Some strong performances from defenders in this week, but not many clean sheets Here is the top five. 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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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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Inter have had a pretty satisfying start of the season: propelled by one of the best statistical defences in Europe, they have collected sixteen points in six games. They have convincingly defeated Fiorentina, Roma and Spal, while they escaped with a win thanks to late goals against Crotone and Genoa. They dropped points only in the Bologna match, where they salvaged a tie with the help of a penalty. Continue reading