Inter has been a very easy team to predict and break down for quite a few years now.
This year however it looks a lot more difficult and I'm not really sure what will happen which I'm sure this preview will reflect.
For starters. removing Ibrahimovic from this team spells huge change and the right tactical adjusments are very needed but what they'll actually be I'm not sure about at all.
Fortunately for Inter fans, in Jose Mourinho they have a brilliant coach with a great track record of turning teams into consistent winners.
To make it perfectly clear despite all the brutal misconception from mainly the english speaking media, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the best players in the world and quite frankly irreplaceable.
It's been quite humorous if tediously predictable to observe the british media's reaction of more or less total bewilderment following the Zlatan/Eto'o deal.
What is going on these people thought? Samuel Eto'o the much better player is being swapped for someone not even that good and on top of it they give up the staggering amount of 46 million Euro + former Arsenal great Alexander Hleb, just to get him!
Even more predictable, sadly enough, the followup reaction to that, the usual combination of ignorance and arrogance from football journalists so removed from reality that they're quite certain they know better than the football mind of man just responsible for creating what last season was one of the best teams in history, and without much thought at all more than willing to call that man out on the silliness that was the thought (what thought surely?!) behind his transfer.
Overall it must be one of the most shining examples of any doubt about the utter wrongness of the collective assessment by a group of little knowing journalists, being swept away by the amazing dose of reality that was the astronomical value of a player, THAT they didn't really rate.
Did these people even watch Ibrahimovic regularly. At Ajax? In Serie A for Juventus and Inter?
Every year where he was a key player in securing the championship. Or THE key player.
Even at his so called bad year for Juve he was actually pretty good.
That the team he is on is basically winning the championship every year, shouldn't that at least appeal to what's generally very results oriented thinking.
Instead, enter the big game myth. This or that player, in this case Ibrahimovic, isn't a "big game player".
Often used as the last straw to grab onto when in denial about whatever great player's qualities, it's been wrongly used over and over.
Of the top of my head everyone of these players I remember not being so called "big game players" at various stages in their careers:
Ronaldo was not a "big game" player cause his team lost a World Cup final to a great France team?
Zidane was not a "big game" player. cause omg Juventus lost a championship league final where he was actually injured.
Christian Ronaldo was not a "big game player" cause if he was why didn't Manchester United win the Champions League every year?
And right now Zlatan definitely is NOT a "big game" player cause all he does is win one league championship after another. And you're obviously a much better player if you're good in one game instead of 38!
Of course it's all pure nonsense constructed using misconceptions and tiny sample sizes.
What makes Ibrahimovic excellent is his strenght/technique combination and when on top of that he is blessed with great vision, creativity and flair, you have a truly unique player who can both be a great striker, a great playmaker as well as an effective targeman or simply a moving-around, versatile forward.
The only things really I can see Eto'o at this point in his career doing better than Ibrahimovic is the accelaration on the first meters and that quickly released out of nowhere great shot of his, that's resulted in many goals.
Ibrahimovic however is a much better passer and more creative. To a point that could make Barca this year the best attacking team that we've ever seen. Yes I said it.
He is also stronger which really helps against teams (like against Chelsea where Eto'o was useless) with a strong physical team defense, and perhaps most importantly he is much more durable and unlike Eto'o can carry a team throughout a season.
It just wasn't for fun or out of charity they gave Eto'o plus tons of money away to secure Ibrahimovic. It's because Guardiola rightly think of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as being on a higher level than Samuel Eto'o and that Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes the team better than Samuel Eto'o does.
So with almost no hope of replacing such an elite player (the only right here, right now option I see is Mourinho darling, Didier Drogba) Inter for the first time since calciopoli crippled their nearest rivals, have some real questionmarks.
On paper they still look like the strongest and deepest team but when they can't replace the great player who in many ways carried them, they're in a situation where they are forced to try and do new things, and with that comes the uncertainty.
Not helping at all is that they'll be without, for some time, one of best central midfielders in the world, Esteban Cambiasso.
One thing that's worked great for Inter is the midfield diamond but while that midfield worked well with Ibrahimovic, more uncertain is how well it would work with a front duo of Eto'o and Milito.
Not that Milito and Eto'o are bad. Quite the opposite. They're both excellent strikers and one of the strongest duos around, easily. But they're two strikers who usually feed of a nice passing game. Providing the excellent finishing touches, TO that.
Eto'o as we all know for years now at Barcelona but Milito as well for Genoa and before that for Zaragoza.
Remember, the sadly way too short time, before it all went wrong, when Zaragoza had one of the most exciting attacks in Europe?
The coach was attacking mastermind Víctor Fernández and through dazzling passing and technical play, players like Pablo Aimar, D'Alessandro and Milito excelled.
For Inter, Muntari on the other hand is someone who is not a very good passer. Stankovic and the evergreen Zanetti aren't bad but not very fast anymore. The same is the case with Motta and Vieira.
The one midfield player in the diamond who is both a good passer and pretty fast is in fact Cambiasso. Mostly with a defensive role and now unfortunately for Inter out injured.
It's hard to imagine Milito and Eto'o not scoring goals but that midfield in a diamond formation will not provide them with the greatest of service.
It's not all bad of course. The midfield obviously has a lot of other qualities making it very effective and able to get the better of a lot of teams. They just can't rely on the qualities they don't have, being provided by Ibrahimovic anymore.
Enter Mourinho's (rare) call for a trequartista and the various on-going speculation surrounding players such as Deco and now Wesley Sneijder.
If that doesn't materialize putting the 4-4-2 diamond to rest looks likely and even if Sneijder in fact would join, another system might be preferred by Mourinho.
Some sort of version of his abandoned last season 4-3-3 trident attack is definitely an option and would mean the central midfielders behind could have jobs more suiting their strenghts too.
Work really hard. Make runs without the ball, play more direct and cover for the immense Maicon and his runs forward.
Have Maicon be a key to the attack instead of them.
The problem with that trident is the current characteristics of the forwards.
Both Eto'o and Milito have previously in their younger days been able to do well at times in wide-forward roles but especially with Eto'o I wonder if he is still able to do that. That was a role exclusively reserved for Henry at Barca the last few years.
Milito at least has tremendous movement and can definitely be part of a flexible forward line.
But then is whoever the third part reliable enough to maintain the right balance
Would one of Eto'o/Milito have to see the bench in this system?
Quaresma and Mancini's collective hopelessnes (drunken Adriano played his part too) was of course a main reason the system was put to bed last season, but at least one of these would have to be brought back in at least occasionaly for this system to have effective width.
Mancini I almost can't see it happening for, but for Quaresma at least there is realistic hope of a comeback. He is just too young still, and too talented not to make any positive contribution ever again.
Main candidate for the leftside would of course be Balotelli. He has all the talent and upside in the world but is still extremely erratic and immature, resulting in very up and down play.
Outsiders would be David Suazo, back from loan at Benfica (likely just a backup instead of the departed Cruz and Crespo) and talented Marko Armautovic who's playing characteristics have drawn some comparisons to a young Zlatan, and if his ability to play out wide that's been talked about in Holland is for real, plus considering his size, could be just what the doctor ordered for a Mourinho style 4-3-3.
He has struggled with injuries though, so realistically a contribution from him is not something just around the corner.
In the back goalkeeper Julio Cesar has just kept improving and last season was the best keeper in Serie A.
The back-four itself has a lot of experience and the injury concerns that comes with that.
Depth is definitely needed and all in all I think they got it.
Lucio has been brought in and should enjoy playing for a much better defensive team than where he came from, even if what he still enjoys the most is actually taking part of the attacking play! Samuel when healthy can still do a good job on a well balanced side and even though he is an idiot,to a lesser extent the same is the case for dirtiest player in the game Materazzi.
More likeable and better is Chivu, but he of course is also injured a lot.
An interesting case is Ivan Cordoba who has been one of my favorite defenders to watch for many years now.
The way he through amazing instincts and agility have overcome lack of size is something quite unique nowadays for a central defender and throughout it's been great to watch.
Worth watching: Davide Santon: The wonderboy himself has from day one looked extremely impressive and basically within minutes of watching, this was one of the best in the world at his position to me! And he wasn't even playing on what's his natural right side which of course is occupied by Maicon.
He's simply got it all at just 19, and a possible future Maldini or Bergomi is of course a must watch.
I'm still feeling the bitterness of missing round one yesterday. Genoa-Roma especially sounded like it was a great game. But I'm of course not abandoning Serie A, so therefore more to come later.
In the EPL tonight, Liverpool against Aston Villa is an interesting game and I definitely plan to watch that.