sometimes get so angry at a defeat or a setback that I forget to enjoy the process, so I’m working on that.”

Inter started the campaign as potential Scudetto favourites, even more so than Juventus under new coach Andrea Pirlo.

“Last season, I think we gained credibility in Italy, finishing second in Serie A with many points and positive elements. We also, and above all, gained credibility on the international level, as Inter need to be in European Finals,” concluded Conte.

“We’ve got to keep working on being credible, giving our fans joy, even in games like tonight where they never give up. The lads showed such hunger, heart, desire and I am proud of them.”

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