Juventus lost a bit of ground at the top end of the Serie A table this past week.
Few midfielders found the bottom of the goal this week. Here are the top 5 performers.
With further chapters in this season’s Serie A story having been written, Napoli’s lead at the top of Serie A was cut to a single point with Juventus breathing down their necks. Continue reading
Some of the big name no showed in Week 12, but there were still few strong performances among the midfielders. Here is the top 5. Continue reading
Napoli continue to lead Serie A following the latest round of matches, with Juventus hot on their heels. Continue reading
Differently from other positions, there is no shortage of excellent young central midfielders in Serie A. Besides Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is among the league’s best outright, there are several upcoming players who have already earned primary roles in the top teams.
Unsurprisingly, two of them were raised by Atalanta and then moved to bigger clubs. Roberto Gagliardini joined Inter last January and his consistency has been a pleasant surprise, because he was lost in the shuffle prior to the 2016/2017 season. Gian Piero Gasperini trusted him, the Nerazzurri nabbed him quickly and he has been very reliable: he is not flashy, but an all-around midfielder, whose work is always precious. Franck Kessie is more muscular and explosive, but Milan got what they hoped for: a dominating presence in the middle of the field. Lucas Torreira’s play in the last two seasons has been superb: he is rather tiny but he is imposing in both phases, he has great feet and he is an excellent distributor. His full arsenal was on display in the last win over Chievo Verona. Continue reading
Serie A is renowned for its strong defending and this year is no different. In a culture that values that side of the ball so highly, it is inevitable that centre-backs prosper and new youngster manage to establish every season. The best one so far has been Milan Skriniar: there was a little scepticism when Inter picked him as the lone reinforcement in that area, but he has been granitic. An all-around player with no clear flaws. The couple with Joao Miranda is among the league’s finest, if it not the best already. He is averaging 1.5 tackles, 1 interceptions, 5 clearances and 0.8 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored. He has drawn comparisons to a young Nemanja Vidic and Walter Samuel.
Mattia Caldara started the season late because of a summer injury and the U-21 European Championship, but he immediately went back to being the leader of the stout Atalanta backline. A rugged defender, he is a force in the air as his many goals testifies. He is averaging 1.7 tackles, 2.2 interceptions, 3.7 clearances and 0.8 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored. It will be his final season with the Bergamo club as Juventus already scooped him up a year ago.
His partner in the Bianconeri’s defence in the future will be Daniele Rugani. Massimiliano Allegri has been reluctant to thrust him in a bigger role, but in his limited appearances he has performed better than Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia. He is more of a finesse player compared to Skriniar and Caldara, but his physical game has improved over the last two seasons. The duo with Giorgio Chiellini will eventually end up being Juventus’ go-to pairing in big games. He is averaging 0.4 tackles, 0.6 interceptions, 3.2 clearances and 1 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored.
Alessio Romagnoli has struggled at the start of the season, due to a tough summer where he had to deal with a meniscus injury and because the whole new Milan defence has not gelled yet. However, he remains squarely among the best Italian prospects in this role. There is no reason why a Mateo Musacchio-Leonardo Bonucci-Romagnoli backline should not work: the process simply takes some time. He is averaging 0.8 tackles, 1 interception, 4.2 clearances per game, per WhoScored.
One rookie quickly rose to the upper echelon of young defenders: Torino’s newcomer Lyanco. It is not easy for youngsters to win over Sinisa Mihajlovic right away, but he managed to do just that. He is only 20-years-old and he has immense potential. He has beaten out Emiliano Moretti and Kevin Bonifazi for the starting job, unfortunately he has suffered an ankle sprain that will sideline him for a while.
There are a couple names in the smaller clubs that are worth monitoring. Sampdoria worked hard this summer to get Gianmarco Ferrari from Sassuolo, but Marco Giampaolo so far has preferred Vasco Regini over him, not so subtly inviting him to practice harder. He is talented and should end up playing a lot. Francesco Vicari is in a tough situation at Spal, but he is holding his own as anchor of the defence and he is one of the few highpoints of the Ferrara team.
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With some surprises coming in these early stages of the season in Serie A – not least the struggles of AC Milan and Fiorentina – the Italian top flight returned following the international break with plenty of goals on display. Continue reading
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.