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OP-ED: Captain Mauro Icardi must carry Inter to Europe

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Mauro Icardi scored four goals on the weekend for Inter as they trampled over Sampdoria 5-0, further proving the Argentine will have to carry the Nerazzurri to a top four finish.

For the entire 2017-18 Serie A season, Inter have been carried through the fire and difficult spells of form by their captain Mauro Icardi. Of course, that sort of responsibility comes with the territory of strapping on the armband, but perhaps Sunday afternoon’s poker by the Argentine is a sign of things to come, and indicates that he will have to do much more heavy lifting than initially anticipated entering the campaign.

Icardi, who became the sixth-youngest player to score 100 Serie A goals with his masterclass at the Luigi Ferraris, is on 22 goals this season for the Champions League hopefuls. To get a perspective of just how vital the 25-year old is to the Nerazzurri and their quest for a top four finish, here are some interesting statistics:

• Inter have scored 47 total goals this season as a club, 22 of which are credited to Icardi; that is 47% of the team’s entire output.

• Inter have conceded just 21 goals in 28 matches, and Icardi has single-handedly outscored the opposition.

• Behind Icardi, Inter’s next highest scorers are Ivan Persic (8) and Milan Skriniar (4).

Perhaps there are deeper football analytics and advanced metrics to explain further Icardi’s importance, but it’s quite clear by his goal output and the facts listed above that the former Sampdoria bomber is Inter’s heavyweight lifter; maxing out his talents to the best of his ability in order to elevate those around him to meet his level of performance.

As the current Serie A table shows, Inter sit in fourth place on 55 points – with a match in their back pocket being the Milan Derby which has been scheduled for 4 April. When looking at the season’s final stretch here for manager Luciano Spalletti and Inter, its going to take more from the captain to ensure that coveted European berth is secured as these fixtures forecast some possible turbulence towards the end of May.

The Road Ahead

• (H) vs Hellas Verona 3/31

• (A) vs A.C. Milan 4/4

• (A) vs Torino 4/8

• (A) vs Atalanta 4/14

• (H) vs Cagliari 4/17

• (A) vs Chievo 4/22

• (H) vs Juventus 4/29

• (A) vs Udinese 5/6

• (H) vs Sassuolo 5/13

• (A) vs Lazio 5/20

After battling their worst form of the campaign, Inter have managed to pick themselves a bit lately, collecting 7 points from their last three matches (wins over Benevento and Sampdoria, draw with Napoli). Yet, more than just the results alone, the Milanese club seem to be getting a few of their key men back into form at the right time, including Ivan Perisic who, when on the same wavelength as Icardi, can inflict damage.

Roberto Gagliardini and Marcelo Brozovic also appear to be co-existing quite well in Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1 as the double pivot, allowing for Inter to make things happen through the midfield and open up January signing Rafinha to create between the lines as the linking piece of getting Icardi proper service to strike.

https://twitter.com/italianfd/status/975388027190235136?s=21

Mauro Icardi is of the poacher breed. While he can run in behind the defence, fend off a latching central defender and finish with conviction, there is no denying that he is of a different caliber number nine when there is a steady stream of service coming his way in the penalty area.

As we witnessed against Sampdoria, and many times throughout this season, all it takes for Icardi to decide a match on his own is a single touch and slight window of the goal. And if his supporting cast can continue feeding him with enough chances, rest assured, Icardi would have no issue in carrying Inter to the Champions League – which is exactly what he must do.

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Senior Editor and Social Media Manager of Italian Football Daily. Milanista from New Jersey, USA. Follow me on Twitter at @Matt_Santangelo.

@ItalianFD

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