Lorenzo Pellegrini: Fonseca’s Mister X

Since Paulo Fonseca has taken over in the nation’s capitalit’s been clear he’s actively trying to implement his possession-based football from day one. In many ways, the former Shakhtar Donetsk man has succeeded as Roma are among the highest-scoring sides in the league and have looked lethal in the final third. While their defence has left a lot to be desired, their offensive impetus is a good starting point for the giallorossi. Fonseca’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation has since given Roma’s forwards newfound freedom in the final third.

Lorenzo Pellegrini is but one of many benefactors of the managerial change in Trigoria and has seen his importance grow within the side. Initially used on the left of Fonseca’s double pivot, the former Sassuolo man has since been shifted further forward as the side’s number ten. After all, his creativity and vision were wasted deep in midfield.

From the trequartista position, Pellegrini is able to make the most of his range of passing and intelligent movement to hurt the opposition. In his side’s most recent game, the 23-year-old put on a passing clinic against his former side, registering three assists in Roma’s 4-2 win over Sassuolo.

While he begins games centrally, the midfielder has no issues interchanging positions with Nicolo Zaniolo in wide areas, giving the opposition no reference point. From wide positions, defences often forget about him until he makes a late, darting run. In Italy’s most recent qualifier against Finland, Pellegrini started the game at left-wing and simply put, did a job, highlighting his versatility.

Moving forward, expect Fonseca to continue deploying Pellegrini higher up the pitch, especially considering he has no shortage of options for his double pivot. With the 23-year-old’s mobility, Roma are able to overload the opposition in the final third and make the most of these numerical advantages.

Equally capable of picking apart the opposition with a pass or firing one himself, Pellegrini is the ideal trequartista for Fonseca’s system. As Cengiz Under is out indefinitely, Roma are lacking invention in front of packed defences, something Pellegrini could definitely help out with.

With Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert among others flanking him, it makes for a truly versatile front-line behind the towering Edin Dzeko. Factor in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival – a player comfortable with playing anywhere across the front-line – and it makes for a truly diverse attacking corps in the nation’s capital. Moreover, given their ability to interchange positions at will, Roma’s attack in full flow will be difficult to stop.

As the giallorossi are set to begin their European campaign against Istanbul Basaksehir and will travel to the in-form Bologna on the weekend, expect Fonseca to keep experimenting with Pellegrini in the final third. Considering he can play just about anywhere, the former Sassuolo man will undoubtedly be a key player for the Portuguese tactician and will be looking to take the next step in his career. If his performance against Sassuolo is anything to go by, Pellegrini is in for a big season with Fonseca at the helm.

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Serie A Team of the Round – Sassuolo

Sassuolo had the best display in Serie A in the second round and only the late consolation goal by Fabio Quagliarella prevented them from getting a more substantial fantasy haul. The three teams that kept a clean sheet, Milan, Bologna and Verona, took home only narrow wins, while Parma got a great result in Udinese, but the Bianconeri had a lot of chances and they were deadly on their limited ones.

The Neroverdi cruised past Sampdoria, which are on the wrong end of this column for the second week in a row and have a lot of work on during the break. Help is on its way in the transfer market, but the ownership saga has been harmful. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

deligt

All in all, it was a pretty quiet week in Serie A, but it still included some massive deals, as Juventus pulled off one of the transfers of the summer by acquiring Matthijs De Ligt from Ajax, while Roma have commenced re-building the back-line with Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta and won the race to sign Jordan Veretout from Fiorentina

The Orobici have signed Ruben Malinovskyi from Genk, who is somebody to keep an eye on fantasy-wise since he was extremely productive in Belgium, thanks to penalties and other set pieces. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

barella

Another interesting transfer market week is in the books: Roma was the most active among the top teams, both acquiring and selling players. After three solid seasons, Stephan El Shaarawy was lured away by Chinese money, while Pau Lopez from Real Betis is their new starting goalkeeper. They let go two fringe players: Gerson joined Flamengo after the up-and-down loan spell to Fiorentina, while Ivan Marcano returned to Porto after failing to make an impression last season. After much wait, Inter finally concluded the negotiation to sign Nicolò Barella from Cagliari, while Milan announced Rade KrunicContinue reading

How Paratici rejuvenated Juventus’ back four

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici has wasted no time this summer, securing Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on bosmans, and has revolutionized the bianconeri’s back four for years to come. Last week, it was reported that the Italian champions beat PSG and Barcelona to Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt. The highly rated 19-year-old wasn’t the only defender Juventus signed, as Paratici also completed deals for Genoa’s Cristian Romero and Sassuolo’s Merih Demiral. Since 2011, Juventus’ success has largely been built on their resolute backline and the famous BBC, yet, recently, with their key defenders on the wrong side of thirty, they’ve shown signs of wear and tear.

Last season, Leonardo Bonucci returned to the club after a poor year with Milan, and has looked a shade of his former self, making routine errors. Recently, it’s been reported that Bonucci may be on his way to PSG, if the sides can agree on a fee. Chiellini, on the other hand, has been solid as ever, but has been regularly sidelined with recurring injuries. As a result, Juve’s 70 million euro swoop for de Ligt is a no-brainer. The Dutch international is arguably the world’s most talented young centre-back, and will immediately establish himself as a leader in Turin. Alongside the veteran presence of Chiellini, expect the Dutchman to take his game to the next level.

Other than de Ligt, Paratici turned to three Serie A talents to rejuvenate the defence: Demiral, Romero and Roma’s Luca Pellegrini. Demiral has already asserted himself as a regular with the Turkish national team and can even feature at right back. At just 15 million euros, the former Fenerbahçe youth product may prove to be the bargain of the summer.

Romero, by contrast, will likely remain on loan at Genoa for another season and is one for the future. His 30 million euro price-tag shows that Paratici holds him in high-esteem, but another season with I Grifoni will allow him to keep growing.

Outside of central defence, Paratici took a risk and swapped Leonardo Spinazzola for Pellegrini and just under 10 million euros. Throughout his loan spell with Cagliari this past season, Pellegrini demonstrated immense upside, registering two assists in 23 appearances.

Spinazzola has struggled with injuries in the past but appears to have put his fitness concerns behind him. In fact, he was arguably the best player on the pitch in Juventus’ comeback win against Atletico Madrid. Despite this, Paratici went ahead with the swap. While Spinazzola is more ready now, the former Roma defender arguably has a higher ceiling, but will need playing time to grow. With Alex Sandro struggling for form, expect the 20-year-old to be given ample opportunities.

Juventus’ defence has long been their strong suit, but this past season’s shakiness was undoubtedly a rude awakening for their top brass. Paratici has since acted proactively, securing four talents within two weeks, all of which can be elite in the right environment. While the bianconeri’s revolutionized backline may not be the BBC of old, they have all the potential in the world to write their own story, and for that, Paratici must me commended.

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Roma’s Hot Seat: The Contenders

With Roma on the prowl for a new manager following a disappointing season in the nation’s capital, many of Italy’s tacticians have been linked with a move to the giallorossi. After missing out on the Champions League, the Roma brass are looking for fresh ideas, and start anew once more. Here are the current contenders for the job, including the favourites, a couple long-shots, and everyone in between.

1) Sinisa Mihajlovic (Bologna) 

The Bologna manager is arguably the likeliest to become Roma’s boss next season, and has demonstrated he has the personality to coach one of the league’s top clubs in the future. After replacing Pippo Inzaghi half-way through the season, the Serbian tactician steered Bologna to safety with ease, and made the most of their limited roster.

Instilling an offensive 4-2-3-1, Mihajlovic took Bologna to another level, and inevitably catapulted them from the relegation zone to a respectable tenth place finish. Prior to his arrival, Bologna looked a side devoid of an identity, and appeared set to go down to Italy’s second division.

Under his guidance, offensive talent Riccardo Orsolini stepped up, scoring four goals and registering one assist in his last six appearances, and gave a glimpse of what’s to come to the rest of the calcio world. Following his strong finish, Bologna exercised their option to purchase him completely from Juventus.

Other than getting Bologna firing on all cylinders in the final third, Mihajlovic, much like it has been the case his entire managerial career, introduced new-found solidity in the midfield with his double pivot, and laid the foundations at the club for next season. Should he join Roma, as it’s largely being reported, expect the Serb to do the same and continue his progression as a young manager.

mihajlovic

2) Marco Giampaolo (Sampdoria) 

The Sampdoria boss has long been regarded as one of the peninsula’s up and coming tacticians, and has continued his development at Sampdoria this past year. While this season ended in disappointing fashion for the blucerchiati finishing outside the European places, Giampaolo made strides forward, and continued to implement his possession-based game in Genoa.

Bringing his trademark 4-3-1-2 no matter the club he’s at, he may prove to be a good fit for a stuttering giallorossi side. This season, Roma lacked invention in the final third, and played much of the season looking lethargic in possession. However, just like Mihajlovic, Giampaolo is relatively untested at the highest level, and is yet to prove himself in the upper echelon of Italian football. With Roma looking to get back into the Champions League as early as next season, hiring Giampaolo is a risk they may not be able to afford.

It’s also important to note that Milan are also in the running for the tactician, and are arguably the front-runners for his signature. In any case, don’t expect Giampaolo to be the man to restore Roma to their former heights.

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3) The outsiders

Outside of Mihajlovic and Giampaolo, a host of other names have been linked to the Roma hot-seat, albeit less seriously. If recent reports are to be believed, Shaktar’s Paulo Fonseca has been coveted by the Roma management, and could be brought in this coming summer. Like Giampaolo, Fonseca values possession-based football, and has done wonders with his Ukrainian outfit in recent years, especially in the Champions League. Despite being a long shot for the time being, he’d be an impressive appointment, all things considered.

Another name linked to the side is Sassuolo’s Roberto De Zerbi. After impressing at Benevento in his first season in Serie A, De Zerbi was appointed as Sassuolo’s manager. Despite the neroverdi’s limited roster, the Italian tactician guided them comfortably to a 12th place finish, all-while playing progressive football with a strong Italian base. Much like the other candidates, De Zerbi is unproven but has demonstrated he’s one of the nation’s most forward-thinking managers.

Other names that have been vaguely linked to Roma are former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, who Francesco Totti is reportedly pushing for, and Jose Mourinho. However, these links should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, and are arguably meant more to sell papers than anything else.

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Handanović relieved to secure Champions League berth

inter

Samir Handanović spoke to Inter TV in the immediate aftermath of the Nerazzurri’s crucial 2-1 victory over Empoli last night. The Nerazzurri captain once again turned in a superb performance, making several critical saves before Radja Nainggolan scored a typically late winner in front of a packed San Siro. Here is what the Slovenian had to say: Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Atalanta

atalanta

It got tense and contentious in the first half, but Atalanta pulled away in the second one in the Sassuolo game and successful defended their third place, deservedly punching their ticket for next year’s Champions League for the first time in their history.

The Goddess approached the game having triumphed in four of the previous five fixtures, drawing only on the road against Juventus, and staying undefeated since late February. While the Bergamaschi were technically the home team, the match was actually played at the Mapei Stadium, the house of Sassuolo and where the Nerazzurri played in Europe, since their arena is undergoing renovations. Continue reading

Nainggolan thanks Inter fans for their unwavering support

nainggolan

Radja Nainggolan spoke to the media in the immediate aftermath of Inter’s 2-1 victory over Empoli last night, which secured their passage to the group stage of next season’s UEFA Champions League. Indeed, the Belgian scored the goal which ultimately allowed the Nerazzurri to achieve their main objective, but reserved special praise for the club’s fans for their support throughout the match. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Spalletti delighted by Inter’s never say die attitude

spalletti

Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media in the aftermath of last night’s 2-1 victory over Empoli, which allowed Inter to secure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. The Tuscan coach was very pleased by his players’ willingness to fight until the end and overcoming the nerves and tension within the confines of San Siro. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading