Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Round – Napoli

Just one shout-out win with multiple goals in this round and it belonged to Napoli, as Sampdoria find themselves again on the wrong end of the column despite showing some improvements compared to the first two outings.

The Partenopei wanted to put behind them a very bitter loss to Juventus considering the way it went down, while they had prevailed over Fiorentina in the opener. Carlo Ancelotti tweaked his system moving Fabian Ruiz back to pivot, Piotr Zielinski filled in for the banged up Lorenzo Insigne on the left flank and Hirving Lozano partnered Dries Mertens up front. Elijf Elmas and Nikola Maksimovic gave Allan and Kostas Manolas a breather ahead the mammoth Champions League clash with Liverpool. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Juventus vs Napoli

Juventus-Napoli fitted right into the high scoring nature of the first two Serie A rounds, as the whole leagues seems to have forgotten his defensive pedigree, much to the delight of the audience. A bizarre game, as the Bianconeri utterly dominated for an hour, but then gave the lead away in a 15-minute black-out. In an incredible twist though, Kalidou Koulibaly scored an own goal in the stoppage time. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Two

Results: Juventus emerged victorious in a wild bout with Napoli with a big assist from the opponents, while Roma and Lazio shared the spoils in an equally hard-fought Derby. Inter and Torino are the only two other teams at six points, as the Nerazzurri squeezed past Cagliari, while the Granata grabbed a quality victory against Atalanta. Milan found their first W scraping by Brescia. Genoa defeated Fiorentina, Sassuolo ragdolled Sampdoria, Bologna downed SPAL in the final minutes and Verona escaped Lecce with three valuable points.   Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

A tranquil week on the transfer market, as the team gear up for their Serie A debut and for the final torrid days of the session, but it still included some meaningful transfers especially among the minnows. The biggest signings were made of by Fiorentina, which convinced Franck Ribery, and Napoli that found their new offensive weapon in Hirving Lozano.

Roma instead added Davide Zappacosta on an initial six-month loan from Chelsea, with an option to extend it until the end of the season. Continue reading

Napoli acquire Lozano from PSV

After pursuing James Rodriguez and Nicolas Pépé, Napoli went back to their original target to bolster the attack and acquired Hirving Lozano from PSV for €38M, a move that has been floating around since February.

In the last two seasons, after transferring from Pachuca, the 24-year-old winger has scored 40 goals and provided 23 appearances in 79 appearances. He has 35 caps with Mexico under his belt and notched nine goals with his national team. Continue reading

Operation Hirving Lozano

For a number of years now Manchester United have, for one reason or another, neglected their right wing. You would have to cast your mind back to the Luis Nani days to find an out-and-out winger operating down United’s right-hand side, and even then the Portuguese star’s performance were not consistent.

It has been clear since the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure that the Red Devils have needed to sign an orthodox winger. After moving Ashley Young from left wing to left back and Antonio Valencia from right wing to right back, United’s lack of wingers was abundant. While in the five years post-Ferguson they have recruited four left-sided players in Ángel di Mariá, Memphis, Alexis Sánchez and Anthony Martial, they have, somewhat surprisingly, forgotten about the opposite wing.

Juan Mata, a natural number 10, and Jesse Lingard, who appears far more comfortable operating as the third central midfielder just behind the striker as well, have been forced onto the right due to the lack of quality out there. The Spaniard does not possess the pace needed for quick counter-attacks on the wing and will always look to cut inside and try to feed passes in between the lines – rarely would Mata take on his man, let alone beat him. He understands his strengths and weaknesses.

Lingard is similar. He might have more raw speed at his disposal, but seldom does he dribble past his opponent. Martial, having featured in one more match in the Premier League so far this season than the England international, is averaging 1.1 dribbles per-game; Lingard, on the other hand, is at 0.7. The contrast is stark, especially when Martial is causing all sorts of damage to his opposite man and willing to take the game to the byline.

What needs to be made a priority in the transfer window come January or next summer is to recruit a player that fits into the system on the right-hand side. Too many times have Manchester United attempted to sign the likes of Gareth Bale and other superstars of the modern era, but what they need ahead of anyone else, is a player that is hungry for success and not just willing to come for a pay cheque. The type of player needed has to have the right mentality to fit in at Old Trafford with the ability of developing even further.

One player that has impressed over the last 12 months is Hirving Lozano. Signed from Mexico’s CF Pachuca, Lozano enjoyed a mesmerising first season with PSV Eindhoven due to finding the back of the net on 19 occasion and assisting his team-mates 11 times throughout. He helped his new team lift the Eredivisie title and, so far in this campaign, he has been integral in the Dutch side’s efforts in both domestic and continental competitions.

Even before this season had started, Lozano brought his name to the surface of many with his emphatic performances for Mexico in the World Cup. One game in particular stood out and that was against the reigning champions Germany. Sheer grit and determination are two attributes that come to mind when describing Lozano and he certainly showed them when he found the back of the net against the Germans and led his team to a historic victory for the national team.

Lozano scored one and assisted another in the World Cup, but his ability to beat an opponent and create chances were noted by many. The Mexico international managed, on average, 3.5 dribbles per-game in his four appearances in Russia, making him one of the most dangerous forwards in the competition.

Just last week, in the Champions League group stages, Lozano made a last impression against Tottenham. The tricky winger, who was operating down the right, dispossessed Toby Alderweireld in Spurs’ own half and kept his cool in front of goal when tasked with beating Hugo Lloris in a one-on-one situation. There was a slice of good fortune with the finish, but that sense of urgency are qualities that Manchester United need in their team.

In all competitions this season, Lozano has a contributed to 15 goals in 16 appearances. He is in the form of his life and is still only 23-years-old. There will be reservations given a similar pattern emerged when recruiting Memphis, but the Red Devils were too quick to dispose of the Netherlands international after just 18 months. It would also appear that Lozano’s mentality is different than the brashness of Memphis.

Lozano’s versatility will also be a key factor due to his ability to play off either wing. This season, he has scored three goals off the left in six matches, as well as finding the back eight times from the right and assisting four in 10 appearances. It is clear that Lozano’s strengths lie down the right, but the ability to interchange and create a fluid frontline should please Manchester United’s coaches.

There will be many eyes all over Europe on Lozano to see what numbers he can produce this season, but if Manchester United are serious about signing a new winger, there are few with more potential and the ability right now to start producing than Lozano. The Mexican can provide goals and assists as well as his tireless work-rate, which is something that will be key to United’s performances.

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