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
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
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
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
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