For a second, Antonio Conte burst back into life on the touchline on Wednesday evening.
The Italian has been pilloried by the Italian media for a change in approach, his usual fiery outbursts swapped for a more measured demeanour, but it all came to a head as he watched Arturo Vidal pick up the most avoidable of red cards.
The frustration of the Inter boss boiled over, as he watched his side’s grip on the game, and their Champions League campaign slip away. In turn, Conte’s grasp on the Inter hotseat is also loosening.
Antonio Conte is losing his grip at Inter after a disastrous showing in the Champions League
The Serie A giants need a minor miracle after failing to win any of their first four matches
The defeat at home by Real Madrid has left the Nerazzuri in need of a minor miracle to reach the last 16. They have failed to win any of their first four group matches – with disappointing draws against Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Monchengladbach followed up by back-to-back losses to Zinedine Zidane’s men.
That has given Conte the dubious record of possessing the worst Champions League record of any Inter manager in the club’s history. His record of two victories in 10 matches is worse than any of the eight previous bosses to have led the Serie A giants into at least five matches in the competition.
Conte will be hoping to improve on that record as a minimum expectation when they face Gladbach and Shakhtar in the final two games, but they will be relying on either Borussia Monchengladbach or Real Madrid to lose both their final games to have any hopes of progressing.
Failing that, a return to the Europa League will be expected, a competition in which the former Chelsea boss led his side to the final last season, before they lost 3-2 to Sevilla in the final.
The European capitulation is not a good look for a man who waged war against the board during the summer after taking them to task over a perceived lack of support for himself and his players after finishing second in Serie A last season.
Speaking on the final day of last season, the 51-year-old laid into his club’s owners.
Arturo Vidal’s actions during the defeat by Real Madrid summed up the club’s sorry state
‘It has been a tough year on a personal level, very tough,’ he told reporters.
‘I don’t think the players saw their work recognised and I don’t think I saw my work recognised. We all received very little protection from the club.’
It is safe to say, there has been little protection coming this season to date, following their troubled start.
Making matters worse is their stuttering start on a domestic front this campaign, registering just four wins from their opening eight fixtures, and already sitting five points behind city rivals Milan in the table.
There is an over-reliance up top on Romelu Lukaku, who has seven goals in seven Serie A appearances. It is at the other end where there is more alarm.
Their have been extenuating circumstances, with Conte’s team hit by the Covid crisis, forcing him to field his trusted three-man defence method without his first choice triumvirate.
Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni have been missing at various intervals, either through enforced quarantine, forcing the man in charge to delve into his reserves.
There is an over-reliance on Romelu Lukaku at the San Siro to produce the goods for the club
Andrea Rannochia and Danilo D’Ambrosio have been among those to step into the void, but the result has been catastrophic for a defence that could point to the meanest record in Italy last season.
They conceded just 36 goals last term, at a rate of fewer than one a game. Already this term, after just 8 matches, that total is 13.
It is a stat, that clearly irks Conte, and he expressed his frustration in response to questions over their defensive ineptitude during the 4-2 victory over Torino last weekend.
‘Organisation is all well and good,’ he said. ‘But if there’s nothing personal in there, none of your determination and human values, it’s not going to be enough.’
New personnel is always an option in these situations, only Inter’s form on fresh bodies under Conte has also been a cause for concern.
While this summer saw the arrivals of Achraf Hakimi and Vidal, those prominent names have failed to hit the ground running. Others, such as Aleksandar Kolarov have proved even more puzzling.
No signing highlights the current discord at the San Siro more so than Christian Eriksen.
The purchase of Christian Eriksen is an example of off-field issues that have not helped Conte
Heralded as a coup just 10 months ago, the Dane looks set to leave after a disastrous Italian venture, with talks of a return to the Premier League in the offing.
That could also be an option for Conte, too.
In a recent interview, he revealed a desire to return to the UK to pick up another managerial position.
Recently linked with the Manchester United job, Conte told The Telegraph: ‘I have this season and another year of my contract at Inter and I started a project here, and, honestly, I want to continue this project and stay for many years because we are building the bases.
‘But, for sure, in my future, I want to come back to England to have another experience because I enjoyed my stay there a lot and to breathe the atmosphere in England.’
He may find that atmosphere even more preferable to the toxic one filling the corridors of the San Siro should Inter’s troubles persist in the coming weeks.
Conte enjoyed success at Chelsea and has suggested he would be keen on a return to England
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