Inter Milan's ownership won't fully back savior, manager Stefano Pioli
Inter Milan coach Stefano Pioli spent the build-up to his team’s game against Atalanta hearing that his bosses wanted a new coach and that Antonio Conte was the main target. Chelsea responded by reportedly working on an extension to the Italian’s current contract at Chelsea–but the feeling remains in Milan that Inter’s Chinese owners want a bigger name than Pioli, who has steadied the ship impressively since replacing Frank de Boer in November.
Recent defeats to Lazio, Juventus and Roma ended a run of eight straight wins, but Inter looks to have rediscovered its mojo. After beating Cagliari 5-1 last week, Sunday it put Atalanta to the sword and romped to a 7-1 triumph.
This is the Atalanta that had been ahead of Inter in Serie A since early October; the one whose coach, Gianpiero Gasperini, had a five-game spell in charge of Inter in 2011; and the club whose youth academy is regularly picked off by the big boys (see Juventus signing breakout star Mattia Caldara). But this Atalanta had no response to an unstoppable early onslaught from Inter; a perfect hat trick–left foot, right foot, header–from Mauro Icardi inside half an hour; and three more from Ever Banega, whose conversion to attacking midfielder is now complete.
Inter is now up to fourth place and trying to chase down Roma and Napoli for a place in the top three.
“This was an exceptional performance where everything we practiced worked perfectly,” said Pioli after the game. “What really counts is our position in the table and that means the next match is always the most important. Today I want to compliment the entire team, as we played with hunger and determination.”
It might be a push too far but reaching the top five would count as success considering the dysfunction at the club when he took over.
That said, it might not be enough to keep him on the bench. And that would be a pity.