Atletico Madrid
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Frank de Boer's tactical rigidity is costing Inter points this season

Inter's upcoming Sunday clash with Cagliari is the first in a five-game slate against modest opposition, with Atalanta, Torino, Sampdoria and Crotone sandwiching the double date with Southampton in the Europa League.

A welcome relief for a side currently in ninth in Serie A, seven points off the top, right? Wrong.

Those seven points were, after all, lost against relative minnows; Chievo took all three on opening day, Bologna and Palermo the other four. Oddly enough, even the Nerazzurri's win first win of the season -- against a promoted Pescara -- was hardly cause for celebration.

That result was earned at the death, after Inter had looked slow, predictable and weak at the back for 80 minutes; the victims of a possession-based game that coach Frank de Boer ha preached from the beginning.

Fans thought their team had turned a corner when thy knocked off champions Juventus in a thrilling 2-1 comeback, only to be brought back down before the international break, when the Nerazzurri's attempt at controlling possession resulted in defeat to Roma.

Rather alarmingly, De Boer somehow judged his side to have dominated for 70 minutes at the Olimpico, but they lost the ball so easily. Is gifting Mohamed Salah acres of space a sign of dominance, or the mark of a Scudetto contender? The Dutch coach should have thanked his lucky stars that his men weren't four down at the half, courtesy of a profligate Giallorossi.

The truth is, the Nerazzurri will struggle to play this kind of football and succeed. History shows that playing attacking football rarely guarantees a Scudetto come May.

Inter MilanInter Milan
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Juventus' recent rivals, Napoli and Roma, are a pair of examples. As is the last Serie A champion to play what many consider to be champagne football: Carlo Ancelotti's AC Milan back in 2004, the only league title the Bayern Munich manager won in Italy as a coach. Is it a coincidence that another attacking thinker, Arrigo Sacchi, only triumphed once himself, or that his defensive successor in Fabio Capello won four in five seasons?

Modern football itself doesn't seem to be so hot on possession-based football anyway: Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016 by walling themselves into their own half, Leicester City are still defending Premier League champions and Pep Guardiola's Bayern were sent into a nosedive by Atletico Madrid's dogged Cholismo in last year's Champions League.

While it is going too far to say that De Boer should ignore his instincts, we may have cause for concern if he doggedly persists with these tactics if the results don't back him up. Rather like Rafa Benitez -- who hasn't won a league title since 2004, oddly enough -- the Dutchman pulled off a masterful game plan when faced with a favourite (Juventus) but took little time to revert to form once the danger had passed.

The tactics seen at the Olimpico make less and less sense the more one thinks about them. Is dominating games that much more important than winning them? Would Inter fans prefer to relive the Pescara game over the comfortable trip to Empoli?

It was one thing to play possession-based football when De Boer had a raft of Ajax youngsters who had been reared on just that philosophy. It's quite another to do the same thing with Gary Medel, Danilo D'Ambrosio and the like.

The state of the defence only makes this possession approach even more foolhardy. It surely isn't a coincidence that Inter looked far more solid when Roberto Mancini was bricking up the penalty area, helping Jeison Murillo grow into his role.

Far from "losing the ball easily," De Boer's men were set up to fail against Roma, and put into situations where their technique, fitness and training were clearly insufficient to guarantee anything but catastrophe. Just because Joao Mario wandered with purpose between the lines against Juve doesn't mean he can face a packed Roma defence knowing that the slightest error will allow Salah to run at Davide Santon.

This weekend's game against Cagliari isn't just a chance to earn three points against a promoted side, it's the chance to see whether De Boer is willing to adapt and improve. Serie A scared away a future Champions League winner in Luis Enrique for committing much the same error, after all.

Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.


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