Antonio Conte maintains he is ‘a democratic coach’ and eager to create competition for places within his Inter squad, spurring Alexis Sanchez and Achraf Hakimi to give more, and won’t hide from Scudetto talk.
The Nerazzurri needed a pair of Alexis Sanchez goals in the second half to conquer the Stadio Tardini, beating Parma 2-1.
It allows them to go six points clear of Milan at the top of the Serie A table with their sixth consecutive victory.
Conte knew it would be tough, which is why the only player he rested from his usual XI was Lautaro Martinez.
“I don’t think it was an ugly game, as we scored two goals and had many other chances to extend our lead,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“Having said that, we know Parma always caused us problems, they have strong players and an excellent coach. They were trying to draw us out and then split us in two with knock-downs from Juraj Kucka.
“Parma deserve compliments and I think they have everything required to save themselves this season. I said that Genoa and Parma would be the test of our maturity, because we needed to sharpen our talons and show determination in every fixture, not just the big ones.
“We conceded an avoidable goal, but other than that, I don’t think Samir Handanovic made many big saves.”
In the final minutes, Conte grabbed Achraf Hakimi by the side of the head, shouted in his face and slapped him on the back of the head, all of it a very passionate congratulations.
“He was fantastic in stoppages, he went to press the Parma player and push him out of a danger zone, so I wanted to grab him by the head and say Bravo! These players are working really hard, showing application and learning the lessons.”
Just as Christian Eriksen managed to surpass Arturo Vidal in the pecking order, Conte is encouraging competition for places.
“I think that I am a very democratic coach, so I give nothing for free and I am patient to a certain degree. We have a team and the individual comes after that, so everyone has to think in that sense if they want to get along with me.
“I’ve found a group of lads who are eager and willing to fight for each other. Hakimi is an example, one of many, as at times he would attack and forget to defend, so he cooled his heels on the bench for a few games. He learned.
“Darmian replaced Hakimi last week and I think he was Man of the Match against Genoa.”
Alexis Sanchez replaced Lautaro Martinez this evening and scored his first brace in the Inter jersey.
“As I said, he is in the best condition we’ve ever seen him at the moment. We were patient with him too. He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. It’s important for us to create these situations with competition for places.
“Don’t forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he’s now in Serie B at Venezia.
“I’ve never had any choices to make here. I just had to pray and hope nobody got injured. Now I actually have some choice and it’s a wonderful feeling.
“The players know I am democratic, I choose who deserves it and they all feel they are involved in this project.”
Inter are six points clear of Milan, with Juventus even further back, so are they running away with the Scudetto?
“We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone. That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.
“We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we’ll be very happy and proud, because it’ll mean we’ve made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time.”