Pioli’s Task- improving Milan while implementing Gazidis’s plan

Most of us claim to want transparency even if it means hearing things we don’t want to hear and few things are more infuriating in life than being deceived. If you tend to agree with the above statement, then you won’t have much of a problem with what Ivan Gazidis has said about Milan in his two highest profile statements about the club he’s running along with Boban and Maldini.

The introductory press conference for new manager Stefano Pioli was an opportunity for Gazidis to remind the media and rossoneri fans’ that he and his colleagues inherited a dire financial situation following the Elliott Fund having to bail out the mysterious Chinese owners and Mirabelli’s disastrous spending spree from a few summers ago. 

The former Arsenal directors reminded everyone that club had to make some painful decisions, including passing on participating in the Europa League and focusing on cheaper players, to be economically viable long term because of the mess they were asked to clean up. But while this maybe true, the fans are now tired of hearing about so many different financial terms since now they just want to have some sporting successes.

The seventh coaching change since Max Allegri was sacked in early 2014 felt like another “been there, done that” moment for those following Milan. What ended up costing Marco Giampaolo his job weren’t just the poor results but almost certainly his unwillingness to execute the plan Gazidis had clearly laid out in his other big public statement of the year- his long interview with Gazzetta dello Sport at the end of May.

Say what you will about Gazidis, but he was a man of his word- he stated Milan would target young players who had the potential to become stars at Milan. This would help keep costs down with wages while also potentially generating some future plusvalenze- we then saw the club acquire Bennacer, Leao, Hernandez and Duarte to become the club’s future stars.

With that plan in mind, hiring Marco Giampaolo made a lot of sense. At Empoli and Sampdoria he had an excellent track record of developing young players like Torreira, Skriniar, Praet, Andersen and even Patrik Schick who has sold for an exorbitant transfer fee. On paper not only would Giampaolo get the most out of one of the youngest squads in Serie A, but he would also bring back the offensive minded football we associate with Milan.

Well you know how it turned out- Giampaolo was unmitigated disaster in every aspect. He seemed confused with his lineup (Andre’ Silva starting only to be loaned a few days later), Paqueta’ and Piatek regressing significantly, no offensive improvements, but consistently starting the Biglia, Calhanoglu, Rodriguez and Castillejos of the world over the players Milan was looking to develop was just a bridge too far.

While Milan flirted with the idea of hiring Luciano Spalletti, from a financial stand point it never really made much sense considering he’s still under contract with Inter through 2021 with a substantial annual salary. Instead Milan ended up hiring his predecessor at the nerazzurri Stefano Pioli, who was “welcomed” to the club with a virtual protest on social media demanding his sacking even before his introductory press conference.

The protest wasn’t so much directed at Pioli but rather the direction of the club and by the time the press conference took place, you could see many Milan fans had gotten through the seven stages of grief and had talked themselves into Pioli. When you look at the managers who have been on the rossoneri’s bench since Allegri left, you can certainly make a case Pioli ranks towards the top.

Pioli was able to get Lazio to third place back in 2015, while time at Inter ended with a typical pazza collapse, he had won 12 of his first 16 Serie A matches with the nerazzurri once he replaced De Boer. Pioli received universal praise for the way he handled Davide Astori’s tragic death at Fiorentina and the team got considerably worse last season when Vincenzo Montella (another former Milan manager) replaced him.

Certainly Milan fans will judge Pioli mainly based on results, and it won’t be easy for him since he will face a much tougher schedule than what Giampaolo dealt with in his first seven matches, but how he develops Milan’s young players will be just as significant. But how those results are achieved will be equally important- Pioli will have to get Piatek and Paqueta’ back on track, continue to develop Leao and Bennacer while finding out if Caldara and Hernandez can be starters on defense alongside Romagnoli since  Gazidis and the rest of the management team need to see their vision executed on the pitch.

 

Milan sack Giampaolo and hire Pioli

Despite Saturday’s chaotic win over Genoa, the Milan officials have elected to axe Marco Giampaolo and appoint Stefano Pioli after an underwhelming start of the season, which saw them collect three wins and four losses, against Udinese, Inter, Torino and Fiorentina. They are currently 13th in the table. The new boss has agreed to a two-year contract.

Pioli most recently coached Fiorentina for almost two seasons, as he resigned last April and then the team went into a downward spiral under Vincenzo Montella. He had led them to an eight-placed finish the year before. Continue reading

Genoa vs. AC Milan: Team news, stats and prediction

Following the defeat to Fiorentina last time out, Marco Giampaolo’s position at AC Milan is hanging by a thread as a crucial clash with Genoa awaits this evening. In fact, it is rumoured to be the Italian’s last chance to save his job. 

The Rossoneri have failed to impress at the start of the season, winning just two of the first six games. Inevitably, therefore, Giampaolo has had to withstand some heavy criticism from the media and fans, which the management seemed to have picked up on now.

According to the latest reports, tonight’s clash will be the last chance for the former Sampdoria boss, as Milan simply can’t afford to lose any more points if they want to stay within reach of the top four. In other words, three points are needed against Genoa this evening.

THE TEAM

At the back, per Gazzetta Dello Sport, one change will be made. Musacchio will serve a one-game ban following the red card against Fiorentina, thus paving the way for Duarte to make his first start with the red and black shirt. Other than that, the back four remains intact, as Hernandez once again wins the race over Rodriguez.

After the first games of the season, fans were begging Giampaolo to opt for Bennacer rather than Biglia, which materialized in the last two games. However, last time out, the Algerian had a nightmare as he caused two penalties, lacked awareness and misplaced several passes. Therefore, he will sit on the bench this evening.

In addition to him, for the first time this season, Calhanoglu will start on the bench. The Turk played a big role at the beginning of the season, but has since failed to impress the fans. As a result, Paqueta will take his spot to the left in the midfield, having recovered from the minor injury he sustained before the Torino clash.

Earlier this week, rumours suggested that Piatek could be dropped in favour of Rafael Leao. However, according to Gazzetta Dello Sport, the Polish striker will lead the line up front while the Portuguese youngster will play on the left flank. Therefore, we will have to wait for Rebic’s first start with the club.

Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Duarte, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessiè, Biglia, Paqueta; Suso, Piatek, Leao.

Likely Genoa XI (3-5-2): Radu; Romero, Zapata, Criscito; Ghiglione, Schone, Radovanovic, Lerager, Pajac; Pinamonti, Kouamé.

STATS

Normally, Milan would be the favourite in this fixture. However, given their recent form, you simply can’t rule out another loss for Giampaolo’s men. Furthermore, the stats suggest that the Rossoneri have struggled against Genoa in the past, even though recent times have seen a great improvement in this aspect.

In fact, the Rossoneri have won four of their last five encounters with the Rossoblu, while they had lost four of their previous five games against them before the current run. Then again, Giampaolo’s men have started the season far from good, and yet another loss would go down even deeper in history.

Only once in their Serie A history have Milan lost five of their first seven games in a single season (in the 1938/39 under József Bánás). Therefore, a lot is at stake this evening, and the team will have to get the goalscoring going after bagging only two goals from open play thus far.

PREDICTION

So far in my predictions, I have been pretty optimistic. However, being an AC Milan fans, it’s getting hard. Therefore, I don’t expect Giampaolo’s side to make any wonders this evening, though the Rossoneri will have to bounce back at some point. For the sake of it, I think it will end in a scoreless draw.

Genoa 0-0 AC Milan

Serie A Round 7 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day six came and went as Antonio Conte’s Inter maintained their perfect record dispatching last-place Sampdoria 3-1 with a man down. Similarly, Juventus overcame SPAL with ease, as Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the score-sheet.

Otherwise, Napoli returned to winning ways against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia after stumbling in mid-week to Cagliari. Top four contenders Atalanta, Roma and Lazio all picked up wins while Milan’s poor form continued in their 3-1 defeat against Fiorentina.

With match-day seven upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 Krzysztof Piątek (ATT, Milan, Value 20.9) – The Polish international and this column have been a match made in heaven this season. Since Marco Giampaolo has assumed the reigns at Milanello, Piątek has looked a shade of his former self and has lost his lethal touch in the box. As the former Genoa man’s woes in front of goal continue, don’t be surprised if Giampaolo opts for the in-form Rafa Leao this week.

At 20.9 million euros, it’s time to move away from the Milan striker and bring in a more prolific figure in your fantacalcio sides. One-season wonder?

Domenico Criscito (DEF, Genoa, Value 22.3) – Since Genoa’s win against Fiorentina at the beginning of September, it’s been a bumpy ride for the Grifoni. Genoa are currently winless in their last three, succumbing to Serie B side Virtus Entella in a club friendly. Moreover, they’ve conceded a staggering seven goals in these clashes, four of which coming in their most recent drubbing against Lazio.

While Criscito hasn’t exactly played poor in these games, Genoa’s porous defence means it’s worth shifting away from the former Juventus defender – especially at 22.4 million.

Andrea Petagna (ATT, SPAL, Value 25.3) – The 24-year-old started the season positively scoring two goals and registering one assist in his first three games, but has since slowed down. In addition to his own profligacy in front of goal, SPAL aren’t in the best form either and have struggled to create chances in the final third. 

In fact, Leonardo Semplici’s men have now picked up three defeats on the bounce, including a 3-1 loss to fellow relegation candidates Lecce. In their most recent defeat against Serie A champions Juventus, Petagna looked out of sorts and isolated on his own up top. As a result, it’s worth using your free transfer and temporarily swapping him out of your eleven for the time being. If his fortunes don’t change soon, consider making the switch permanent.

Arkadiusz Milik (ATT, Napoli, Value 4.5) – Continuing with the theme of out-of-form strikers, Napoli’s Milik is another player you just drop from your fantacalcio sides for the time being. Currently, the Polish international cannot buy a goal, as illustrated in the partenopei’s most recent stalemate in their Champions League clash against Genk.

In his three appearances this season, Milik is yet to find the back of the net and has regularly looked out of sorts spearheading Napoli’s attack. With Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Fernando Llorente as options up front, expect Milik’s playing time to be further reduced moving forward. And we haven’t even mentioned Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne yet. For now, even 4.5 million is too much for the Napoli hitman.

Riccardo Orsolini (MID, Bologna, Value 21.9) – The Bologna winger started the season with a lot of promise, putting in man-of-the-match performances against both SPAL and Brescia. His goal and two early assists indicated that Orsolini introduced end-product to his game and was ready to take the next step in his career. However, in Bologna’s last three games, the 22-year-old has struggled for consistency and is yet to register a goal contribution.

In fact, Bologna have been shut out in their last two games, dropping points against Genoa and Udinese – two sides that will arguably be fighting relegation this season. At 21.9 million, you’d be wise to move Orsolini out of your elevens until he returns to form.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for it play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Serie A Round 5 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day four brought just as much drama and stoppage time heroics as previous weeks and has now set up an intriguing slate of fixtures ahead. Inter look to remain atop the table against Lazio while Juventus will be locking horns with yet another newly-promoted side in Brescia. Otherwise, Roma will be taking on Atalanta in what promises goals and excitement. Napoli, on the other hand, take on the in-form Cagliari and will need to be careful not to slip up against the Sardinians.

With match-day five upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Suso (ATT, Milan, Value 17.9) - The former Liverpool man had a performance to forget against Milan’s fierce rivals Inter and will be kicking himself for not passing the ball on the rossoneri’s most dangerous counter-attack in the first half. While Suso has arguably been Milan’s best performer and ther catalyst in the final third, his selfishness and poor decision-making on the ball will not go down well with Marco Giampaolo.

As Milan continue to struggle for an identity and look laborious in the final third, expect Suso to keep encountering issues. At 17.9M there are frankly better options. For the time being, you should seriously consider swapping him out of your lineup.

Nikola Milenkovic (DEF, Fiorentina, Value 18.2) - The Serbian international is among the most promising defenders in Serie A, yet, still has ways to go before establishing himself as a consistent performer in Italy. Despite an ambitious summer, Fiorentina’s struggles have continued from years past and they appear set for another indifferent season. They may have encountered a difficult schedule, but their defensive issues are worrying nonetheless.

Moreover, Montella’s men have already conceded eight goals this season, two of which came in their most-recent collapse against Atalanta. Up two goals, la viola fell asleep conceding two careless goals against Gian Piero Gasperini’s men. While Milenkovic has all the tools to take the next step in his career, at 18.2M it’s time to move on.

Ricardo Rodriguez (DEF, Milan, Value 17.9) - The Swiss international has maintained his spot in the eleven over Theo Hernandez to begin the season, however, has begun showing signs of slowing down. Against Inter, Rodriguez put in a horrid performance and was regularly beaten by his man. Whether he was being careless at the back or lackluster in the final third, it’s clear the former Wolfsburg man needs a spell on the bench.

Considering Hernandez‘ impressive cameo performance, don’t be surprised to see the Frenchman given the nod over Rodriguez this week. As a result, you should consider dropping the Milan man before his value drops too much.

Duvan Zapata (ATT, Atalanta, Value 21.8) The burgeoning forward has picked up where he left off last season scoring three goals in his first four appearances this season, however, simply put, he looked off the pace against Fiorentina.

Zapata is at his best when he imposes his physique on the opposition and plays off the defender. Against Fiorentina, the former Napoli man displayed signs of fatigue indicating some rest may be on the horizon for him. With Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic in good form, expect Zapata to be rested in Atalanta’s upcoming game. After all, Gasperini can’t afford to burn him out.

Daniele Baselli (MID, Torino, Value 17.7) - The former Atalanta man has thrived since Walter Mazzarri has taken over and has established himself as a key player for I Granata. Despite his notable improvements over the years, Baselli’s game still lacks end-product in the final third as he proves to be often wasteful.

With Torino taking on Milan, expect Mazzarri’s men to sit deep and absorb the pressure. This type of game doesn’t exactly suit Baselli’s strengths. As a result, you’d be wise to temporarily drop the midfielder from your side.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for it play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Serie A Round 4 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day three has come and gone and it’s now time to look ahead to the next round of fixtures. Inter look to remain perfect in the Derby della Madonnina against Milan while Juventus will be hoping to return to winning ways against newly-promoted side Hellas Verona. The in-form Napoli will also take on Serie A new-boys and will be travelling to Lecce. Otherwise, free-scoring sides Bologna and Roma lock horns at the Dall’Ara in what promises to be an enthralling affair.

With match-day four upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Gervinho (ATT, Parma, Value 15.9) -The former Arsenal man hasn’t had the best of starts to the Serie A season scoring just one goal in his first three affairs. In Parma’s last game against Cagliari, Gervinho looks devoid of any ideas in the final third and was wasteful in front of goal. This week’s fixtures see Parma go up against a Lazio side looking to redeem themselves from their slip-up against SPAL. As a result, expect Parma to find themselves on the backfoot for much of this game, like it’s been the case for the first three games of the season.

While it’s still early days, Parma’s lack of creativity and invention in the final third may just cost them points and catapult them into a relegation dog-fight. And frankly, it will cost you fantasy points if you persevere with Gervinho. At 15.9 million, there are undoubtedly better options than the Ivorian.

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 16.9) - Much like Gervinho, the Argentine midfielder is playing on a side that will surely be among the candidates for relegation. If that weren’t enough to persuade you from dropping De Paul, the Udinese midfielder recently got sent off for slapping Inter winger Antonio Candreva in his side’s most recent defeat. With De Paul suspended for Udinese’s next game, it’s as good a time as any to make use of your free transfer between rounds and swap him out of your team.

While De Paul will come back strong from the sending off, at 16.9 million the midfielder is frankly not worth the trouble. Especially when you consider you can get Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and save 1.4 million, just to name one example.

Douglas Costa (ATT, Juventus, Value 10.6) - The Brazilian was initially my bargain pick for this year’s edition of fantasy Serie A but he has since seen his value rise as he’s established himself as a set starter in Turin. Despite his positive performances and his two assists against Napoli, you would be wise to temporarily shift Douglas Costa out of your sides as he’s recently picked up an injury sidelining him for the better part of two weeks.

With Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi waiting in the wings, the bianconeri have no shortage of options to replace the former Bayern Munich man. As a result, expect Douglas Costa to be eased into action slowly. Until then, there’s good value out there for 10.6 million.

Lucas Paqueta (MID, Milan, Value 8.3) - Initially, the Brazilian international was supposed to be a match-made in heaven for Marco Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2. Capable of playing behind the strikers or on the left-hand side of the midfield three, Paqueta, in theory, fits like a glove in the Milan manager’s setup. However, reality is a different beast altogether and Paqueta has since fallen out of favour with Giampaolo.

The former Sampdoria tactician recently claimed that Paqueta has to be “less Brazilian” and simplify his game, to which the midfielder responded immediately via Instagram. As a result, expect the former Flamengo man to be in the dog-house for the time being.

Luis Alberto (MID, Lazio, Value 15.5) - The Spaniard was a difficult inclusion, however, given his high valuation, the former Liverpool man had to make the list. After two impressive performances against Sampdoria and Roma, Luis Alberto struggled to make an impact against SPAL.

With Lazio taking on CFR Cluj in the Europa League this week, expect Simone Inzaghi to rotate his eleven. Considering the biancocelesti’s multitude of options in the midfield and final third, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luis Alberto given some rest against Parma. For 15.5 million, you can do better.

Serie A’s Blue & Red Chip Players

Now that the transfer window is (FINALLY) over, we can fully assess the squads for the top Serie A teams. When ranking teams and breaking down their player personnel, I always use a method that NFL general manager Mike Lombardi employed both as an executive and analyst: name the blue and red chip players.

A blue chip player is a true difference maker, an elite player at his position who could start regularly for a title contender. A red chip player on the hand is someone who could be a significant contributor on a team that is competing for a Champions League spot. While putting together this year’s version of this column, I once again avoid putting players new to Serie A in the blue chip category because we don’t know how they will adapt to a new league.

 

So without further due, let’s take a look at how many blue chip and red chip players each top Serie A team has:

 

Juventus 

 

Blue Chip: Szczesny, Chiellini, Ronaldo, Douglas Costa 

Red Chip: De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro, Pjanic, Khedira, Ramsey, Rabiot, Dybala, Bernardeschi, Matuidi, Mandzukic, Can, Higuain, Buffon

The bianconeri are so deep that their main backups would likely contend for a Champions League spot if they had their own team so it’s not surprising to see a long list of blue chip players which could have also easily featured also Cuadrado and  Demiral. 

Douglas Costa’s speed and dribbling ability make him “fuori categoria” in Serie A (a player that is so unique there’s hardly any comparison in the league). Szczesny has been so good since arriving in Italy that those familiar with Serie A never thought for a second that Buffon was returning to Juventus to be the starter, while Ronaldo and Chiellini are still elite players at their positions despite their age. 

Last year many would have had Pjanic as a blue chip player (not me though), but his value is diminished since he doesn’t take as many free kicks with Ronaldo on the squad. Dybala went from being arguably the most valuable player on the transfer market in all of Serie A to someone who has to compete with Higuain for playing time while Khedira is a blue chip player in the eyes of pretty much any manager he ever had.

 

 

 

Napoli

 

Blue Chip: Koulibaly, Allan, Fabian Ruiz, Callejon

Red Chip: Mertens, Meret, Manolas, Zielinski, MIlik, Insigne, Lozano

Aside from Ronaldo, it’s hard to argue against Fabian Ruiz being the best player who joined Serie A from abroad last season. Napoli were able to hold on to Koulibaly and Allan who just like Fabian Ruiz could be starters on Juventus, while Callejon continues to reinvent himself and add to his game- Ancelotti has already used him a central midfielder during summer friendlies.

Aside from Dino Zoff, you can make a case that Meret has everything needed to be Napoli’s best keeper ever, while Manolas is a more than adequate replacement for Albiol. Milik is coming off a season in which he scored 18 goals in Serie A with no penalties, while Lozano looks like the perfect jolly for Ancelotti to use in different ways to compliment his front line. 

In order for the partenopei to truly contend with Juventus, they’ll need two out of Ghoulam (who was a red chip player before his injury), Malcuit and Di Lorenzo to exceed expectations this season.

 

Inter

 

Blue Chip: Handanovic, Skriniar, De Vrij, Brozovic

Red Chip: Lukaku, Godin, Barella, Sensi, Lautaro Martinez, Politano

Clearly Inter have a blue chip manager who will make players like Candreva look like red chip players most of the time, but let’s try not to be influenced too much by Conte. Inter have been able to won their first two games with Ranocchia and D’Ambrosio starting, but they’ll be even better with De Vrij- a Bosman signing who should get more praise as an incredible addition- and Godin are also starting (he was the one new addition from abroad I wanted to make a blue chip right away).

Brozovic was the nerazzurri’s most important player last season- when he performed well, they almost always won. He’ll now be joined by Sensi and Barella in a midfield with a lot of quality but very little size. Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are difference makers on their own, but also look to be a duo that compliments each other rather well. Conte insisted on holding on to Politano and he could be quite valuable as both a wing back and a second striker.

 

Milan

 

Blue Chip: Romagnoli, Donnarumma 

Red Chip: Paqueta, Piatek, Bennacer, Suso, Bonaventura 

Say what you will about Galliani but on his watch Milan acquired Romagnoli and launched Donnarumma, two elite players at their respective positions. Since then Fassone, Leonardo and now Massara/Maldini/Boban have acquired young players who have the potential to become blue chippers- especially Paqueta, Piatek and Bennacer. The good news is that new manager Marco Giampaolo has a great track record of taking players to the next level, but doing so at Milan is a bit more complicated than at Sampdoria where there is much more built in patience.

 

Roma

 

Blue Chip: Dzeko

Red Chip: Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Kolarov, Mkhitaryan, Florenzi, Pau Lopez

 

None of the teams mentioned so far lost as many quality players as the giallorossi with Manolas, De Rossi and El Shaarawy departing. Considering he’s coming off a season in which he scored nine goals, it’s probably generous to put Dzeko as a blue chipper, especially when you consider his age, but he does impact matches in many different ways. On the bright side for Roma, Zaniolo has a everything needed to become a top player and while I didn’t list Diawara and Veretout, they have the characteristics to be quite functional in Fonseca’s system plus Pau Lopez already looks like a massive upgrade to Olsen. 

 

Atalanta

 

Blue Chip: Papu Gomez

Red Chip: Freuler, Toloi, Ilicic, Zapata, Muriel, Castagne 

 

In many ways, Gasperini is a poor man’s version of Conte- not just because of the formation they use, but also because of their ability to make average players look like difference makers. Ilicic and Zapata had career seasons at Atalanta last season and it’s very likely Muriel will follow their path. Freuler is one of the most underrated midfielders in Serie A, he’s the player many think Diawara is to this day. Look for Castagne to take a leap this season and it will be interesting to see how the defense adapts to Mancini’s departure- if Kjaer or Palomino perform like red chippers then Atalanta can once again compete for a Champions League spot. 

Lazio

 

Blue Chip: Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi, Lucas Leiva

Red Chip: Immobile, Luis Alberto, Lazzari, Correa

I’ve been known for overrating the biancocelesti, but they have a more impressive core of players than Roma and Milan in my honest opinion. Acerbi made everyone forget how good De Vrij was at Lazio, Milinkovic Savic was able to win award for best midfielder in Serie A In objectively a down season while Immobile already has 3 seasons with 20+ goals in Italy. Lazzari was already devasting at SPAL but now has so much more talent in a system he knows like the back of his hand while Correa can build on his outstanding second half of last season.

 

Miscellaneous teams

 

Blue Chip: Quagliarella, Sirigu

Red Chip: Belotti, Chiesa, Izzo, Nkolou, Cragno, Pavoletti, Pezzela, Milenkovic, Gervinho, Schone   

 

Serie A Round 1 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

The first round of Serie A action promised plenty of fireworks and did not disappoint. Whether it was Antonio Conte’s long-awaited return to Italian football, Lorenzo Insigne’s man-of-the-match performance or the countless goal fests, it’s safe to say calcio is officially back. While the likes of Ciro Immobile and Luis Muriel stole the show, there were some players who put in less-than-stellar shifts.

After match-day one, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Paulo Dybala (ATT, Juventus, Value 8.7) - Dybala has been at the heart of countless mercato talks this past summer but appears set to stay in Turin for one more season. Despite this, la Joya is second fiddle to Gonzalo Higuain and likely won’t feature regularly in Juventus’ attack. Against Parma, the former Palermo man was an unused substitute as newly appointed boss Maurizio Sarri opted for the trio of Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Douglas Costa. With games coming up against Napoli and Fiorentina, expect Dybala to begin games from a bench role and feature sporadically. At 8.7M, there are frankly better fantacalcio options.

Fabio Quagliarella (ATT, Sampdoria, Value 18.10) - Last season’s capocannoniere started the new year on the wrong foot, with his side succumbing to Lazio in convincing fashion. Having lost Marco Giampaolo at the helm, and Dennis Praet at the base of midfield, the blucerchiati look a side devoid of identity and struggled immensely in their first game. If it weren’t for Emil Audero’s heroics, Sampdoria could have well lost by five or six. At 18.10M, it’s hard to justify including an ageing Quagliarella in your team, especially after his two-point fantacalcio outing. After all, it will take time for Eusebio Di Francesco to instil his footballing philosophy and with games against Sassuolo, Napoli and Torino on deck, Quagliarella may struggle. 
Federico Fazio (DEF, Roma, Value 11.3) - Going into the first game of the season, question marks were raised about Roma’s rearguard. With Kostas Manolas moving to Napoli, the giallorossi lack a true leader at the heart of defence and it showed in their 3-3 draw against Genoa. Fazio and Juan Jesus regularly lost the mobile partnership of Christian Kouame and Andrea Pinamonti and barely got support from their fullbacks. As Gianluca Mancini is being eased into the side and one of Daniele Rugani or Dejan Lovren on the way, expect a struggling Fazio to feature less. At 11.3M, you’d be wise to drop the Argentine and the one fantasy point he earned in match-day one. 
Krzysztof Piątek (ATT, Milan, Value 14.9) - The Polish international had an outing to forget against Udinese and failed to impose himself in Milan’s season opener. With the rossoneri stuck between Giampaolo’s preferred 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3, expect Piatek to be a victim of Milan’s ongoing identity crisis. Without the arrival of a true second striker alongside him, the former Genoa man will find chances hard to come by and will continue to struggle in front of goal. While Piatek will undoubtedly come good later in the season, his 14.9M price-tag is far too high right now for a player who isn’t producing. At that price, you can afford to swap him out of your side for the likes of Insigne or even Inter’s Romelu Lukaku. 
Allan (MID, Napoli, Value 11.0) - The Brazilian midfielder is one of the best in his position in the league but is the antithesis of the ideal fantacalcio player. Given his desire to dive into tackles, Allan will cost you fantasy points for yellow cards. Against Fiorentina, the midfielder gave Napoli’s midfield some much-needed steel, however, offered little invention in the final third. With Carlo Ancelotti experimenting with the 4-2-3-1, Allan’s deeper role and increased defensive duties will mean he won’t get too many opportunities in and around the danger area. While any team in Serie A would kill to add the 28-year-old to their ranks, this is one player fantasy manager should stay away from; especially with the Juventus clash on the horizon. 
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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two

Milan-Brescia: the first game under Marco Giampaolo presented the same issues the Rossoneri suffered from last season, primarily keeping the ball up front and feeding their main striker. They managed to get only some limited offensive forays without never building a constant assasult. A faux pas that could lead to some tactical and personnel change, with Suso possibly returning to the flank and Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao getting the nod from start. If they can turn it around, it could be a decent spot for Krzysztof Piatek, but it is tough to trust them right now. The Rondinelle showed to be solid right away in a fairly tough road game in Cagliari: last year’s design worked and the defense held up. If that continues to be the case, Alfredo Donnarumma will be one to watch, he scored 26 goals in Serie B, same as Dimistri Bisoli, who is their most dangerous midfielder, while Sandro Tonali’s fantasy production is a little shakier because it hinges on set pieces. Continue reading