Some juicy match-ups this week, there should be plenty of opportunities to score for the top strikers in the League. 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
In Week 10, two defenders separated themselves from the rest of the pack, while there is a plethora of players tied for second place. 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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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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