Milan Skriniar has found himself in the spotlight lately after a great season at Sampdoria last season earned him a summer move to Inter. At San Siro, Skriniar has instantly become an integral member of Luciano Spalletti’s defense as Inter look set to challenge Napoli and Juventus for the Serie A title. Skriniar’s positional intelligence, reading of the game, individual defending and progressive passing has seen him force his way into Spalletti’s preferred XI alongside the Brazilian Miranda. The duo have provided the base for Inter’s superb start to the season as they remain unbeaten after winning eight and drawing two of their opening ten matches. Here we take a look at the Slovakian centre-back and his style of play.
Skriniar joined Sampdoria in the January 2016 when joining from Zilina. Skriniar had joined Zilina’s youth setup as a 12-year-old and made his first team debut as a 17-year-old in 2012. After four seasons in the Slovakian top flight, Skriniar had earned his move to Sampdoria where he made three appearances in the second half of the 2015-16 season. The arrival of Marco Giampaolo as head coached changed the outlook for Skriniar at Samp as Giampaolo’s focus on positional defending and short passing combinations meant Skriniar’s abilities were made to play for Giampaolo. Skriniar grew in confidence during the season under the excellent coach and by the end of the season had developed into one of Serie A’s better centre-backs. In total, Skriniar made 35 appearances in Serie A last season, making him the youngest defender in Italy to do so. Despite the presence of Giampaolo, Samp couldn’t keep hold of Skriniar this summer when Inter made him a priority to reinforce their squad ahead of Spalletti’s arrival. Spalletti places a huge importance on the passing ability of his players to ensure a progressive possession style can be employed and Skriniar’s ability to start attacks from the back was one of the reasons he was recruited. Skriniar has since started every game this season as Inter look like title challengers.
Milan Skriniar’s main attribute is probably his football intelligence. The 22-year-old reads the game superbly, which sees him deal with most situations he’s faced with. He can anticipate what opposition forwards will do, he constantly adjust his position in relation to the ball and his teammates, he knows how to distribute the ball and he always seems to be a step ahead of his opponents. With Slovakia, Skriniar often plays in midfield and the experience he’s gained from that role can certainly help his performances in defence. The video below highlights a few situations when Skriniar reads the game well to anticipate passes which he can intercept and therefore regain possession for his team.
In terms of defending the penalty area, Skriniar is a proper defender. He makes clearances and headers to get rid of the ball in the danger area. His heading ability is impressive and his positioning is always good. Whether the crosses are high or low, a good position is the base for any defender. Skriniar’s positional sense is therefore extremely valuable in the way he defends the penalty area. When the ball does come in, Skriniar looks to make sure it goes out quickly. The video below highlights a few of these situations, my favourite is the last clip when he slips but still heads the ball away while on the ground.
Skriniar’s pace and anticipation also makes him a good defender in 1 vs 1 situations. So far this season, he’s gone up against different types of strikers like Edin Dzeko and Dries Mertens but he founds a way to match them, either using physicality and strength or by quick feetwork. When defending 1 vs 1’s it’s important for the defender to always be on their toes to quickly change their feet as the attacker moves the ball. The knees are also supposed to be slightly bent to ensure a lower sense of gravity which improves the balance when turning quickly. Skriniar’s footwork is really good, which can be seen in the video below.
His defensive attributes are great, and his passing ability are near perfect too. With Inter’s emphasis on building attacks from the back, Skriniar’s passing is critical to their play. At the start of the season, Skriniar found himself building attacks from an orthodox right centre-back position but lately Spalletti’s has preferred to create a situational back-three with Miranda to the left, Skriniar in the middle and Danilo D’Ambrosio to the right to create a better balance in the side when building attacks. Skriniar manages both roles with ease and never panics when in possession, even when he’s pressed. His time spent in midfield is probably one factor to this as well as he seems to trust himself in possession. Sometimes his decision making can improve, but mostly Skriniar plays vertical passes in between opposition lines to help Inter progress their attacks. It’s not uncommon to see Skriniar split both the first and second line of opposition pressure, further highlighting his passing ability.
If you stand off him, he can make you pay too. SPAL were nearly severely punished for granting the Slovakian open space when they visited San Siro. What a strike.
To sum up, Milan Skriniar is a superb defender already. The fact he’s only 22-years-old suggests his development can still continue, and his rapid improvement in the last 14 months points to a high ceiling in his performances. Inter will hope he’s nowhere near finished with his development just yet as he can prove to become a rock at the back for a new-look Inter who wants to dominate Italian football again. With the trust of Spalletti and the impressive defensive and attacking structures he’s already created at Inter, Milan Skriniar can be a mainstay of the new Inter. Intelligent, quick, strong, determined and constructive on the ball, Skriniar looks likely to become a great centre-back. At only 22, Skriniar has time on his side to fulfill his potential and going by his progress to date, we can probably expect he’ll do just that.