The first stretch of the Serie A season gave us a flawless start from Juventus, a late resurgence from Inter and surprising performances from Sampdoria and Sassuolo. But for every action there’s a reaction, and while there have been plenty of positive story lines and winners in Italy in the first eight matches, as we covered last week, there have also been teams and players not meeting expectations- here are the losers of the season so far
Going into the season, the Bergamaschi were probably everyone’s second favorite team. What is there not to like? A club that isn’t afraid to launch young players, most of them Italian, a manager known for often playing offensive minded football while also showing significant tactical acumen against Italy’s top coaches and a star player in Papu Gomez who is very relatable and exciting to watch.
But this season Atalanta have not been themselves. The team started their summer preparation early to get ready for the Europa League preliminary round, but their immediate elimination has given the squad a hangover reminiscent of what happened to Pioli’s Lazio and Benitez’ Napoli after being eliminated in preliminary round of the Champions League.
While Atalanta boosts a very deep and impressive attack (Zapata, Ilicic, Gomez and talented striker Barrow), years of selling off prospects may have caught up to them- Gasperini’s squad looks rather weak on defense and on the wings after parting ways with Conti, Spinazzola and Caldara the past two summers.
Everything was pointing to a fast start for the striker known as Il Gallo. He was finally healthy after battline nagging injuries last season, manager Walter Mazzarri had made him the focal point of his first summer retreat as the granata’s manager and Torino spent significantly in the summer to make a run for the Europa League.
But while Belotti must have been thrilled to hear that Roberto Soriano was returning to Serie A to join him and that Iago Falque was staying despite offers from Spain, the late arrival of Simone Zaza had the potential to change the major tenants of Torino’s attack. But because the former Juventus striker needed time to adapt to his new team, Belotti didn’s make the most the opportunity to take the bull by its horns- he’s off to a sluggish start with only two goals scored.
Sergej Milinkovic Savic
There are already many who believe the Serbian international has taken the crown from Belotti as the poster boy for the saying “better to sell a player a year too soon than a year too late”, and while Lazio and Torino approached the market for their young stars in very different ways, there’s no doubt Milinkovic Savic’s stock has taken a substantial hit.
After a stellar Serie A season in which he scored 12 goals, SMS had a disappointing World Cup where many were left wondering what the hype was all about. Those performances were defensible considering he had barely played with his Serbian teammates prior to the tournament in Russia, but his disastrous start to the season in Italy has been far more concerning- is Milinkovic Savic getting full of himself? Or is he disappointed he wasn’t sold to a bigger club? Simone Inzaghi is going to need to find out very soon
Mattia Caldara & Alex Meret
I know what you are thinking- calling them losers of the season so far is very unfair considering their injuries. But while they rehabbed to get back to the pitch their situations are starting to change. For one Mateo Musacchio has made the most out of Caldara’s absence, and is establishing himself as a solid partner for Alessio Romagnoli, if that weren’t enough Caldara struggled significantly in Italy’s match versus Portugal which reinforced the story line that he needs time to adapt to playing on a bigger stage than Atalanta.
Meret on the other had already struggled with injuries in his first season in Serie A which however didn’t stop Napoli from investing significantly in him to replace Pepe Reina. Meret has yet to play this season, and just like Musacchio with Romagnoli, his replacement David Ospina has performed well enough to be compared to Claudio Garella, the keeper on the club’s first scudetto winning team.
Caldara and Meret have the talent to turn this around, but this is definitely not the start they envisioned either
While Parma and Sassuolo are distancing themselves significantly from the relegation zone, these two clubs are setting themselves up for a season of suffering and stress. Bologna never adequately replaced Simone Verdi, who almost single handedly carried their offense last season, and new manager Pippo Inzaghi is probably considering suiting up since his team only scored four goals this season (second worst in the league).
Chievo still find themselves with negative points after the deduction for the inflated plusvalenze on the transfer market. The flying donkeys made the first manager change of the season (barely defeating Gena in this dubious race) by hiring Gian Piero Ventura, the biggest pariah in Italian football. While Chievo have enough talent to make up ground since there are other teams struggling, their impressive streak of ten consecutive seasons in Serie A could be coming to an end.