There were not quite fireworks in the last week on the transfer market, which saw the minnows complete a fully of moves to try to bolster their squads. After selling Krzysztof Piatek, Genoa were one of the most active one, as they added Chievo centre-piece Ivan Radovanovic and Lukas Lerager from Bordeaux to revamp their midfield and Andràs Schafer to have one more alternative on the flanks. The first two could be regular starters, especially because Sandro was sent to Udinese. Boca Juniors long chased Atalanta’s José-Luis Palomino, but they had to settle for Lisandro Lopez. Continue reading
The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.
Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading
Just a pair of juicy match-ups on deck this week, while the top teams will try to take advantage of cozy fixtures on paper.
Napoli-Empoli: the Partenopei were not super sharp versus Roma, they salvaged a draw but could have probably done more if they did not put themselves in the predicament of having to come back. It was the first time they dropped points at home. Empoli have not won since the first game, but they certainly put up a fight against Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo decided to win it. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus dropped points for the first time this season and Napoli promptly took advantage of it, getting closer in the table. Inter prevailed thanks to a late goal in the Derby. Lazio were clinical against a tough opponent like Parma. Roma had a shocking showing against SPAL. Fiorentina’s winning streak was halted by Cagliari. Torino frittered away a two-nothing lead in Bologna, slowing down after two victories. Atalanta came back to winning ways in impressive fashion, romping Chievo on the road. Frosinone and Empoli shared the spoil in an early but still significant relegation zone clash.
In a moderately surprising twist, Jorginho, who for weeks seemed set to join Manchester City, will instead move to Chelsea. The London club made a better offer (€65M) and the deal facilitated the release of Maurizio Sarri from the Azzurri. The player signed a five-year contract.
The 26-year-old midfielder is coming off his best season yet, where he tallied 39 total appearances, proving to be a vital piece of the Azzurri’s chessboard. Largely snubbed by Gian Piero Ventura, he now also appears to be one of the centre-pieces of Roberto Mancini’s new Italy’s course. Continue reading
Let’s take a look at the most interesting games of the conclusive round.
Cagliari-Atalanta: the Sardinians are one point above Spal and Crotone and would be safe with a win, however Orobici are on the hunt for points that could allow them to leapfrog Milan and avoid the long Europa League playoff next summer. After some disappointing performances, Cagliari came to life in Florence with a key victory. The Goddess have not lost in their last seven matches. Continue reading
It has been an uncharacteristically quiet start for Napoli captain Marek Hamsik. In six matches, the midfielder has tallied only an assist, while he is obviously known for his offensive prowess. In his best seasons, he has been able to tally double-digit goals and dimes. Most importantly, he does not look as dynamic and as involved as in the past: he is clearly behind the eight ball from the physical standpoint. He is very muscular, so it could take him some time to find the right condition after the pre-season preparation, but Napoli had an early start of the summer program because of the Champions League playoff, so he should be fine by now.
Instead, here is what Gazzetta dello Sport had to say after the Shakhtar Donetsk game: “It is hard to say that this is not a crisis. You can not deny what is clear: this is a tough moment for Marek Hamsik. It has become a case that Maurizio Sarri is trying to handle to avoid further repercussions. He is the shadow of that talented player that intrigued Milan and Juventus so much in the recent past. It is truly embarrassing to see him plod after every ball and it could be counter-productive to keep relying on him.”
He has never played more than an hour so far this season as the coach is trying to protect him. This fact has drawn the ire of his agent Martin Petras: “He finished last season with some physical problems, then he took a break to rest and the season has just started. We always expect something more from Marek: he is fine now, but he only plays 60 minutes. We can only respect these coaching decisions, but from my viewpoint, it is always better for a player to feature in the whole game. Exiting after 60 minutes is depressing: you never rest that way. Preparing the game also has a psychological burden: it could be healthy to stay out, but you have to play 90 minutes in the next match.”
The coach Maurizio Sarri wisely defended him: “He is irreplaceable to me, he has that the ability to play between the lines that none of our other midfielders has. The only way to rest him and to have him at our disposal all the time is to sub him off. When a world class player has a down moment, I play him and support him even more: that’s the only way he can give his 101%.”
It is always recommendable for a coach to shield one of his best players, but Sarri might have to consider the alternatives, at least for the near future, until Hamsik is up to speed conditioning-wise. Napoli have won three games out of three in Serie A: two of them, against Bologna and Atalanta, have been solved after Hamsik was taken out of the pitch. They have Piotr Zielinski and Marko Rog who, albeit different players, could potentially be as impactful as the captain. Hamsik might be better off playing smaller stints at the end of the matches until he returns the devastating force he proved he can be.
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