Few midfielders found the bottom of the goal this week. Here are the top 5 performers. Continue reading
Some strong performances from defenders in this week, but not many clean sheets Here is the top five. Continue reading
A week with some massive matches and some surprising results. Let’s take a look at the five goalkeepers that fared better: only three of them gained points. Continue reading
It has not been an easy start of the season for young goalkeepers in Serie A. There have been a couple of highpoints, but most of them are stuck on bad teams and have inevitably conceded several goals. The two best ones are relatively surprising. Lazio’s Tomas Strakosha came out of nowhere last season after an injury to Federico Marchetti, but firmly managed to beat out the veteran goalie afterwards. A very explosive player, he has capped off a terrific start with a game-winning save on a Paulo Dybala penalty in Juventus-Lazio.
Roma’s Alisson has not had the same flashy plays but, after a year as an understudy behind Wojciech Szczesny, he has been extremely reliable. He has improved his game, eliminating the small blunders of the past. It also helps that Roma has had so far one of the best defensive phases in the League: they have allowed only five goals, tied with Inter and Napoli as league’s best.
Gianluigi Donnarumma is obviously a generational talent and he is head and shoulder above the other prospects. Unfortunately, Milan’s defence has been very leaky and he has not been able to save the day. After an incredible 2016/2017, a slight regression could be justifiable, but he was not severely at fault in any of the 13 goals already conceded by the Rossoneri. He will have plenty of suitors next summer if Milan does not qualify to Champions League.
Mattia Perin has become an established name in Serie A: at 24-year-old, his acrobatic and daring style has proved to be effective. Knee injuries have slowed him down in the past, but if he had a clean year from that standpoint it could be time for him to make the jump to a bigger club. Alessio Cragno returned to Cagliari as a starter after a productive loan spell at Benevento: he has shown some flashes, but he has been a little inconsistent and has had to endure a couple of small physical ailments. The Sardinian club has also one of the worst backlines in Serie A.
Alex Meret is supposed to be the next great Italian goalkeeper, alongside Donnarumma, unfortunately he has yet to play this season because of the dreaded sports hernia. Alfred Gomis has started in his place at Spal so far and has been serviceable. Meret is owned by Udinese, like Simone Scuffet, whom Udinese gave the starting job this summer over Orestis Karnezis. However, the youngster has not been able to recapture his 2013/2014 form, when he had an impressive debut in Serie A. A few big mistakes costed him his spot, which has been given to the experienced Albano Bizarri.
There are a couple of talented goalkeepers still regularly sitting on the bench. Lukazs Skorupski was excellent last season at Empoli and he was Roma’s fall-back plan if Alisson disappointed, but that has not happened and they might be better off moving him in January. Pierluigi Gollini has played here and there at Atalanta, but Etrit Berisha has still a firm grip on the starting job.
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The relegation race in Serie A is mostly going as planned: the freshly promoted teams, Benevento, Hellas Verona and Spal, are knee-deep into it, alongside a couple of sides that have gravitated in those positions in the past, such as Cagliari and Genoa. The only mild surprises are Udinese and especially Sassuolo, which were expected to be a tad better and avoid troubles. The season is long and they will probably pull away in the upcoming months, leaving the battle to the first five.
There have already been a couple of head-to-head matches down there and Crotone showed they have a little advantage over the other contenders. In the last two games, the Sharks easily defeated Benevento at the Scida stadium and then came away from Ferrara with a tie. Two massive results. Spal built last season’s promotion on their home performances and they will struggle mightily if they do not rack up points at the Mazza stadium: they still looked better than a couple of competitors, but their road map is clear and the opportunities are slim. Hellas Verona and Benevento have looked very disorganized and have been heavily hit by the injury bug.
Crotone lost a good amount talent in the summer, because their best players were either on loan, such as Diego Falcinelli and Lorenzo Crisetig, or because they sold them before or during the season and then temporarily took them back, like Gianmarco Ferrari and Leonardo Capezzi. However, they have worked well in the summer and managed to replace almost all of them.
Crotone confirmed Davide Nicola on the bench, and they could not have done otherwise after the incredible late comeback last season. As a result, they have a clear idea of who they are and what they need to do. They have a basic tactic and a straightforward game plan: they will be end up being outplayed by better teams more often than not, but they always put up a fight and have more experience in these situations. They are scrappy.
In the summer, they brought in several players, almost in a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” type of mentality. Arlind Ajeti seems to have overtaken Leandro Cabrera as starting centre-back: he does not have Ferrari’s upside, but he is a gritty defender. Marco Davide Faraoni is more solid than Mario Sampirisi. Rolando Mandragora has been as good as anticipated: a highly touted prospect at Genoa, he suffered a couple of big injuries, but now that he is being given consistent playing time he is back on track. The midfield duo with Andrea Barberis is sneaky interesting. They could find at least one more solid contributor in the crop of remaining newcomers: Daniel Pavlovic, Oliver Kragl, Stefan Simic, Giovanni Crociata and Aristoteles Romero.
The one area they definitely need to improve is in the attack: they scored only four goals, all in the last three games. The coach is still searching for the right combination, but it has been difficult to replace Diego Falcinelli. The returning Ante Budimir has not been as efficient as in Serie B, Marcello Trotta has surprisingly been given little playing time, and Simy is mostly an off-the-bench, late game weapon, but he does have intriguing skills given his size. The coach seems to prefer having a pure centre-forward and a second-striker, but Aleksandar Tonev and Andrea Nalini have both spent time on the shelf and have not find the right condition yet. If Budimir does not work, Nalini-Trotta could be the most explosive couple or they could try Adrian Stoian there as well. Unfortunately, Marco Tumminello suffered an ACL tear: they desperately wanted a youngster who could provide a spark and maybe play more carefreely, without being burdened by the standings. They missed out on Patrick Cutrone, but the Roma striker looked promising and already scored: he could be helpful down the stretch.
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Before the last match, Milan Juric appeared to be on the hottest seat among the coaches whose job is in danger. Genoa lost to Bologna at home, but Juric was not sacked despite the break, which could have helped a newcomer. A decision that has a lot to do with the developments related to the corporate side of the club and with the lack of an extremely convincing alternative. The president Enrico Preziosi talked to the leaders of the locker room, who backed Juric. Replacing him with Andrea Mandorlini did not work last February.
Two weeks ago, the owner was on the verge of selling the club to the SRI group of the entrepreneur Giulio Gallazzi, but the four-month negotiation fell through at the last second over the finishing details. Preziosi is still looking for new investors and has signed with an advisor, while a third-party is making the due diligence: he is pretty much shopping the team around, but this stuff takes time. In such a situation, it is inevitable that the sporting side could fall into the background.
In the meantime, Preziosi has opted to hire Giorgio Perinetti as general manager. His arrival was halted by the potential sale, but the statements by the parties involved made it clear that this had been in the works for a while. Since February, Genoa operated with long-time head of the youth system Mario Donatelli has sporting director. Perinetti has great experience: before supporting Joe Tacopina in his attempt to bring Venezia back to relevancy, he spent time with Roma, Napoli and Juventus and was the main guy at Siena, Palermo and Bari.
After surviving, Juric now needs to produce. The Griffon has collected only two points so far and has yet to win a game. They have not been able to take full advantage of the easier fixtures against Sassuolo, Chievo Verona and Bologna and paradoxically they have fared better, but still came up short, in the tough games with Juventus, Lazio and Inter. As Perinetti put it, they are in a crisis from the results standpoint, but they are playing decently.
Their defence has not been good and their offense has not been consistent: a combination that does not take you very far. Against Cagliari, they will be able to field Armando Izzo, by far their best centre-back, as his six-month ban is over. Juric has tried every combination between Davide Biraschi, Luca Rossettini, Nicolas Spolli, Ervin Zukanovic and Santiago Gentiletti. The pillars he needs to rely on are Izzo and Zukanovic, who should also be tried in the central spot of the three-man backline, where Rossettini’s play has been uneven. Gentiletti has been abysmal so far, Biraschi has been up and down but has room to grow.
Pietro Pellegri has started off brilliantly but then it became clear that he is still raw and can not sustain the attack on his own. Andrej Galabinov is a little too allergic to scoring to be a regular starter in Serie A, but Gianluca Lapadula is expected to return soon and will help them in that department. The coach is also reportedly ready to move from 3-4-3 to 3-5-1-1 to make the formation stouter. A slimmed down Adel Taarabt has been a spark on the left wing and he can play as no.10 as well, while they have not got much from the third attacker, whether it was the promising Federico Ricci, Goran Pandev, Raffaele Palladino or Ricardo Centurion. A three-man midfield would feature Luca Rigoni, who was inexplicably banished but has the kind of experience that is vital in the relegation race, or one of the interesting youngsters Stephane Omeonga or Petar Brlek, alongside the staples Miguel Veloso and Andrea Bertolacci.
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The second international break, the first real one to be honest, arrives a month a half deep into the season and it usually allows some players to fully heal from early injuries, or even last year’s ones, giving the teams a small boost ahead of another busy stretch.
The most particular situation is Armando Izzo’s one: he was suspended for 18 months in April for match-fixing related charges from his time in Avellino, then the ban was cut short to 6 months because the allegations were substantially less severe. It looked like he could be pardoned with a month in advance, but he served the full sentence. Genoa’s defence has been shaky and could obviously use the help of a player who was on the edge of earning a call-up by Italy.
Juventus will have Claudio Marchisio back after a month-long specific program to strengthen the muscles around the knee he tore in April 2016: he has played only 62 minutes this season. Sami Khedira has featured a little more, but has been absent since late August: his status is a little murkier, but he is not that far from a full recovery. Their returns will give Massimiliano Allegri the option to use a three-man midfield. The Bianconeri will also soon welcome back Marko Pjaca from the ACL tear he suffered in late March: the attack is more crowded this season, but he will still be another weapon at their disposal.
Speaking of knee injuries, Inter’s Joao Cancelo sprained his MCL in late August: Danilo D’Ambrosio has been passable as right back, but the plan is to have two dynamic fullbacks like the former Valencia and Dalbert together to spice things up. Cancelo can also play as right winger, giving Luciano Spalletti more flexibility upfront. Emiliano Viviano is expected to be in full form pretty soon after a knee surgery in May: like most backup goalkeepers, Christian Puggioni is only reliable for short stints. Roma’s newcomer Rick Karsdorp went under the knife immediately after joining his new club to fix a meniscus injury and had some muscular setbacks afterwards: his availability will allow Eusebio Di Francesco to move Alessandro Florenzi around rather than using him only as a right back as Giallorossi are dealing with several absences in other areas. Bologna’s Cesar Falletti suffered a MCL and ankle sprain at the start of August: when he comes back, Roberto Donadoni could resume deploying the 4-2-3-1 he quickly abandoned because of lack of alternatives in the attacking midfielder position.
Roma are also awaiting the return of their prized summer acquisition: Patrick Schick, who has been on the shelf with hamstring problems. There is a lot of curiosity to see how the coach will integrate him in a tactic that has started to work very well, but does not include the striker’s natural role. Benevento anticipate having Amato Ciriretti back for the all-important game against Hellas Verona: he was their main creator last season and they have not got much from the right wingers they have used in his absence. They were able to use Marco D’Alessandro and Pietro Iemmello together for the first time against Inter and they showed some signs of life: they might actually be able to earn some points with the full frontline on the pitch.
After four games, there are still five teams that have yet to win a game: Benevento, Hellas Verona, Crotone, Sassuolo and Genoa. While the first three were expected to tough time and to be involved in the relegation race this season, the other two are a bit more surprising, but not shocking. Serie A presidents are famous for their quick trigger when it comes to sacking their coaches, so these situations need immediate turnarounds. The midweek match day could accelerates the process.
Benevento is the most desperate team as it is at the bottom of the table with no points. They fought against Sampdoria, Bologna and Torino, but they were defeated by a single goal in all three fixtures. On Sunday, they were dismantled by Napoli. Marco Baroni did a brilliant job last season, but he is a rookie in the top league and the rumours about replacing him with a more seasoned coach, such as Stefano Colantuono or Davide Ballardini, are ramping up. They will face Roma today and Crotone on Sunday, which will likely decide the fate of the manager. He will have to work some magic because some of his best players, such as Amato Ciciretti, Marco D’Alessandro and Andrea Costa are sidelined by injuries.
Despite having one point, Hellas Verona is the squad that has looked the worst so far: they have drawn against Crotone, but they were badly beaten by Napoli, Fiorentina and Hellas Verona. The schedule has not helped, but their defence has looked too vulnerable and their playing style is still undefined. Furthermore, Fabio Pecchia has engaged in a pointless skirmish with Giampaolo Pazzini and has constantly picked some players with no experience as false-nine over his leading scorer last season. Injuries have hit them hard as well, depriving them of Alessio Cerci and of a lot of depth. Despite the promotion, they were never too convincing last season in Serie B. They will square off against Sampdoria on Wednesday and Lazio on Sunday.
The closer to getting the axe appears to be Ivan Juric. He was confirmed this summer despite a tumultous season, where he was fired and then called back, but his stint could be short-lived. They had decent outings against Sassuolo, Juventus, Udinese and Lazio, but only a point to show for it. According to the rumblings, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has already contacted Walter Mazzarri and a name of this magnitude does not help Juric’s chances of holding onto the job. They will face Chievo Verona on Wednesday and Inter on Sunday and he has to hope that the wonderkid Pietro Pellegri continues to score and that the defence tightens up.
The remaining two winless teams are Sassuolo and Crotone. Cristian Bucchi has just switched his tactic to a 3-5-2 but they were defeated by Atalanta and Juventus. They performed well against Nerazzurri, while the Old Lady is on another level. In this case, the management will likely be more patient, as they have been in the first season in Serie A with Eusebio Di Francesco. However, he needs to come up with points in the next two games, against Cagliari and Bologna. Davide Nicola will have some more leeway as well at Crotone after last year’s miraculous comeback to avoid relegation. The Sharks are still scoreless and will take on Atalanta in the midweek match and Benevento in the weekend.
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It is fair to say that Gianluca Lapadula’s stint at Genoa is not going as planned. He was their marquee signing this summer: the Grifone will pay up to €13M to get him, on a loan with obligation to buy, and locked him in a five-year contract, hoping that he will be able to replace the contribution of Leonardo Pavoletti. However, he has been sidelined for most of the time so far and will be out for the foreseeable future. The striker is coming off a decent season at Milan, where he netted eight goals in 27 appearances, mostly off the bench.
Lapadula had a scoring average of a goal every 170 minutes at Milan, which would be extremely helpful for Rossoblù. The Turin-born centre-forward proved in Serie B and Serie C that he can be very prolific: a late bloomer, he scored 21 times with Teramo in 2014/2015 and 27 times with Pescara in 2016/2017, before Rossoneri won the bidding war for him, but never trusted him as a regular starter.
Genoa has always been a striker-friendly club, but injuries have prevented Lapadula from making his contribution. He was already dealing with the ever-annoying plantar fasciitis when he was signed, but the team pulled the trigger anyway. He missed the whole summer and most of the first two games. In the third one, in his first start against Udinese, he had to be subbed off early after an awkward landing on the left knee and further tests revealed an MCL tear that will keep him out for at least a month in a very busy stretch of the schedule.
Milan Juric will have to turn to the alternatives for the time being, but none of them has the same potential as Lapadula. Andrej Galabinov held his own so far: a Serie B lifer, he is a very physical striker who plays well with the rest of his teammates, but he has never been able to tally more than 15 goals in the second league. 16-year-old wonderkid Pietro Pellegri, who scored in his first start last season, has spent most of the summer on the shelf and now has some catching up to do from the physical standpoint.
They did sign two interesting attackers in the final days of the transfer market window: Ricardo Centurion and Federico Ricci. Juric already coached the former Sassuolo winger at Crotone, with good profit. Alongside the slimmed down Adel Taarabt, the trio can give the coach enough depth to use the experienced Goran Pandev as false-nine. The Macedonian forward has never been too consistent, but he has had his moments over the years. According to some reports, Milan Juric is already on the hot seat after collecting only one point in three matches, so he will have to turn the ship around without his main weapon.
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“I try to get my players to play football,” Genoa President Enrico Preziosi snapped, “maybe [Pescara President Daniele] Sebastiani wants his to play volleyball.”
It’s fair to say it has been an eventful return to Serie A for Pescara. Their contest last weekend against Genoa was just the latest in a string of eye-catching matches and incidents involving the Delfini.
Ray Manaj’s late goal at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris earned Pescara a 1-1 draw. It came only after Francesco Zampano had cleared off the line with the use of his arm. It was not spotted by the officials. He avoided a red card and a penalty, although Genoa would later take the lead. By the time Pescara equalised, the home side had been reduced to nine men.
“How can you not see that handball on the line?” Preziosi raged afterwards. “If they want Pescara to stay in Serie A, just say so.”
Zampano, who supplied the cross for Manaj’s strike, was later banned on video evidence for two matches for unsporting behaviour. He maintains the handball was involuntary. Preziosi’s comments, meanwhile, earned the Grifoni a fine.
Days earlier, the Abruzzese club welcomed Torino to the Stadio Adriatico. That time it ended scoreless, but once again they ended the match playing against nine men, as Torino held on for a point.
In fact, Pescara are still seeking for their first win on the pitch this season. Their only triumph came thanks to League officials. Having lost to Sassuolo 2-1 in Round 2, it was discovered the Neroverdi fielded an ineligible player and so the result was reversed.
Yet aside from a 3-0 loss to Lazio the newly promoted club have been competitive. They took a two-goal lead against Napoli in the opening round and were largely the better side, before a second half Neapolitan recovery led to a 2-2 result. They also took the lead against Inter, only to fall to a last minute Mauro Icardi strike.
Massimo Oddo’s unfancied side have showed no fear upon moving up a division. His mantra is one of enterprising football. It’s a young squad, which aside from veterans Hugo Campagnaro, Alberto Aquilani and Simone Pepe, is lacking widespread top-flight experience. The latter duo was signed to add Serie A nous. But its real stars, the likes of Gianluca Caprari and Ledian Memushaj, were part of the squad which earned promotion.
Pescara host Chievo this weekend. On paper they will see it as a good opportunity to record that maiden on-field triumph, but they must be wary. The Veronese side are fourth after six matches and remain as stubborn as ever. It will be a good test for Oddo and his team, who will look to put recent events behind them.
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