Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading
Standings implications: the top three teams were all successful in this round with multi-goals win, as Juventus and Inter tamed Fiorentina and Udinese, while Lazio annihilated SPAL. Atalanta only partially took advantage of Roma’s tumble in Sassuolo (2-4) as they could not get past Genoa at home (2-2), so they now share the fourth place. A slow round also in the race to an Europa League berth: Cagliari and Parma shared the spoils in a head-to-head match on Saturday and Milan and Verona did the same on Sunday. In this case there is a three-way tie, with the Scaligeri two points behind, alongside Bologna, which instead nipped Brescia. Lecce destroyed Torino and was the only team to prevail in the relegation zone: they are three points clear of the last three positions. It was not necessarily pretty, but Napoli followed up the Juventus win by defeating Sampdoria, closing in on European zone.
While a few days remain before the transfer window is shut, there has been no shortage of activity within Italy throughout the winter mercato. Napoli have completely retooled their side while Milan are making the most of the window to off-load deadwood and reduce their wage bill. Inter, on the other hand, are actively looking for the final pieces of the puzzle to topple Juventus.
Here are the top three moves of the winter mercato until now.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Milan: When it was announced Ibrahimovic would be joining MIlan, many scoffed at the idea initially. After all, he had just finished playing in MLS and was nearing 40 years old. Despite his relatively high wages, the Swedish international is exactly what the doctor ordered in Casa Milan and his arrival has coincided with the rossoneri’s best form of the season.
Since returning to Milan, Pioli’s men have won five in a row and booked their ticket to the Coppa Italia semi-finals against Juventus. Some players are simply synonymous with winning and Ibra is one of them. The former PSG man has lead a quiet revolution and has introduced a winning mentality to the club. For this alone, he’s arguably the signing of the winter mercato.
Christian Eriksen – Inter: It may have well taken them all month, but Inter finally got their guy. Giuseppe Marotta had been in negotiations with Tottenham for the better part of the month and finally decided to pay the price for the Danish international. Considering Conte’s men are lacking experience in the midfield, Eriksen’s arrival is a no-brainer.
A natural number ten, Eriksen will look forward to linking up with Lukaku and Martinez and form one of Italy’s most fearsome trios in the final third. With Sensi, Barella, and Brozovic pulling the strings behind them, Marotta has arguably built the best midfield in the league. Eriksen is merely the cherry on top of the cake and could prove to be the difference-maker in the title race.
Diego Demme – Napoli: This signing is one that has flown under-the-radar in Italy, but is one of the shrewdest deals of the winter mercato. The partenopei have looked extremely vulnerable throughout the season as their midfield has oftentimes left their defence exposed. Whether it was Fabian Ruiz, Elmas or Allan playing as the side’s deepest midfielder, Napoli always looked suspect defensively. Demme’s arrival adds some much-needed steel in the middle of the park at a particularly low-price and already looks to be paying off.
The veteran midfielder looked extremely at home in front of Napoli’s back four in their most recent win against Juventus. The 28-year-old regularly broke up play and shielded Napoli’s rearguard brilliantly. If he maintains this, Demme will go down as the signing of the winter.
- Christian Koume to Fiorentina (Question marks remain over his ACL recovery)
- Duncan to Fiorentina. (Sassuolo man is slowly becoming a consistent creative outlet.
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Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading
Napoli have been searching for midfielders ever since the ousting of Carlo Ancelotti and the hiring of Gennaro Gattuso, who decided to switch permanently to 4-3-3, they got their men in the past few days, announcing the acquisitions of Diego Demme from LB Leipzig and Stanislav Lobotka from Celta Vigo.
Demme signed a five-year deal Saturday and joined for €12M in a rare transfer that proceeded very swiftly for the Partenopei. The 28-year-old, who was born in Germany from an Italian father and was named after Diego Maradona, has been a linchpin of Leipzig over the last four seasons, collecting 214 appearances, scoring twice and providing 18 assists. He has one cap with the Mannschaft. Continue reading