Standings implications: Juventus staved off Atalanta’s ambitious in the top match of the round, while Lazio fell on its face again, so the lead atop of the standings is now eight points. Inter are now tied for second place after overwhelming Torino in the second half. Roma took care of business against Brescia and remain in control of the fifth position because Napoli and Milan drew in the Sunday night game. Sassuolo won their fourth match in a row and are beginning to put a little bit of pressure on Milan, while Verona and Bologna got pipped the post by Fiorentina and Parma.
Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading
Money does not always correlate with success, and that was the story of AC Milan last season when they went on a spending spree adding nine new players to instigate a revolution. The headliner, was the signing of Leonardo Bonucci from rivals Juventus. However, after a year with the Rossoneri as captain, Bonucci is back with the Old Lady while Milan received promising defender Mattia Caldara in exchange.
Despite a less than a year experience as a coach in Serie A, there is residual believe that Gattuso can restore the Diavolo back to its past glory days. And with Leonardo Araújo and Paulo Maldini play key roles at management level, the Gattuso can only be confident that his job is safe for now.
Last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Napoli at the San Paolo was evidence of how far the Rossoneri were behind last season’s top four teams. It revealed a team with startling defensive flaws, lack authority in midfield and devoid of character. The very qualities that, Napoli showed to come from behind to score three goals.
The Diavolo addressed a key position of need in the transfer window by signing Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus as the team struggled for goals last season with Nicola Kalinic as their top marksman. Higuain is a proven goal scorer with not less than 15 goals in each of the four season he has spent in serie A .However, his efficiency will largely depend on the understanding he develops with the likes of Hakan Çalhanoğlu , Jack Bonaventura and Suso. Most significantly the quality of services from his supporting cast.
One thing is apparent in this Milan side, there are some rough edges that, individually, Gattuso needs to smooth out, particularly the young players. The decision making of Davide Calabria, Franck Kessié wayward shots, Suso’s crosses, Donnarumma’s lack of confidence playing from the back, Bonaventura’s hesitations in key moments in games, Mateo Musacchio’s reading of the game, Ricardo Rodriquez’s poor offensive participation and Lucas Biglia’s lack of ball progression. The lack of leadership and personalities in this team is very glare. Likewise the issue of immaturity and mental toughness.
The season is still embryonic though, but it’s hard to deny that the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. Having said that, there is still cause to be optimistic as the season wears on.
In defense, the return of Andrea Conti should solve the problem at right back as the former Atalanta defender shows better judgement in his passes and attacks the flanks with more purpose and precision. This could free Suso to provide more support to Higuain in attack and supplementary interplay from the right channel. Then there is the issue of the center back pairing. Gattuso opted for a partnership between Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio in their first Serie A game, but it’s difficult to envisage this coupling in a long term.
It is the vision of many Milanisti to see a partnership of Caldara and Romagnoli, based on the idea that these two could lead the Azzurris defence in the not too distant future. The departure of Leonardo Bonucci means there is a vacuum of leadership at the back, as both Caldara and Romagnoli lack a bit in stature and experience. However Pepe Reina’s know-how and leadership qualities could be key in the dressing room whiles mentoring Donnarumma.
One key area that Milan have been suffering from in the past couple of years is the midfield. For a club that had the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini, Kaka, Rui Costa and the warrior, Genaro Gattuso, it’s a big disappointment watching the current crop. Milan lack presence and expertise in midfield. Lucas Biglia should be more imaginative with his passes and tactful on the ball. Kessie is a burst of energy and athleticism, but very limited technical wise. His energy can be more useful if he stays close to Biglia to break down opponents’ attacks rather than waste opportunities in support of the attack.
Milan inability to stock their midfield with A list players could bite them for the second time in a roll as Tiémoué Bakayoko, Andrea Bertolacci, Riccardo Montolivo may not offer much. Milan, just don’t have enough quality to play themselves out of situations when they are under pressure.
This Friday, Hakan Çalhanoğlu returns to action against AS Roma. And the Gialorrosi will be looking to exact revenge after the Rossoneri inflicted a two nil defeat on them at the stadio Olimpico last season. The Turkish international’s creativity alongside Bonaventura should give Milan confidence in attack.
Genaro Gatusso has got a huge job on his hands as his team needs to massively improve if they have any aspirations of making the top four. It’s not enough for him to be taking the blame for the poor performance of his players, there must be evidence of progress on the pitch.
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There were no massive clashes in Serie A in the weekend, but it still ended up being a significant round as Napoli got closer to Juventus, Inter re-claimed one of the top four spots and Spal abandoned the relegation zone. The best game of the week was Milan-Chievo, which was surprisingly high scoring and intense up until the final whistle.
The Devil approached the bout riding a nine-game undefeated streak in Serie A and looking to move past the elimination in Europa League by the hands of Arsenal. On the other hand, Chievo had lost in six of their last seven matches and was dragged into the mud fight to avoid the drop.
Differently from other positions, there is no shortage of excellent young central midfielders in Serie A. Besides Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is among the league’s best outright, there are several upcoming players who have already earned primary roles in the top teams.
Unsurprisingly, two of them were raised by Atalanta and then moved to bigger clubs. Roberto Gagliardini joined Inter last January and his consistency has been a pleasant surprise, because he was lost in the shuffle prior to the 2016/2017 season. Gian Piero Gasperini trusted him, the Nerazzurri nabbed him quickly and he has been very reliable: he is not flashy, but an all-around midfielder, whose work is always precious. Franck Kessie is more muscular and explosive, but Milan got what they hoped for: a dominating presence in the middle of the field. Lucas Torreira’s play in the last two seasons has been superb: he is rather tiny but he is imposing in both phases, he has great feet and he is an excellent distributor. His full arsenal was on display in the last win over Chievo Verona. Continue reading