Serie A Fantasy Picks – Week 12


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Best young midfielder in Serie A: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic


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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Lazio in big offensive troubles


Filippo Inzaghi had to scramble to come up with some offensive solutions in the first few games of the season, because of the lengthy Keita drama, solved with a late sale to Monaco, and Felipe Anderson’s injury. It is supposed to be a great year for Brazilian, who was set up to be Lazio’s main offensive playmaker, after taking a back seat to Ciro Immobile and Keita last season. Anderson played a lot as right wingback in 3-5-2 in 2016/2017, leaving the coveted spot as second-striker to the Senegalese. He will be heavily featured in the attack in the coming months, but he has been absent since the start of August because of a tricky hamstring tendinopathy, which could sideline him for one more month.

Lazio signed Luis Nani to replace Keita: a natural winger, who could struggle to perform in a more central position in which he has limited experience. The Portuguese international comes off two good season at Fenerbahce and Valencia, but he has lost a step over the years. It is fair to ask whether the club has done enough to replace Keita, who had a €30,5M price tag, who blossomed as a striker last year, tallying 16 goals in 31 appearances, outmatching his scoring total from his previous three seasons.

Nani missed the whole summer because of a knee sprain: he is rumoured to return to action soon, but it might take him a while to be in full form considering that he skipped the crucial pre-season preparation. Peak Nani and Felipe Anderson might end up being available at around the same date, in mid-October, but there is an intense cycle of games in between. Lazio thrived with 3-5-2 last season thanks to a strengthened defence, a dynamic midfield, Keita’s explosiveness upfront and Immobile’s nose for scoring. However, they may have to revert to 4-3-3 down the line, because they might need to field Nani and Anderson at the same time to match Keita’s production and this could affect some of the well-oiled mechanisms and balances.

While the two players recover, Inzaghi will have to be creative. In the first game against Spal, he fielded Simone Palombi, who had a good run with Ternana in Serie B last season in his first experience with the pros, but is little too similar to Immobile. The same goes for the newcomer Felipe Caicedo, who is a pure center-forward.

In the Supercoppa and against Chievo Verona, they opted for a 3-4-2-1, with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkinovic-Savic behind the lone striker. They had more success with it, as the young Spaniard is starting to make an impact and the Serbian midfielder is ascending to stardom, but the lack of pace and unpredictability of this formation is glaring. The coach has not much else to work with and has to hope that the line-up with two no.10s or the two-headed attack work even though neither is perfect, otherwise they will be in for a very rough start of the season.

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