20 October 2019 12:41

In Conte’s trademark 3-5-2 shape, Lukaku has majorly played alongside Lautaro Martinez.

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Inter midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah posted a photo of himself training on Instagram yesterday ahead of today's game against Sassuolo. The 30-year-old Ghanaian, contracted to the Nerazzurri until 2021, has been an important part of coach Antonio Conte's squad so far this season, appearing in all but one game, starting in each appearance. The only game he missed was the Nerazzurri's 1-0 victory over Lazio last month. Asamoah posted the photo of himself training alongside the caption: "Back on track, ready to restart!" Romelu Lukaku's move to Inter was met with a mixed response from Manchester United and Nerazzurri fans alike. United were letting go of a striker who had become a scapegoat.

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But Inter were getting a man who was expected to fit right into Antonio Conte's system. After much negotiation, the two clubs finally agreed a deal in early August. United failed to replace Lukaku but Inter saw the former Everton man score on his first-team debut against Lecce. Many expected Lukaku to do bigger things at Inter, while others felt that he would be exposed even more. But his start has gleamed of promise and encouragement.

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Antonio Conte's comments suggest he isn't entirely happy but Lukaku has already scored thrice for the Nerazzurri. In Conte's trademark 3-5-2 shape, Lukaku has majorly played alongside Lautaro Martinez. But Matteo Politano has also played alongside/behind him sometimes. Lukaku has been used as the last man up front and he often sticks to the last man of the opposition defence. He has scored thrice this season.

His goal against Lecce was a typical centre-forward's goal, as he tapped it in from close range. The goal against Cagliari was a penalty that Sensi won when Lukaku had played him in. His third against Milan was a classic looping header off a Nicolo Barella cross from the left. The Belgian has won the highest number of aerial duels per game in the Inter side, winning 4.4 per game. He also ranks the third-highest in the league for the same stat, behind Diego Godin and Bruno Alves (via Whoscored) His pace and power has been crucial to Conte's system. When on the ball, he has been taking on defenders. The combination of that pace and power has been a huge problem when he dribbles as the opposition. It is a trait that is very unique in him- something not may Serie A strikers do today. He has completed 0.9 dribbles per game and more than that, he is getting the service from a well-oiled midfield. They are working in perfect cohesion. That helps Lukaku. That was hardly the case at United. He has thrived when he has played close to the opposition backline. For example, his role was slightly different against Juventus. Inter were often playing deeper as Juve kept hold of possession. Lukaku had to play deeper, as a result. He had a poor game against the Turin side, unsurprisingly. The 26-year-old did win four aerial duels and completed two dribbles, but his hold-up was poor. He gave the ball away once and had a passing percentage of 62 percent (via Whoscored) He has often been given the task to hold the ball up so that Stefano Sensi enters the attack quicker. It was the case against Juve. After Sensi went off injured and Matias Vecino came on, Juve grew into the game. Inter lost their midfield charm and Lukaku suffered too, because of that. In games like the Milan one, Lukaku enjoyed himself. Milan tried to keep possession under Marco Giampaolo. But they struggled. Lukaku played closer to Alessio Romagnoli and Matteo Mussachio. The Belgian scored in this game and it came right when Inter had switched to a 3-4-3 system. He won as many as seven aerial duels and playing closer to goal meant he took three shots on target (via Whoscored) The performances against Lecce and Cagliari were the same. He was closer to goal and closer to opposition defenders. He scored in both the games and was one of the best players on the pitch. At Inter, one thing works remarkably in Lukaku's favour. Conte's system is working already. Lukaku had scored 17 times in Jose Mourinho's second season at United (via Transfermarkt). One big reason for that was the presence of a settled system. He was the focal point of that system- like he is under Conte. The performances of Sensi, Barella and Marcelo Brozovic would give any striker a lift in confidence. Their engine-like working has been key to the system and Lukaku has benefitted massively. Lautaro Martinez was the sort of signing that Serie A clubs are known for. These signings are often reminiscent of legendary names like Gabriel Batistuta, Cafu, Kaka and Hernan Crespo. Martinez's move to Inter did quite the same. And he seems to be on the right track in the bid to follow some lofty names. His well-taken goal against Barcelona in the Champions League raised many eyebrows. It was almost like a global audience had seen him from up-close for the first time. And Lautaro didn't disappoint. Inter did go on to lose the game but Martinez won many hearts. The Argentine was probably the Nerazzurri's best player on that night at the Nou Camp. His movement off the ball always caused Barca problems and he always looked a threat whenever he got on the ball. So far this season, Lautaro has scored three times in all competitions, assisting once (Whoscored). Playing alongside Sergio Aguero, he also scored twice for Argentina in the Copa America earlier in the summer. He did have a bad game against Slavia in the Champions League but more than the goals he has scored, it is work rate that impressed everyone. He did very well against Juventus too, even though Inter lost 2-1. The 22-year-old slotted away the penalty and if not for Romelu Lukaku's failures, the Nerazzurri may have got something out of the game. Despite playing up front, he made four tackles in that game. His small stature is never a help against a towering defence like Juve's, but he still won two aerial duels in that game. Lautaro also attempted more dribbles than anyone else in the game (via Whoscored). He isn't a striker who sticks close to the last defender and works him. While Lukaku does that job, Martinez presses and hurries the opposition off the ball when they build from the back. Stefano Sensi can also push up and form a 3-4-1-2 to apply an intense press upfront. Because of that, he brings in something new to the plate than what Inter have. Lukaku boasts of strength and aerial ability. Matteo Politano has direct pace. Alexis Sanchez has a bit of everything. But none of them possess the energy and work-rate of Martinez. This allows Conte to use him as the pressing trigger. Martinez loves a dribble as well. As much as his work-rate impresses many, his ability to get on the ball and run at the opposition always causes problems. He has recorded the second-highest number of dribbles per game this season – 1.3. Due to that and his tendency to press the opposition, he has also been fouled the most in the current Inter side (Whoscored). Conte loves a striker like him- a battler who will do more than just score. Lautaro is pretty much like a complete package of a striker who possesses the trademark the South American tenacity and fire. That is exactly what the former Juve manager saw in Carlos Tevez at the Old Lady and in Diego Costa at Chelsea. Having someone like Martinez works in his favour. The two-striker system seems to suit Lautaro more than the 4-2-3-1 that Luciano Spalletti used last season. He could not get on the ball as much as he would have liked but often dropped deep to allow widemen like Politano and Keita Balde to make runs forward and cut inside. If he had played as the second striker, he could have scored more than six goals. While he can still perform that job, but he also plays in a two-striker formation for the national team. Paulo Dybala can play upfront with or Aguero can. For how much Inter spent on him – 22 million euros, he has already done enough to satisfy that tag. In a football world where it is tough to find quality strikers for that fee, the Nerazzurri have unearthed a gem. His release clause of 111 million euros defines as to what he means to Inter. It is still early days but he is on his way to being another South American superstar in Calcio. He only needs his goals tally to increase. He is already a fans' favourite. The rest will follow.

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