ROME, November 15 – Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez is already under pressure just five months into his tenure after club president Massimo Moratti slammed the team for the manner of their derby defeat.
Inter were second best in their 1-0 home defeat to AC Milan on Sunday, in which former charge Zlatan Ibrahimovic notched the winner to rub salt into their wounds.
That defeat left Inter six points off the Serie A summit, occupied by their arch city rivals.
But it was their failure to snatch a result despite playing with a numerical advantage for the last half hour that has really enraged Moratti.
"It wasn’t a great game, not just because we didn’t win but because it wasn’t a great derby," moaned Moratti.
"Neither team managed to express themselves to their maximum. We even had the opportunity to be playing with a numerical advantage but I didn’t see anything worthwhile.
"Even so, it’s not a terrible situation, although obviously it’s not a great one because the derby is the derby and in my opinion you approach it with a different mentality."
Moratti’s last comment will be particularly galling for Benitez, given character was one of the major strengths of this same Inter team under predecessor Jose Mourinho.
But character has been something strangely lacking at Inter this season and their last three league results have screamed that out loud and clear.
They followed up 1-1 draws with newly promoted Lecce and Brescia by failing to find a goal against 10-man Milan.
Under Mourinho, Inter had a reputation for pulling results out of the bag when they needed them most, not least their Champions League clash away to Dynamo Kiev last season when they found two goals in the last five minutes to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.
Had they not scored those two goals, they would almost certainly have been out, but instead they went on to lift the title as they completed an unprecedented treble in Italian football.
But under Benitez, Inter are lacking the fighting spirit, self-confidence and effectiveness they had under Mourinho.
The statistical differences are alarming.
After 12 Serie A games this season, Inter are sixth with just five wins, 20 points and a measily 13 goals.
They are nine points behind the same stage last season, when they were top, and have scored less than half the 29 Mourinho’s team had managed.
And after last season’s treble of Italian league, cup and Champions League, not to mention five scudetto crowns in a row, Moratti has become accustomed to success and so far that hasn’t been forthcoming under Benitez.
Despite mostly maintaining the 4-2-3-1 system employed also by Mourinho, the lack of goals has been alarming.
Although Samuel Eto’o has been in stunning goal-scoring form, of his other forward players, only Diego Milito has notched in the league while Goran Pandev, Coutinho and Jonathan Biabiany are yet to score at all.
For the moment, despite his criticisms, Moratti insists his coach is the right man for the job, although he couldn’t help but reminisce about the good old times under Mourinho.
"Certainly he’s the right man. The coach was hired because he’s one of those people with top drawer experience, calm and the ability to do things well," said Moratti.
"Of course it wasn’t the easiest situation for him to take over a team that had a lot and gave a lot, and making them start over again, but, then again, that’s what he has to do."
So far, Benitez hasn’t managed to do that and if he can’t, then his reign may not last long.