Omit their 2-1 win away to Carpi on Matchday Two and Inter Milan’s 2015-16 Serie A record reads like a string of binary code.
Gottfried Leibniz, the 18th century polymath who theorized that all life can be reduced to a series of zeroes and ones, would be well pleased with the simplification of the Nerazzurri’s campaign to date, and to that end Roberto Mancini can be considered a student of the Leibniz school, however unknowingly.
The Inter manager, who won three Scudetti at San Siro before departing for Manchester City in 2009, has never been much of a stylist. En route to his Premier League triumph of 2012 he and his team were serenaded by looping renditions of "Boring, boring City," and with his latest unscrambling having produced a run of one-goal victories the criticism has followed him back to Italy.
"Are Inter boring?" he asked rhetorically ahead of Wednesday’s match at home to Hellas Verona. "They also said that at City. I hope the situation will be the same at the end."
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Given Inter’s eighth-place finish last season it’s remarkable that Mancini can even contemplate such a scenario.
Champions Juventus, however, have made a botched start to the current Italian campaign and conceded late to split the points with promoted Frosinone the last time out. Presumed contenders Roma and Napoli, meanwhile, have combined for just three wins to date, and neither prevailed in their midweek encounters.
Inter have taken advantage of those slip-ups and going into this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with Fiorentina they lead the second-place Viola by three points. Mancini, who admits his side are a work in progress, claims he’s only looking for continued improvement, although he’d surely take another 1-0 decision.
"Our performances will improve game by game; it takes one step at a time," he mused in the moments following the Verona victory. "Are we Scudetto favourites? Maybe until the next game, as it will certainly be tough against Fiorentina."
Should Saturday’s line-up be similar to the one that began the Verona match Mancini will be starting at least six players acquired by the club during the summer transfer period. He reportedly asked Erick Thohir for 10 recruits, and while Matteo Kovacic and Xherdan Shaqiri were offloaded to ensure Financial Fair Play compliance the team owner obliged by well near overhauling the squad.
Atletico Madrid defender Miranda was a key addition, and in tandem with midfielder-turned-centre-back Gary Medel has pushed both Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia to the bench; Alex Telles, formerly of Gremio and Galatasaray, is already the preferred left-back.
Up front the likes of Adem Ljajic, on loan from Roma, and Ivan Perisic, the result of a months-long negotiation with Wolfsburg, provide support for striker Mauro Icardi, while Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic, who has scored three of Inter’s six goals this term, is already looking more like the forward who twice tallied at least 13 times in Serie A for Fiorentina than the one who battled form and fitness at Eastlands.
Geoffrey Kondogbia—a €28 million capture from Monaco—operates behind them and has completed 88 percent of his passes this season while showing a willingness to attack opponents with the ball in midfield.
But perhaps none of Inter’s signings so encapsulates the Mancini philosophy as Felipe Melo—the erstwhile Brazil international who represented Fiorentina and Juventus before moving to Galatasaray in 2011.
Always passionate, frequently brutish and sometimes vicious, the 32-year-old is the sort of player who prides himself in destroying opposition patterns of ball movement. Mancini, incidentally, made similar use of Nigel de Jong during his title-winning campaign at Manchester City.
Since debuting against city rival*’s AC Milan the midfielder has completed 85 percent of his passes—many of them in the 20-metre range—and contributed three interceptions and a whopping 13 clearances. Crucially, he also popped up with the header that vanquished Verona.
"We have to think of winning every single game," he offered earlier in the week. "We are warriors."
It’s a term Dejan Stankovic, the first team manager, also used in a Thursday interview when he remarked that the Nerazzuri were "a battling team with 11 warriors."
Added Melo: "There are teams who have won 5-0, and then not won. It’s better to win 1-0 but be consistent."
Words with which Mancini can no doubt identify. Leibniz as well.
For what it’s worth, 10100110 on the RGB colour model is azure blue.
Jerrad Peters is a Winnipeg-based writer. Follow him on Twitter