Serie A Team of Season (So Far)

The last international break of the year takes place with about a third of the Serie A season in the books, enough time to come up with an ideal eleven with what we’ve seen so far. Suffice to say this is a subjective exercise that is likely to cause a lot of second guessing. But let’s put fear of criticism aside and focus on picking the ideal starting eleven:

Keeper- Alessio Cragno

 

We have a seen a significant turnover at the position for top teams. Buffon is now shockingly at Paris St Germain, Pepe Reina is now a backup at Milan and Roma cashed in on Alisson, the best player at the position last season.

While the more hyped Alex Meret hasn’t been able to play for Napoli yet after suffering an injury to his arm during the summer retreat, Alessio Cragno has become a regular on Mancini’s selections for the Azzurri thanks to his strong performances for Cagliari. He received significant competition from Parma’s Luigi Sepe for the vaunted starter spot on Amoyal’s top 11, leading me to wonder if Napoli would have been just better off starting him dating back to last season.

Honorable mentions- Sirigu, Sepe

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Right Back- Cancelo

When the former Inter “defender” arrived in Turin, his agent Jorge Mendes just smiled when a fan asked him if Cristiano Ronaldo would be joining him at Juventus. That started the narrative that Cancelo was essentially the tax Juventus had to pay to the super agent to land CR7, but now the Portuguese international is rightly considered one of the best wing backs in all of Serie A- he’s the player Juventus was looking for when they signed Mauricio Isla from Udinese and later Dani Alves.

Spal’s Lazzari is now more than ready for a top team, while De Silvestri has been one of Torino’s most consistent players of the season so far.

Honorable mention- Lazzari, De Silvestri

 

Left Back- Cristiano Biraghi

The former Inter youth team product has strived playing for Pioli and is the current starter on the Italian national team. He edges out Asamoah, who has slowed down after a great start at Inter and Alex Sandro who is showing signs he’s regaining the form from his first season at Juventus. 

Honorable mention- Asamoah, Alex Sandro

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Center Backs- Kalidou Koulibaly, Stefan De Vrij

I was recently asked who is the best Bosman signing of the past ten years in Serie A, and while Pirlo is still the obvious answer, we could see De Vrij get in the conversation pretty soon. It’s very rare to sign a defender of his caliber who is just at the beginning of his prime without paying a transfer fee, and his performances this season have shown his trademark elegance and efficiency- he’s an ideal partner for Skriniar, who continues to be one of the elite defenders in Italy.

After losing Higuain because Juventus exercised his exit clause a few years ago, Napoli’s president De Laurentiis decided there was no way he was going to lose Koulibaly during the same window. It’s starting to look like losing the Senegalese defender would have been an even bigger loss than Higuain.

You all know about Chiellini, so let’s highlight fact that Sampdoria has done great work grooming Joaquim Andersen- the Danish center back sat out his first season in Serie A and is now starting to be linked to clubs like Juventus and Inter.

Honorable mention- Skriniar, Chiellini, Andersen, Acerbi

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Midfield- Allan, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo’ Barella

We’ve seen a changing of the guard here with Hamsik, De Rossi and Nainggolan slowing down. While Allan had already emerged as a force for Napoli under Sarri, the fact that Jorginho is gone is giving him more of a spotlight. He’s become the best box to box midfielder in Serie A since Arturo Vidal’s first two seasons at Juventus.

The injury to Pastore gave Lorenzo Pellegrini an opportunity to play in a more advanced position and he couldn’t have done more to take advantage of it. Cagliari must be thrilled they decided to hang on to Barella for another season, his value has skyrocketed because of his performance in Serie A as well as the Italian national team where he looks like a good compliment to Jorginho and Verratti.

Benassi has managed to score as many goals as Chiesa/Pjaca/Simeone combined, as Brozovic goes so does Inter and former Monaco midfielder Meite’ has more than doubled his transfer value since arriving in Italy.

Honorable mention- Meite’, Brozovic , Benassi

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Strikers- Ciro Immobile, Krzysztof Piatek, Lorenzo Insigne

While Piatek hasn’t been able to score since Ballardini was sacked, he has been one of the best story lines in all of Calcio this season. Immobile has kept Lazio afloat despite De Vrij’s departure and more importantly Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto getting off to dreadful starts. For the last starting spot I was very undecided between Suso, who has adapted to Gattuso’s style brilliantly after a tough second half to last season, and Insigne but I give a slight edge to the Neapolitan striker since he also adapted to a new role under Ancelotti.

Honorable mention- Suso, Ronaldo, Icardi, El Shaarawy

 

Injury bug hits Juventus plus Ronaldo social media impact

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Juventus are going through a particularly unlucky period of time in terms of injuries and could be pretty short-handed in the next two games before the break, against Manchester United and Milan. Mario Mandzukic was ruled out late against Empoli because his ankle flared up again, while Giorgio Chiellini is trying to shake off a thigh pull. They were both able to practice fully on Monday, so they could be available.

On the other hand, Federico Bernardeschi rolled an ankle while he was recovering from some muscle fatigue and will take some tests in the next few days. Blaise Matuidi has a bruised hip and had to do some personalized work, while Joao Cancelo trained on his on because of a little strain in the left thigh flexor. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 11

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Samir Handanovic: Inter have kept three clean sheets in the past four games and have looked rock-solid recently, leapfrogging Sampdoria for team that has allowed the fewest goals so far. The goalkeeper has contributed to the cause with some deciding saves.

Joao Cancelo: fresh off a maintenance day against Empoli, where his absence was noticeable, he will be ready to gallop down the flank versus Cagliari, which have scored just twice on the road so far.

Kevin Malcuit: the newcomer has always looked very energetic in his limited appearances and he could get one more chance on Friday. Continue reading

Emre Can update, Cancelo talks up Cristiano for Ballon d’Or & Mourinho tidbit

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Following some further tests in Germany, Juventus midfielder Emre Can underwent surgery in Frankfurt to remove the thyroid after some nodules popped up. The club did not provide an official timetable for his return, but the widespread belief is that he will be sidelined for about 30-to-40 days. As far as the other injured players go, Mario Mandzukic is good to go after missing two games with an ankle sprain and Giorgio Chiellini and Sami Khedira have a shot to be available against Cagliari as well. Federico Bernardeschi has a sore muscle in his hip and will be evaluated throughout the week. Continue reading

Allegri introduces Empoli vs Juventus

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Massimiliano Allegri presented tomorrow’s clash with Empoli and begun by talking about potentially resting Cristiano Ronaldo: “We will take one step at the time, I do not know what will happen in a month. Before the next break, we have two Serie A games and one against Manchester United to secure the qualification. He will not be rotated for now. We need to feed him better, be more precise in the final pass. We should score more for how much we create.”

On the opponent: “Empoli are playing good football, they are fourth in the league for ball possession in the attacking half.”  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 10

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Salvatore Sirigu: Torino’s defence has had its up-and-downs, but they will face a Fiorentina team that has been lousy on the road and has scored just two away goals so far.

Francesco Vicari: Frosinone have made some progress, but mostly at home and they have been shutout in three of their four road games, so picking the leader of SPAL’s sturdy back-line could be a decent idea.

Pol Lirola: Bologna have yet to find the target away from the Dall’Ara Stadium, while Sassuolo is fresh off a clean sheet versus Sampdoria. The pesky right back could also do some damage on offence.  Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 9

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Fittingly jinxed by the recent talk about possible records, Juventus were held to a one-one draw by Genoa at home, where they tried to sleepwalk through the 90 minutes after an early lead, but the Griffon found a way to tie the game through a rather laughable goal.

Joao Cancelo (no points): the centre-backs actually did a pretty good job neutralizing Krzysztof Piatek and the whole squad was focused on shutting down the pipeline of feeds towards the Pole. However, the lapse that led to the equalizer was damning for three/fourths of the back-line, as Mehdi Benatia and Alex Sandro did not pressure Christian Koumé believing the ball was destined to go out-of-bounds and Leonardo Bonucci totally lost the trailing Daniel Bessa. Continue reading

Fabio Paratici talks plus international call-ups

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Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici received yesterday the Manlio Scopigno Award and talked to the press in that occasion, starting with his new leading role: “Operating behind the scenes suited me, not just because of corporate choice, but due to my character. Things will change now, but I will keep working to make Juventus more competitive. I share this award with my co-workers and I dedicate it to Giuseppe Marotta, who groomed me and taught me a lot. I will forever be thankful for what he has done.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “He has our full support, we hold him in high regard. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Juventus

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Three of the top Serie A teams, Juventus, Napoli and Roma, came away with two-nothing wins in the last round. The Giallorossi were pretty lucky to not concede considering Empoli’s chances, Sassuolo had a couple of menacing spurts, so the most convincing club this week was the Old Lady, which simply walloped Udinese on the road.

For once, Massimiliano Allegri fielded his best available XI without much rotation, with Paulo Dybala completing the trident and Rodrigo Bentancur over Emre Can in the midfield, which was missing Sami Khedira who had a relapse of his hamstring injury. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 8

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Most of the big names delivered in the last Serie A round, even though not many strikers managed to make it to the XI because of several good performances in the other roles.

David Ospina (7 points): six teams kept a clean sheet in the last weekend and, among the goalkeepers involved, Ospina did it against the most prolific opponent and had few eye-catching and unconventional saves.

Lorenzo Tonelli (9 points): he was the only defender to score this weekend and his header on a corner kick sunk Atalanta. He had a five-goal season once at Empoli, we might see that again now that he is back being a starter. Continue reading