Inter Milan and Antonio Conte did not have the best of the seasons in 2019/20. They were unable to take advantage of a very poor Juventus side as they finished runner-up behind them. Furthermore, they lost to Napoli in the Copa Italia semi-finals and Sevilla in the Europa League finals.
However, if there was one positive for the blues, it was the evolution of their Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic. The Croatian has evolved into one of the best defensive midfielders in the game. There are numerous reasons behind his evolution. We dive into a few aspects.
Brozovic with the ball
In the 2018/19 season, Brozovic had a passing accuracy of 90%. The reason for the high percentage of Brozovic is because he is a calming influence. His tendency to sit back and allow his attacking players to win matches is vitally important.
Brozovic tends to take the position ahead of the center-backs. He tends to occupy the defensive position and passes it to his other midfield players. If those midfield positions are occupied by the opponent midfielders, he has a great passing range to find either the full-backs or his striker.
In the first game against Leece which Inter won 4-0, he was vital in the team’s build-up play. Brozovic, Vecino, and Sensi created a triangle in the midfield position which allowed them to keep possession by exchanging passes. After the injury to Sensi in the 2-1 defeat to Juventus, Barella came in and he occupied more of an advanced role.
Another great quality of Brozovic’s game with the ball is his ability to switch-up play to eliminate the opposition’s press. In the Champions League game against Barcelona at Camp Nou, Valverde’s team played a very high press. To combat that press, Inter used Brozovic as an outlet to give lofted passes into the wide areas.
Along with the lofted pass, Brozovic also has the quality to find the final pass from the deep. If you guys know the influence of Xabi Alonso in Real Madrid and Liverpool, you would know how he used to find his strike partners from the deep.
Brozovic averaged 1.2 passes per game in the 2019/20 season for Inter Milan. His ability to create chances from the deep is one of the reasons behind Lukaku’s career-best season of 34 goals for a season.
Brozovic without the ball
If you are a great defensive midfielder, you must know how to position yourself without the ball. Marcelo Brozovic is a great example of that.
In the opening game against Leece, Brozovic used to sit deep in the midfield position and just ahead of his 3 center-backs. He used to play as a “bridge” between his defense and the attack. Skriniar, De Vrij, and Godin used to supply the pass to the midfielder before the Croatian used to look for his counter partners.
In the 2018/19 games under Spalletti, Brozovic used to be an outlet to eliminate the first press of the opponent. Skriniar used to be the ball-carrier and the Croatian tended to come into space ahead of the opponent strikers. Once the press was evaded, Brozovic can take control and find his attacking players to set up the attack.
In a 3-4-3 formation of Antonio Conte, the defensive midfielder is critical in the interceptions and creating counter-attacking situations for his teams. Brozovic has been exactly that for the former Chelsea manager. The Croatian’s tendency to split the opponent attacks and create instability within the opponent defensive lines is integral to Inter Milan.
In the World Cup 2018, much was said about the pivot of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Luka Modric was named the player of the world cup and later on won the Ballon d’Or in 2018. However, people need to go in detail and see the Croatian midfield. Brozovic was a calming influence that allowed Rakitic and Modric to pick more advanced roles. In the 3-0 win against Argentina, Brozovic was crucial to the team’s third goal which Rakitic scored as he intercepted the build-up of Argentina.
Antonio Conte has been under a lot of scrutiny. There were reports that he almost had left his position as the manager of the 2010 Champions League winners. However, the board has decided to carry on with him with the expectation of him landing Inter some silverware in 2020/21 season. If Conte wants to ensure trophies at the club, he must keep Brozovic.
There are reports linking the Croatian midfielder with Bayern Munich as the Treble Winners are seeking a replacement of Thiago, who is likely to join Premier League champions, Liverpool. However, Conte must try to keep him at any costs if he wants to close the gap on Juventus.