Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 26

Atalanta: Rafael Toloi will miss the next game due to a hamstring strain, while Berat Djimsiti with a bruised quad.

Bologna: Ibrahima Mbaye is suspended. The infirmary is emptying out since Nicola Sansone, Gary Medel and Federico Santander are poised to be available following thigh strains, Roberto Soriano after a bruise, leaving only Mitchell Dijks (foot), Ladislav Krejci (knee) and Mattias Svanberg (thigh) on the shelf. Continue reading

Three Reasons Behind Roma’s Slump

After a relatively decent first-half to the season, Roma have hit a rough patch and now find themselves six points adrift Atalanta for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Earlier in the year, it appeared the giallorossi were establishing a clear identity under Paulo Fonseca and were building a solid foundation for years to come. However, in recent times, Roma have struggled for results, losing three of their last four clashes and are in free-fall mode.

But how exactly did we get here? Here are three reasons behind Roma’s slump.

1) No Diawara, no party. 

After a great start to the season, Amadou Diawara went down injured at the end of January and is now out for an undisclosed period of time. Alongside Jordan Veretout, the former Napoli man established himself as one of Fonseca’s key players and typically played in the role of regista dictating play from deep. Without him in the lineup, Roma have struggled to build out of the back and have looked defensively suspect. Diawara was central to Fonseca’s system and essentially acted as the lynchpin that tied it all together in the middle.

His replacement, Bryan Cristante, hasn’t exactly performed when called upon and is currently struggling for form. Whether it’s his imprecision on the ball or his inefficiency in front of goal, the downgrade from Diawara to Cristante is hurting Roma.

While Diawara’s return is unknown for now, Fonseca is going to need to find a solution quickly. If not, Roma risk falling out of contention for a Champions League place and could be eliminated from the Europa League.

2) Centre-backs are making routine errors. 

Following Kostas Manolas’ departure to Napoli, many expected the giallorossi to spend big to replace the Greek international. Rather than splashing the cash on a new defender, Roma opted for a low-cost option and loaned Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. The Englishman started the season in phenomenal form and for the first half of the season looked like the signing of the summer. However, in the new year, his good performances quickly faded and began making routine mistakes at the back.

His partner, Gianluca Mancini, has endured a very similar start to 2020. The former Atalanta defender has looked increasingly shaky at the back and devoid of any confidence. In Roma’s most recent games, Mancini has been regularly beaten by his man and hasn’t exactly exhibited confidence. In fact, in the giallorossi’s last three games, they’ve conceded nine goals, losing to Bologna, Sassuolo and direct Champions League rivals Atalanta.

While Mancini and Smalling had great starts to the season and looked more than ready to assume bigger roles, their respective shortcomings have now caught up to them. Much like it was the case in midfield, Roma will regret not reinforcing further this past January.

3) Roma’s attack is filled with “nearly-men” 

While Roma are having no trouble finding the back of the net in this negative run, their front-line remains an inconsistent bunch. This leads to regular rotation and overall incoherence in the final third. On some nights, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under look like world-beaters while other games, they can barely string two passes together. See: Most recent defeat vs. Atalanta.

Nicolo Zaniolo’s injury significantly hampered Roma in this respect, but it’s time one of their youngsters on the cusp steps up and builds a partnership with club veteran Edin Dzeko. Whether it’s Kluivert, Pellegrini or Under, one of them needs to assume more responsibility in the final third. If they are unable to do so, it may be time for the giallorossi to reconsider and in some cases move on from them completely because right now their “nearly-men” are killing them.

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Serie A Match of the Round – Sassuolo vs Roma

Sassuolo-Roma was the highest scoring match of the week alongside Sampdoria-Napoli and had a very weird development, as the Neroverdi manhandled La Lupa in the first half, but then Edin Dzeko and company tried to mount a furious comeback after intermission, only to be railroaded by red card to Lorenzo Pellegrini and a stunner by Jeremie Boga. It all made for a very entertaining bout.

The home team had picked up four points in the previous two fixtures against Sassuolo and Torino, while Roma had done the same following two losses, versus Genoa and Lazio. Continue reading

Atalanta’s Progress: By the numbers

Last season, Atalanta sent shock-waves throughout Italian football and qualified for the Champions League, finishing ahead of Italy’s traditional giants Inter, Roma, and Milan among others. Along with European football comes the luxury of a pitfall of cash and unique opportunities for growth that Atalanta have taken full advantage of.

Beyond their Champions League cash, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have been extremely proactive on the transfer market, selling their players for incredible profits. Dejan Kulusevki, for example. The Swedish international has only played three times for them in his entire career and was sold for nearly forty-five million euros. Let’s take a deeper look at the numbers.

According to Calcio e Finanza, Atalanta have already cashed forty million euros from the Champions League and could make more depending on their two-legged affair with Valencia. Given recent form, it’s not entirely improbable they progress to the final eight.

While Champions League money is always welcomed, it’s not as sustainable as other sources of revenue for the club. After all, will they qualify for Europe’s elite competition every season? They’re hoping so, but probably not.

As a result, Atalanta have enacted a model wherein they sell their top-performing young players to Italy’s big clubs after breakout seasons. Kulusevski to Juve, Gagliardini to Inter, Cristante and Mancini to Roma, Conti and Kessie to Milan, and the list goes on. In this sense, they maximize their profits. While certain cases will have them thinking they moved on their players a season too early, that’s always better than feeling they sold a player a season too late.

Just ask Torino’s Urbano Cairo. After Andrea Belotti’s breakout season, Torino reportedly got offers ranging between 50 to 75 million euros for their hitman. Cairo played hard-ball, kept Belotti and has since missed out on a unique rebuilding opportunity by turning down those offers. Today, Belotti won’t fetch anywhere near the previously reported price-tags. Atalanta, on the other hand, have a knack for selling players at the right time. In fact, their track record speaks for itself.  Most of their departed players, bar a few, have struggled to recreate their past form at their new clubs.

According to Transfermarkt’s numbers, the Bergamo-based club are set to cash in a further 110 million euros this season, in addition to Musa Barrow’s reported sale of 20M. That’s 130M on players that have either already been replaced or have never featured regularly for them.

With their squad lacking a few additions to take the next step, it will be interesting to see what Atalanta does with that money. Will they abandon their current philosophy and go for more-experienced players in hopes of making the leap alongside Italy’s elite or will they continue with their own model that has worked wonders for them?

If last transfer window was anything to go by, it will arguably be a mix of both, with a particular focus on experienced players. See: Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi. As another transfer window beckons, Atalanta’s activity will be worth monitoring. They have the money and a vision: but can they deliver on it?

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 17

A reduced pool this week with Juventus-Sampdoria taking place on Wednesday and Lazio and Verona not playing due to Sunday’s Supercoppa Italiana.

Salvatore Sirigu: SPAL broke out of their road drought and have found the target in the past three matches, but they remain one of the most anaemic offenses in Europe, with only Watford having scored less than them in the top five leagues. The veteran goalie has been as reliable as they come despite being behind an imperfect back-line.

Stefan De Vrij: Inter have re-started keeping clean sheets, two in the past four games, and the Dutch defender offers the most upside on the other end. Genoa have failed to hit the net in three of their past five matches. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 17

Fiorentina-Roma: with Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli at half service due to physical problems, Dusan Vlahovic stepped up and saved the day against Inter. The Serbian prospect had gotten some decent run before but without doing much with it and instead delivered off the bench. Chiesa and Castrovilli are considered day-to-day and they are their two most best contributors, so their level of competitiveness will hinge on their recoveries. Kevin-Prince Boateng got the start after a while and had only minor chances, but they might have to rely him a lot in this one and he is listed as a midfielder, which makes him a bit intriguing depending on their injury situation. The other okay elements like Marco Benassi and Erick Pulgar have been silent for a long while. Dalbert has outplayed Pol Lirola as far as fullbacks are concerned. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 16

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is out due to a thigh pull and their president confirmed that Duvan Zapata will be back in early 2020. Alejandro Gomez is out because of a knock. 

Bologna: Ladislav Krejci and Roberto Soriano have resumed practicing after their knee problems and could be in the squad list over the weekend.

Brescia: Andrea Cistana is suspended, Alfredo Donnarumma is fatigued but should be available. Continue reading

Manchester City’s ambitions of retaining the Premier League title are over

Manchester City’s ambitions of retaining the Premier League title are over. Only a monumental collapse from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will give Pep Guardiola’s side even a glimmer of hope, with the Citizens languishing in third, six points behind Leicester City. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 14

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio have one of the best statistical home defenses in the League and, in this round, they will host Udinese, which have instead scored the second-least goal thus far. The Albanian goalkeeper is not very talked about, but he is as reliable as they come.

Matthijs De Ligt: he is coming off his two best performances in black-and-white and could keep it rolling against Sassuolo, which are feisty but not indomitable. Juventus have allowed multiple goals at home just once. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 13

Samir Handanovic (7 points): just three clean sheets in this round and finally Inter managed to keep one, with the usual solid contribution from their captain, who somehow batted away tap-in in the first half that could have perhaps reopened the game.

Chris Smalling (11 points): Roma risked very little in the back against Brescia, but really shined on the other end, as he scored one on a corner kick and also assisted his defensive partner with a quality flick-on. Continue reading