Claudio Ranieri likes Decembers. The coach of Inter Milan, or Mister Fixit as he described himself on being appointed to the latest of his many Serie A managerial positions, has an especially good record in the last month of the year, wherever he has worked.
Yesterday's Gazzetta dello Sport helpfully researched it: in 50 December fixtures, Ranieri teams have lost only nine.
Ranieri's Inter renaissance is gathering pace. A 4-1 victory over Lecce two days ago represented the fourth victory in succession for the 2010 champions and their sixth three-point haul in seven outings. They are racing up the table. Barely two weeks ago, Inter were stuck in 16th spot; they are now fifth, six points behind the Champions League zone.
There are shades in this comeback of Ranieri's now-fabled turning around of Roma two seasons ago. Then, as now, he took over a team who had suffered a terrible start to the campaign. By the last day of the season, Roma had a chance of seizing the scudetto.
Talk of winning the 2011/12 league is roundly dismissed by Ranieri, whose team are still eight points behind AC Milan. Thanks to Juventus's 0-0 draw with Udinese, Milan have finished the calendar year at the summit.
Ranieri would have been grateful if a few of the many scoring chances Inter enjoyed against Lecce had been spread over the season so far. They hit the post or crossbar no fewer than four times.
"When you play like that you know the goals are going to come," said Ranieri, who was pleased with the distribution of the goals. Diego Milito, out of form in recent weeks, scored his first league goal since September. Giampaolo Pazzini netted hours after becoming a father and there was a first Serie A strike for Ricky Alvarez, 23, the Argentine recruit.
Alvarez still has a rawness about him. Ranieri said: "He needs more games to get used to Italy." But he is one of several footballers around whom the veteran coach has strived to move Inter, an ageing squad, forward. The recent run of good form has been achieved thanks to a few of them.
The Dutch striker Luc Castaignos, 19, a summer recruit, scored the winning goal at Siena. The Brazilian Coutinho, 19, played a decisive part in the win against Fiorentina. The defender Marco Faraoni, 20, has made a good impression since being given his first Inter start at the beginning of the month. He, too, has had a good December.