Inter have just won their 20th top-flight league title in Italy, overtaking the tally won by rivals Milan. We look at how their Serie A title win is one of the most impressive ever seen.

Simone Inzaghi was lucky to still be in a job last summer. According to the Italian press, anyway.

After Antonio Conte led the club to the league title in 2020-21, Inzaghi’s first two Serie A seasons as the Nerazzurri boss saw him lose out to rivals Milan in the 2021-22 race for the Scudetto, before finishing 18 points off champions Napoli last season. They lost 12 league games last season, more than in their previous three seasons combined (11).

Fortunately for the Italian, form in cup competitions earned him more time. A great run in the Champions League last year led to them losing to Manchester City by a single goal in the final, while back-to-back Coppa Italia titles were secured to add something to the trophy cabinet.

A huge clearout of players then came in the summer. Although it was arguably needed after such a poor league campaign, it was more out of financial necessity, with a large loan taken out by the ownership needing to be repaid.

Key players such as André Onana, Edin Dzeko, Milan Skriniar, Robin Gosens and Marcelo Brozovic all departed, while Romelu Lukaku’s loan expired and wasn’t renewed.

Inter fans needn’t have worried, though. Inzaghi went on to lead Inter to one of their most memorable league seasons in recent memory.

Smashing Records

A 2-1 victory over Milan on Monday sealed Internazionale’s 20th top-flight league title, moving clear of their rivals’ tally of 19.

To rub salt further into their enemy’s wounds, that win also saw Inter become the first team to win the Serie A title in a city derby in the 94-year history of the competition.

It was their 27th consecutive league game without a defeat (W22 D5), a run which has only been bettered twice before by the club in Serie A. They are now six games off the club record of 33 in a row between May 2006 and April 2007 under Roberto Mancini.

Inter Milan Serie A Champions

With five games to play, they’ll be hoping to achieve even more than they have already. Should they win all five of those matches, they’d reach 101 points and become just the second team in Serie A history to surpass a century of points in a single season after Juventus (102) in 2013-14. They need three more wins to equal their club record of 30 victories in a single season, set back in 2006-07, but they will fall short of Juve’s record of 33 in 2013-14.

The gulf in class between Inter and their opponents in this Serie A campaign is displayed by the current 17-point gap between themselves and second-place Milan. The gap between first and second in the Italian top flight has only been bigger at the end of one season; 2006-07 when Inter won the league by 22 points ahead of Roma.

Inter’s success this season has shown that they are easily the best Italian team, but is it more a case of everyone else getting worse and Inzaghi’s side capitalising on it?

Efficiency at Both Ends of the Pitch

Napoli eased their way to the 2022-23 title to end 33 years of hurt. Their league win came with a 16-point gap between themselves and Lazio in second place. Even if they go on to win their final five matches of the season, which feels unlikely, the Naples side will end the season with a points tally 26 lower than last season.

As it stands, Napoli are 37 points behind Inter in the table. That’s the largest gap between the reigning champion and the Serie A leaders after 33 matchdays in a 20-team season. They also look set to be just the second reigning Serie A champions to finish outside the top four places since Torino in 1949-50 (sixth).

Lazio, who finished inside the top two last season for the first time in 23 years, have also disappointed this campaign. Their current points tally is 22 lower than their final total in 2022-23, with five games remaining. They currently sit three points outside the top five and face a battle to retain a Champions League place for next season.

Milan and Juventus have also endured somewhat disappointing seasons.

Juve have a tricky final five games to the season and sit on 18 wins from 33 matches. They haven’t failed to reach 20 wins in a Serie A campaign since 2010-11 (15).

Milan have improved on 2022-23’s poor showing and need just one point from their final five games to equal their points tally from last season. However, they’ve lacked the consistency needed for a title challenge, with their longest unbeaten league run this season being nine games between December and February. With five games to play, there’s every chance that they could finish 20+ points behind Inter for the first time since 2007-08.

Inter xG 2023-24

In truth, Inter’s underlying attacking numbers haven’t been wildly different from Inzaghi’s previous two league seasons in charge of the club. In fact, their non-penalty expected goals (xG) per game was better in his first season (1.97) than this season (1.83).

The major difference in attack has been their ability to convert chances – up to 13.0% from non-penalty shots this season from 10.6% in 2022-23. A big reason for that has been their ability to work the ball into better scoring positions, with their average non-penalty xG per shot this season up to 0.12 from 0.10 last season. As a result, they have scored the same number of non-penalty goals this season as they did last campaign (67) but from 115 shots fewer.

Of course, winning 13 penalties has helped them, too. That’s three more than any other side this season (Roma, 10) and the most ever by a side in a single Serie A season.

The starkest difference between this season and Inzaghi’s previous two in charge of Inter has been their defensive performance, though.

Their non-penalty xG conceded per game average of 0.73 and non-penalty xG per shot average (0.07) are easily the lowest Inter have allowed opponents in a Serie A season under Inzaghi. However, some may be surprised to learn that Juventus have outperformed them in both metrics so far (0.70 xG and 0.06 xG per shot).

The major difference between Inter and their rivals this season has been the inability of opponents to convert those chances, however. Just 4.8% of opposition shots from non-penalty situations have been scored (Juve 6.3%).

Yann Sommer arrived from Bayern Munich in August for a fee of €6.75 million and it’s arguably been the most astute investment by Inter in recent years.

Based on Opta’s expected goals on target model, only Michele Di Gregorio (11.0) and Pietro Terracciano (7.1) have prevented more goals with their saves in Serie A this season than Sommer (5.7).

Yann Sommer Saves

While goals prevented is an intuitive measure of goalkeeper performance, the inevitable rebuttal here is that goalkeepers who face more shots have the opportunity to ‘prevent’ more goals. To allow for a fair comparison, we can adjust for the number of shots each keeper faced by looking at their goals prevented rate.

Goals prevented rate is the number of goals that a goalkeeper was expected to concede relative to the number of goals they actually conceded. Only Di Gregorio (0.73) that has a superior goals prevented rate than Sommer (0.76) in the 2023-24 Serie A season so far.

Across the top five European leagues this season, no goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than Sommer’s 17 in 31 games. Only Torino’s Vanja Milinkovic-Savic has kept as many.

It’s not rocket science. Being efficient at both ends of the pitch should bring success. Inter have been just that in 2023-24. Their goal difference of +61 is better than any other side across Europe’s top five leagues this season, while only Bayern Munich (52.0) and Arsenal (44.1) have been more effective in terms of expected goal difference than Inter (43.5).

Of course, Bayern have missed out on the Bundesliga title, and there’s every chance Arsenal could miss out on the Premier League title, hence the above use of should. But Inter have been head and shoulders ahead of any other side. The next best expected goal difference in Serie A this season has been Juventus with 23.8 – almost 20 below the champions.

Serie A Goal Difference

Inter have only found themselves in a losing position for 2% of their playing time this season. Including all added time, their games have had a cumulative total of 3,223 minutes and 17 seconds this season. They have been losing for just 67 minutes and 15 seconds.

They have only been in a losing position in four different league games this season. Their only Serie A defeat of the campaign at home to Sassuolo on 27 September saw them go behind in the 63rd minute. They were eventually in a losing position for 33 minutes and 47 seconds of that match. The only other three games that they spent some time in a losing position were in November versus Juventus (6:07), in February against Roma (9:08) and against Udinese in April (18:13).

Serie A Game States 2023-24

Star of the Show?

Lautaro Martínez is set to win the 2023-24 Capocannoniere award for the top scorer in Serie A. With 23 goals this season, he’s currently seven clear of Dusan Vlahovic (16) in the race and, should he secure it, it’ll be the first time he’s done so in a single league season since joining Inter.

Lautaro Martinez Goals

He came second to Victor Osimhen last season, missing out by five goals (21 vs 26), and was six away in 2021-22 after his 21 goals were exceeded by both Vlahovic (24) and Ciro Immobile (27).

The Argentine’s consistency in front of goal over the last five seasons has seen him provide 96 Serie A goals for Inter. He joined the club six years ago, and after a first campaign of acclimatisation when he scored six times following his transfer from Primera División side Racing Club as a 21-year-old, he’s flourished in Italy.

Across the last five seasons, only six players have scored more goals than Martínez (96) in the top five European leagues, while only four have scored more non-penalty goals over this period than the Inter striker (86).

Martínez has been helped by summer signing Marcus Thuram, whose 12 league goals are just one off his all-time best in a league campaign set last season in the Bundesliga at Borussia Mönchengladbach (13). Thuram has also chipped in with seven assists, with only Henrikh Mkhitaryan creating as many goals in Serie A among Inter players.

Hakan Çalhanoglu has continued to prove himself after moving from rivals Milan in 2021, scoring more goals than ever before in a Serie A season (11) and creating the second most chances for teammates (50) behind the dependable Federico Dimarco (56).

Time to Build for the Future

The worry for Inter fans could be the longer-term plan for the squad and whether they can build a side to dominate Serie A for seasons to come. This isn’t a young side that’s just blown away their opponents to secure the Scudetto.

Inter’s starting XI has been the oldest in Serie A this season at 29 years and 202 days old on average. That’s nearly a year older on average than the next oldest Serie A side, Lazio (28y 210d).

Oldest Teams in Europe 2023-24

That said, there aren’t that many veterans among the most used players by Inter this season. Only four players over the age of 30 have played more than 1,500 minutes of Serie A action: 36-year-old Francesco Acerbi (2,206 minutes), 35-year-old Mkhitaryan (2,616), 34-year-old Matteo Darmian (2,214) and 35-year-old goalkeeper Sommer (2,790).

Çalhanoglu (30 years old, 2,347 minutes played) is the only other player aged 29 or older to have played at least half of Inter’s league minutes this season.

The issue is more the lack of young, upcoming talent being given a chance in the first team. Across all Serie A teams in 2023-24, Inter gave the fewest minutes to players aged under 23 years old (583), nearly five times fewer than the next lowest (Napoli, 2,492 mins) and well below the likes of Juventus (2,938), Roma (3,015), Milan (3,044) and Bologna (9,384), who gave the second most behind only Frosinone (16,297).

Just four players were given playing time in Serie A for Inter while aged under 23: Kristjan Asllani (558 mins), Ebenezer Akinsanmiro (14), Yann Bisseck (7) and Lucien Agoumé (4), with Bisseck playing 711 further minutes after his 23rd birthday in November.

Inter Squad 2023-24

There’s no doubt that this season has been an extremely successful campaign for Inter, but the succession planning for their older stars should begin this summer with some clever recruitment.

It’s unlikely that any of their title-winning squad will struggle too much with age-related stamina issues next season, but it feels like an ideal time to allow younger players to bed into the squad and build a team to dominate Italian football for the rest of the decade.

For now, we await what the future brings for an undoubtedly talented coach, and how exactly he can build on the positivity of 2023-24.

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