Some juicy match-ups this week, there should be plenty of opportunities to score for the top strikers in the League.
Exploiting favorable match-ups is always a good idea when picking the lineup. Continue reading
There were several contenders who would have been worthy recipients of this award as Serie A is heavily featured in the Team of the Month. Alisson, and the Roma defence, have had a great October with several clean sheets, Aleksandar Kolarov has been probably the best summer purchase considering his price tag, Raul Albiol is pivotal for Napoli’s success and Dries Mertens and Mauro Icardi have had spectacular performances. However, the nod deservedly goes to the one who has collected the most points: Ciro Immobile.
The Lazio striker racked up 27 points, thanks six goals and three assists in October: the only flaw was a missed penalty against Bologna. The Biancocelesti have won every game last month, including an impressive comeback over Juventus in Turin, where the Bianconeri had not lost in 41 matches. Immobile tallied at the Allianz Stadium one of the two braces he had in the last 31 days.
The easy victories over Sassuolo (6-1), Lazio (3-0) and Benevento (1-5) show that the side led by Simone Inzaghi has ascended to the upper echelon of Serie A because it can get the job done when it needs to without sweating too much. As of right now, it is tied with Juventus in third position, three points behind Napoli and two behind Inter and they are fully in the running for a Champions League spot. They have coped very well with several absences: they have recently recovered Luis Nani and Felipe Anderson is not that far behind, which gives the attack an extra oomph and Immobile even more assists.
Over the last calendar year, Lazio have become a well-oiled machine and Ciro Immobile is the main beneficiary from the scoring standpoint. The team has great chemistry and precise mechanisms, which more often than not end up with a point-blank chance for its striker. Both on counters and against a set defence, the Italian forward has been lethal: he sits atop of the scorers’ chart, with 14 goals so far, three more than the closer rivals, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi. After wandering a little since bursting into the scenes in 2011/2012, Immobile has finally found the right situation and wisely agreed to extend his contract with the current club till 2022.
Roma’s goalkeeper Alisson deserves a shout-out, as he collected 27 points as well. Roma did not concede any goal in the five games they played in October and they were not all cupcakes: they faced Milan, Napoli, Torino, Crotone and Bologna. There were some doubts about the youngster this summer and some feared the Giallorossi would miss Wojciech Szczesny, but that has not been the case and the Brazilian goalie is living up to the hype that surrounded him before his move to Italy and a year as an understudy actually helped him.
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Napoli continue to lead Serie A following the latest round of matches, with Juventus hot on their heels. Continue reading
Things are starting to look incredibly tight at the top of Serie A. 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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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 skills of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic were clear since the first game he played with Lazio and his rise to stardom has been irresistible over the last calendar year. The Biancocelesti managed to snatch him away from Fiorentina at the last minute and they are reaping great benefits on the pitch. It will be an extremely rich pay day when they will decide to cash in on him, but he is only 22 and could decide to enjoy him for a little longer.
His combination of size and playmaking make him almost impossible to guard. He also tends to play between the lines, in a no man’s land where he thrives because he usually has some room to operate. His physical tools always helped him, but his growth has been fuelled by visible improvements from the technical standpoint. When he first arrived, he was more way more comfortable as attacking midfielder, but now he can easily cover the box-to-box position, which is probably where he will spend most of his time in his career.
In his lone season in Belgium after the move from Vojvodina, he tallied six goals in 24 appearances. He scored once in his first season in Serie A, when he featured sparingly, then in 2016/2017 he finished with seven goals and ten assists between the Italian league and the domestic cup. The coach Simone Inzaghi fully learned how to use him in properly and his value skyrocketed. He has scored once this season, a stunner from long range against Chievo Verona: in a time when the attack was heavily undermanned due to injuries, primarily to Felipe Anderson and Luis Nani, his partnership with Luis Alberto right behind Ciro Immobile has propelled Lazio to the top positions in the standings.
He is obviously a force in the air, but also a good passer. He is averaging 2.4 shots per game, 1.6 key passes and 2 dribbles, per WhoScored. He has completed 82% of his passes and has dished 0.2 through balls and 2 long balls per game, per WhoScored.
The president Claudio Lotito said that he turned down a €70M offer for him in the summer: while he can be a little bombastic in his statements, there is no denying that there is a lot of interest in the young Serbian. Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus and Inter have all been rumoured to be after him at some point. His versatility make him an extremely palatable prospect. Despite the buzz, Milinkovic-Savic recently extended his contract till 2022: Lazio is a very expensive boutique and will try to hold onto him as long as possible. They paid €6M two years ago from Genk and recently gave another €9M to the Belgian club to waive their rights on the 50% of the money received from future sale. At €15M, he is still one of the best bargains in Serie A and the Biancocelesti are project to at least triple that sum when they will ship him.
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After a very busy 20-day stretch, Serie A has reached the second international break, so it is the right opportunity to take a breather and examine where things are at, especially on top of the table. The start of the season has had more confirmations than surprises and the real contenders have already been able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Napoli are alone on top of the standings as they have been perfect so far: 7 wins out of 7. It is the culmination of two years of work under Maurizio Sarri. The Partenopei take great advantage of the most prolific attack in Europe: Dries Mertens, José Maria Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne have insane chemistry and Marek Hamsik broke his unusual drought. They have scored at least three goals in every domestic game. The Azzurri had some troubles only in the home game against Atalanta and on the road in Ferrara, but they managed to come out of top in both occasions. Arkadiusz Milik has not been missed as they have so many weapons on the roster.
Juventus could have easily been on top as well, had they not fumbled away a win that was within reach in Bergamo: they had a 0-2 lead and also missed the 2-3 penalty late in the game. The Bianconeri have not necessarily looked as commanding as Napoli, but they got the job done most of the time. Without Leonardo Bonucci, the defence has not been as air-tight as in the past, but the high-powered offered is carrying them. Paulo Dybala is Serie A’s leading scorer, Gonzalo Higuain got out of the short slump and Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado have contributed greatly: they even have room for improvement once Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi will be fully integrated. Newcomers Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur have been very helpful in light of the injuries in the midfield.
Inter have collected as many points as Juventus: the Nerazzurri had an explosive start, dismantling Fiorentina and Roma at San Siro, but then tailed off a little, but only from the performance standpoint, because the satisfactory results kept coming. The last three wins against low-table teams have either arrived late or been narrower than expected: the attack has plateaued, but they have been able to manufacture random goals. They have great goalkeeping and a rock-solid defence and Milan Skriniar has been as stout as they could have hoped.
Lazio and Roma are slightly behind as they have already lost a game. The Biancocelesti succumbed against Napoli mostly due to defensive injuries, but their latest run has been nothing short of amazing: without most of their centre-back and half of their attack, as Felipe Anderson and Luis Nani have been non-factors due to physical ailments, they have been automatic against the smaller clubs. Simone Inzaghi and Ciro Immobile are the main actors, Luis Alberto is the revelation that solved a lot of problems upfront. Roma are surging: they have played one fewer match because the Sampdoria fixture has been postponed, but after the loss against Inter they have resembled their last season’s selves. Edin Dzeko is scoring at will and the backline is very solid. Eusebio Di Francesco has been able to come up with creative solutions to deal with a slew of injuries and their play has not suffered. If the teams on top slowed down, they could be in the running for Scudetto.
Serie A will return with a bang in two weeks: Juventus will host Lazio, Roma will square off at home against Napoli and it will be time for the Milan derby. The Rossoneri have quickly dropped out of the title race as they are dealing with chemistry and defensive issues, but the game against Inter could be an opportunity to gain some ground in the table and advance their candidacy for a Champions League spot, but they need to turn things around quickly.
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It’s time now to see just how the attackers performed in Serie A over the last few days. Continue reading