Maran Must Make Chievo More Attacking

Chievo coach Rolando Maran should try to make the Flying Donkeys a more attack-minded team because their defensive approach is no longer working for them.

The Flying Donkeys lost 1-0 to city rivals Hellas Verona on Saturday evening CET and they have won just twice in their last 18 Serie A fixtures since previous Derby della Scala in October 2017. After 28 rounds, they are now one point away from falling into the relegation zone.

Their reliance on experienced players and defensive tactics are not producing many positive results. When they faced the Mastini, they look devoid of ideas, guile, and confidence. This is a huge change from the Chievo teams of the 2000s which played attacking football and qualified for Europe.

According to Transfermarkt, Chievo has the second-oldest squad on average in Italy’s top flight with 28.3 years and only Juventus has an older one at 28.8 years but the Bianconeri have quality players whereas the Clivensi do not have veterans of Juve’s calibre.

Teams that play defensively are focused on stopping the opposition from scoring but the club from the Veneto region is still leaking the goals in.

If Chievo does not turn its form around, it could find itself in a relegation battle and perhaps Maran could find his time at the club he also played for in the 1990s coming to an end.

When the Flying Donkeys came to prominence in the early 2000s, they surprised people with their unheralded squad and attacking approach under Luigi Delneri. Perhaps to climb up the Serie A table, Maran should embrace a similar philosophy.

A lack of pace could prevent them from playing a more attacking style but stamina should not be an issue. Despite possessing an ageing squad, the Clivensi have players that can cover heaps of ground.

To implement a more attacking approach, Maran should chance his personnel around and perhaps switch his formation too. Here are some possible alternatives which he should consider if his team is to seize the initiative in matches.


chievo 17-18 4-3-1-2 potential xi

The current Chievo side frequently plays in a 4-3-1-2 formation but Maran’s choices in playing personnel are for the purpose of containment instead of seizing the initiative, especially in midfield.

Youth academy graduate Fabio Depaoli should be used in a more offensive capacity instead of being trialled as a right-back or right wing-back.

In October last year, the then Italy U-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio praised Depaoli after a 6-2 victory in a friendly against Hungary. The 20-year-old played as a right midfielder in the 4-4-2 formation and was among the scorers so Maran should utilise his attacking abilities at club level.

Instead having Lucas Castro and Perparim Hetemaj as the box-to-box midfielders, starting with Depaoli and Emanuele Giaccherini would provide more impetus in the attacking phase and increase the fluidity in the Clivensi‘s play.

I would maintain a striker partnership of Roberto Inglese and Manuel Pucciarelli but the latter’s role would be similar to what he did at Empoli, which involved him drifting to the wings and dribbling past defenders.


chievo 17-18 4-2-3-1 potential xi

This formation is not common in Italy, especially for the smaller teams, but the majority of players would be in adequate positions.

The central midfield pairing of Ivan Radovanovic and Hetemaj would have to adjust to a different midfield set-up as opposed to the midfield trio that they are used but they could still play in their current roles.

Depaoli and Giaccherini would play in more advance roles. For the starlet, the role is similar to what he has played in for the Azzurrini, while the veteran would play as a left-winger like at Cesena and Bologna and that would allow him to get into scoring position more often.


chievo 17-18 4-3-3 potential xi

Implementing the 4-3-3 would involve putting players in roles that are not their preferred or best roles but they are roles that they are still capable of performing in.

Lucas Castro has been selected in this system because he is better offensively than Hetemaj. Giaccherini played as a box-to-box midfielder for Juventus and Italy so playing on the left side of the midfield trio should not be an issue for him. Radovanovic would be the anchor while Giaccherini and Castro would possess the drive to advance forward.

Valter Birsa has been shifted to the left-wing, a role which has performed in at previous clubs, and this is has been done to accommodate both Giaccherini and him in the 4-3-3.


chievo 17-18 3-4-1-2 potential xi

In the back three formation, it would be like how Maran implemented the back five defence with Alessandro Gamberini, Mattia Bani, and Dario Dainelli as the centre-backs.

Hetemaj and Castro have been selected in central midfield, the former for his defensive work and the latter for his play going forward. Giaccherini has played as a left wing-back for Italy, especially at Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, and he has been chosen over Massimo Gobbi here for his superior attacking threat. Fabrizio Cacciatore has been chosen to play more offensively as opposed to experimenting with Depaoli in the role again.

Probably out of the five proposals, this formation would be better suited to counter-attacking tactics because Castro and Hetemaj are not midfielders that can dictate the play and they would need to supply Birsa or the wing-back quickly. This formation gives them the defensive cover but still gives them the right base for them to go forward whenever possible.


chievo 17-18 3-4-3 potential xi

Maran implementing a 3-4-3 formation would allow them to use the wings more often instead of congesting the middle of the park. If the central midfielders are not contributing enough offensively, Belgian starlet Samuel Bastien could take the place of Hetemaj.

Chievo is known for its defensive play and also relies on goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino to make saves frequently. Unfortunately for Ceo, their conservative approach is dragging them down into the relegation battle.

Maran did mention that a change the mentality was needed at the Flying Donkeys after the derby but he should change tactics and introduce players that can make them play attacking football.

Being proactive allowed Chievo to punch above its weight in 2000s. Why can’t it work again?



Aurelio Andreazzoli Brings Consistency to Empoli for Serie A Push

Empoli is on top of Serie B and the Azzurri are on course to make a quick return to Serie A thanks to Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who has brought stability to the squad since he arrived in December.

The appointment of the 64-year-old was a rather surprising one and most of his coaching experience in the last 15 years had been in an assistant’s role.

He is perhaps best remembered for being the Roma interim coach in 2013 after Zdenek Zeman was sacked and also having a falling out with Italo-Argentine striker Pablo Osvaldo – who complained about a lack of playing time – after the 2013 Coppa Italia Final defeat to Lazio.

Another surprising aspect of Andreazzoli’s appointment as Empoli coach was the timing. Vincenzo Vivarini had been appointed in the summer of 2017 and he created a team that was capable of scoring an abundance of goals.

Although the Tuscan side was scoring freely under former Teramo and Latina coach, a leaky defence and a lack of consistency were causes for concern and this prompted the club hierarchy to sack the 51-year-old despite remaining unbeaten in his last five league matches.

Since Andreazzoli has replaced Vivarini, Empoli has risen from fifth place to first in Serie B in seven matches, winning six of them and drawing on the former Roma coach’s debut, which was a 1-1 draw against Brescia.

Defending has also improved since a change in coach was made. Before Andreazzoli arrived, the Empolesi had kept just two clean sheets in 19 league games whereas they have already kept the opposition scoreless three times since then.

A fundamental change that he has made since taking charge is the formation. Vivarini implemented the 3-5-2 formation and occasionally used variations on it but his successor has decided to place his team in the 4-3-1-2, which was used by previous Empoli coaches such as Maurizio Sarri, Marco Giampaolo, and Giovanni Martusciello.

One player who has arguably benefitted from the arrival of Andreazzoli more than most is Slovenian attacking midfielder Miha Zajc. Earlier in the season, he was in-and-out of the starting line-up, but now he starts every game behind strikers Francesco Caputo and Alfredo Donnarumma and he has scored twice and provided seven assists in seven Serie B games.

The aforementioned forward pairing of Caputo and Donnarumma were prolific scorers under Vivarini but they have remained prolific despite the arrival of a new tactician. After 26 rounds of Serie B action, Caputo has scored 20 goals while his attacking partner has 15.

During the January transfer window, the Tuscans made two key acquisitions in Gabriel from AC Milan and Domenico Maietta from Bologna. Gabriel has taken the place of the injured Ivan Provedel in goal while Maietta adds valuable experience to the back line.

Empoli share top spot with Frosinone with 49 points and it has scored 58 times in 26 games, which is a record in a Serie B  consisting of 22 clubs. Before that Pescara in 2011/12 had that record, finding the back of the net 55 times.

Despite the turnaround in fortunes, Andreazzoli remained modest after the 4-0 victory against Parma.

“The eulogies should be held back until May,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The guys read the game really well against a strong team.

“We want to have a complete structure and some parts are still missing.”

With words like that, it makes you wonder how much better Empoli can get, but the results speak for themselves and Andreazzoli is producing results on a consistent basis.




Spalletti Must Ditch 4-2-3-1 Formation at Inter

After suffering a shock defeat away to Genoa on Saturday evening CET and then seeing Lazio beat Hellas Verona two days later, Inter has slipped out of the Champions League spots and Coach Luciano Spalletti should scrap his preferred 4-2-3-1 until the end of the season.

The Nerazzurri have only won once in their last 10 Serie A matches and the 2-0 loss against the Rossoblu as well as the Biancocelesti‘s 2-0 victory against the Gialloblu mean that they are now fifth in the league with 48 points after 25 rounds.

Despite some scrappy performances in the first half of the season, Inter was still able to get results but since its 5-0 win at home to Chievo, it has been steadily declining.

Activity in the January transfer window was limited but Spalletti now needs to use a system that will allow more creative players to flourish. Here are five formations that he should consider switching to and the Biscione could find that balance of attacking flair and defensive solidarity.


inter 4-3-3 17-18

Implementing the 4-3-3 formation would mean retaining the majority of the current starting XI at Inter. The main difference with this system compared to what Spalletti is using now is that Borja Valero is playing deeper in midfield.

Valero does not have the speed or the trickery to play as a #10, nor is he a prolific goalscorer from a withdrawn position. Operating as a deep-lying playmaker would allow him to dictate the play in the middle of the park while Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini would have the strength and stamina to do the hard work in midfield for him.

Ivan Perisic has been chosen for this formation but Eder could play on the left-wing instead while I have opted for the promising Yann Karamoh over the under-performing Antonio Candreva on the right.


inter 4-3-1-2 17-18

Although the 4-3-1-2 is not commonly used these days, it would be a formation with considering because the Nerazzurri’s wingers are not in form.

The midfield trio remains the same as what I have proposed for the 4-3-3 but instead of wingers, Rafinha will play in between the lines and Eder would support Mauro Icardi up front.

Rafinha is the only player in the senior squad with the right characteristics to play as a trequartista while Eder played together with Icardi at Sampdoria in an attacking duo so that familiarity could benefit Spalletti.


inter 3-4-3 17-18

In this 3-4-3, the wingers don’t necessarily stay on the touchline like the graphic suggests, but they would to play close to Icardi than to the midfielders to avoid looking like a 3-4-2-1 or 3-6-1.

With two box-to-box midfielders like Vecino and Gagliardini, the creativity must come from the wings. I have put Dalbert at left wing-back because it would be a position that might suit him. He would have to defend less than in a back four and Davide Santon’s form in recent games has been woeful so it is doubtful that a formation change will be enough to regain his confidence.

Due to the insipid performance Andrea Ranocchia produced against Genoa, Spalletti should start with Lisandro Lopez in defence if he decided to use a back three.

Playing in this system would require fast and frenetic football and a languid midfielder like Borja Valero would be completely out of place.


inter 3-4-1-2 17-18

If Spalletti wanted more creativity in the middle than on the wings, the 3-4-1-2 formation would be more convenient. Like the 4-3-1-2, this means ditching the wingers and accomodating Rafinha and Eder.


inter 3-4-2-1 17-18

This is the most unlikely of formations that Inter would implement but Italian coaches love their share of tactical experiments and Spalletti did use this formation during his second stint at Roma.

Borja Valero played in the left-sided attacking midfielder role under Paulo Sousa at Fiorentina in 2016/17 while Marcelo Brozovic would play in a similar role to what Radja Nainggolan did at Roma under Spalletti but with much less tenacity. Brozovic has played on the right side of midfield as well as attack for Croatia but this role would require him just to make late runs into the penalty area.

The 3-4-2-1 is probably the least likely of the five alternatives to be used but it does provide more tactical variation and diversity than Inter’s current 4-2-3-1.

Benchwarmers That Should Leave Their Serie A Clubs in January

The winter transfer window closes on January 31 and the period gives clubs a chance to make additions to their squads or offload players that are failing to perform on a consistent basis.

In addition to my feature on players that clubs should target, I have compiled a list of players that need to leave their Serie A clubs. There are a few benchwarmers that have left their clubs and have moved to teams in which they are likely to gain more playing time but more players should make such decisions as well.

Some clubs include just one particular player and others include two or more. There are players who are well-known to Italian football fans but there are also some unknowns that included and they are either youngsters looking for a breakthrough or veterans that need a change of atmosphere.


Riccardo Orsolini

La Dea have already sold Jasmin Kurtic to SPAL but there is another player that should leave them and that is promising right-winger Riccardo Orsolini.

He was leading goalscorer at the 2017 U-20 World Cup with Italy but he has struggled to find playing time since joining on loan from Juventus and he has been linked with a move to Bologna.


George Puscas

Although he was a hero for Benevento in the 2016/17 Serie B play-offs by scoring the goals to secure the club’s promotion to Serie A, he has scored just one goal in 11 league games so far this season. The Romanian starlet has been linked with Serie B club Palermo but talk of him moving to the Rosanero has dwindled.


Lorenzo Crisetig

He has failed to break into the first XI since joining the club in 2015 and he has played his best football in two loan spells at Crotone. Earlier in the January transfer window he was linked with a move back to the Pitagorici but Sampdoria and Hellas Verona are other targets.


Gregory van der Wiel

Centre-back Marco Capuano has already left for Crotone and another defender that should leave is former Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel. He has only played six times for the Isolani in all competitions and he has been linked with Ligue 1 club Nice.


Luca Garritano and Riccardo Meggiorini

The former Cesena winger does not suit Rolando Maran’s 4-3-1-2 system and he should move to a squad which uses the 3-5-2 formation so he could play as a box-to-box midfielder or a team that uses wingers.

Meggiorini has been a fine striker for Chievo but he has had injury issues this season, which have limited him to eight Serie A matches so far. The 32-year-old is linked with Serie B club Foggia and a move might turn things around for him as well as provide the Satanelli with more experience in attack.


Andrea Nalini

With Federico Ricci returning for another spell at Crotone from Genoa and Ahmad Benali arriving from Pescara, playing time will become more limited for one of last season’s heroes. Injuries have not helped either but the latest reinforcements will make it harder for him to break into the first 11 again.


Simone Lo Faso, Riccardo Saponara and Khouma Babacar

Lo Faso should glimpses of potential at Palermo and that persuaded Fiorentina to acquire him but he rarely features for Fiorentina so perhaps dropping down to Serie B to get regular playing time should help him.

Saponara was a star at Empoli but he has not been able to produce that kind of form with the Gigliati and injuries have not helped. Coach Stefano Pioli’s choices in formation do not suit the 26-year-old so he would be better off moving to a team which uses a trequartista.

Babacar has been at Fiorentina for about a decade but he has not established himself as a regular starter in attack and perhaps he should consider leaving the club for good if he wants to be more than a benchwarmer. EPL club Crystal Palace is interested in acquiring him.


Santiago Gentiletti

The former Lazio defender has only played four times in Serie A this season and there are reports suggesting that he will probably leave before the end of January. A move back to his native Argentina is likely and Rosario Central was one of the clubs interested back in the summer but there has not been much talk about that move since.

Hellas Verona

Giampaolo Pazzini and Mattia Valoti

Despite being a fundamental part of the Verona’s promotion campaign in 2016/17, Pazzini is regularly used as a substitute by Fabio Pecchia and the Gialloblu coach prefers Moise Kean over “Pazzo”. The 33-year-old has been linked with city rivals Chievo and he could provide the Flying Donkeys with much-needed goals.

Valoti has been with Hellas Verona since 2014 but he has never been a regular starter or played in a system that suits his characteristics. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder should contemplate switching to a team that uses a trequartista.



Since arriving from Sampdoria in the winter of 2016, he has been a utility player for Inter and he has often appeared as a substitute. The workhorse forward has been linked with a return to the Blucerchiati but recently he has become a reported target for EPL club Crystal Palace.


Stefano Sturaro

Sturaro has been at Juventus since the winter of 2015 but he has only made sporadic appearances for the Bianconeri. He works hard and can get into scoring positions but he wastes his opportunities.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri needs players that can step in straight away so Sturaro should contemplate moving to another club and another tactician should force the former Genoa midfielder into working on his shots.


Luca Crecco, Filip Djordjevic and Chris Oikonomidis

He impressed at a loan spell with Avellino in Serie B but he has not been able to establish a spot in Simone Inzaghi’s first 11 and the current formation probably does not suit the winger. Crecco has been linked with Benevento but speculation has died down.

Djordjevic is still on the Lazio books but he will leave on a free transfer at the end of June. Hellas Verona was a rumoured target but a move is unlikely after the Gialloblu signed Ryder Matos and Bruno Petkovic from Udinese and Bologna respectively.

Oikonomidis has spent about six years in Europe, predominantly in Italy, but the Greek-Australian has not made the major breakthrough in Serie A. He must find a club in which he can play regularly so he can be an outside chance for the Socceroos squad at the World Cup.


Manuel Locatelli, Gustavo Gomez and Luca Antonelli

Locatelli has the potential to be a midfield general for AC Milan in the future but he is a target for Genoa and he could benefit from a loan spell at the Rossoblu like his teammate Suso did in the second half of the 2015/16 season.

Gomez is close to a move to Boca Juniors but both clubs are yet to struck a deal because the Xeneizes do not seem willing to match the transfer fee the Rossoneri are demanding for him.

Antonelli was linked with Fiorentina in the summer and he could make the move in January due to playing second fiddle to Ricardo Rodriguez.


Emanuele Giaccherini

Since he moved to Napoli in the summer of 2016, Giaccherini has not played often for the Partenopei. The workhorse winger does not suit the possession-based style of Maurizio Sarri and a deal with Chievo is close to being completed.


Bruno Peres

Now that Alessandro Florenzi is fully fit, the former Torino right-back has found playing time limited and he has just made 10 Serie A appearances in 2017/18 but Benfica and Galatasaray are reportedly keen to sign the 27-year-old Brazilian. Leaving Roma might be ideal as he lacks the tactical discipline to operate as a full-back in Italy.


Dodo and Leonardo Capezzi

The former Inter and Roma wing-back does not suit the four-man defence implemented by Doriani coach Marco Giampaolo and he has been linked to Cagliari, which uses the 3-5-2 formation under new coach Diego Lopez.

Capezzi is a central midfielder that has failed to establish himself in Serie A with both Crotone and Sampdoria. He did star for the Squali in Serie B and he should probably consider gaining more experience in the Cadetti.


Claud Adjapong and Stefano Sensi

Adjapong has demonstrated flashes of potential but he has often been a player that comes off the bench. The 19-year-old can play as a right-back as well as a winger but he needs to find regular playing time to unleash more of his abilites.

Sensi was a promising midfielder when he played at Cesena but he has not been able to cope with the leap from Serie B to Serie A. Currently he looks like another Italian youngster that perhaps made the move to Italy’s top flight too soon and probably should rediscover his form elsewhere.


Federico Bonazzoli

The former Inter youth team striker is on loan from Sampdoria but he has only played eight times for SPAL since joining in the summer and the Biancazzurri cannot sell Marco Borriello. Bonazzoli has moved around a few times already in his young career but he needs to switch to a club in which he can play regularly or he would be better off returning to Samp and fight for a spot there.


Mirko Valdifiori

After an impressive 2014/15 season with Empoli, Valdifiori has not made the same impact with Napoli and now with Torino. Apparently he does not want to leave the Granata but it is doubtful that he can return to that form unless new coach Walter Mazzarri can perform miracles on him.

SPAL and Crotone could be ideal clubs for him to move to. Federico Viviani could leave the Biancazzurri so Valdifiori could replace him there and the Squali need an extra creator in midfield.


Stipe Perica

The Croatian striker has scored against some illustrious clubs since joining the Zebrette but he is another player that is sorely lacking in consistency. The 22-year-old is eager to fight for his spot but with the likes of Kevin Lasagna, Rodrigo De Paul, and Maxi Lopez playing more than him, Perica is now surplus to requirements.


What Should Serie A Clubs Look For in January 2018 Transfer Window?

At the start of January the winter transfer window opened and it is a great chance for clubs to bolster the depth of their squads or look for minor improvements.

It is rare to see major transfer deals completed in January but there are acquisitions that nonetheless can make an impact on a team’s performance for the remainder of the season.

Here I will have a look at the 20 Serie A clubs participating in the 2017/18 season and assess what they have been looking for, which players they are linked with, and who they should look at.

I will focus on a particular position or role for each club instead of going into extensive detail on every position so I can highlight the biggest weak point at each club and the clubs will be listed alphabetically.


Right Wing-Back

It is evident that Andrea Conti has not been adequately replaced since he transferred to Milan and his replacements Timothy Castagne and Hans Hateboer have been underwhelming.

At the moment, Atalanta has been linked wingers more than wing-backs such as Emanuele Giaccherini from Napoli and Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice. Giaccherini has played as a left wing-back for Italy but it remains to be seen if he could play on the opposing flank.

Benevento full-back Lorenzo Venuti is another reported target for La Dea and he is a natural right-back despite operating as a left wing-back in recent games for the Sanniti. Even if he doesn’t arrive in January, he could be an option for the future.


Attacking Midfielder

The Stregoni need to boost their depth in all departments but a creative midfielder would suffice and Sampdoria trequartista Filip Djuricic has been linked with the southern Italian club.

Djuricic plays in the hole and Benevento coach Roberto De Zerbi has been using the 3-4-3 formation lately so the system might not suit the Serbian midfielder. Even if he does not arrive, the Sanniti need to find midfielders who can control the tempo because Danilo Cataldi and Ledian Memushaj have been underwhelming.



Simone Verdi is rumoured to be leaving for Napoli and if he does decide to leave during the January transfer window, Bologna needs a replacement on the right-wing assuming that Federico Di Francesco is kept on the left side of attack.

Benevento winger Marco D’Alessandro is an apparent target for the Felsinei but he possesses different characteristics to Verdi. Verdi is more technically gifted and he is also a dead-ball specialist whereas D’Alessandro has more stamina and he is more direct in his approach.



Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli in October 2017 and Cagliari has switched from the 4-3-1-2 formation to the 3-5-2 so natural wing-backs are required.

A few defenders are reported targets with Gaetano Letizia from Benevento, Maxi Olivera from Fiorentina, and Luca Caldirola from Werder Bremen possibly arriving at the Sardinian club. The first two can cover the flanks while the latter is an option for the centre-back roles.

Olivera has not been able to adapt to Italian football but Lopez might be interested in recruiting one of his Uruguayan compatriots. Letizia would be a better fit in my view and should be able to provide Leonardo Pavoletti with some fine crosses.


Out-and-Out Striker

With Roberto Inglese likely to head to Napoli in January, Chievo doesn’t want to let him go lightly or with a proper replacement because he has scored seven goals in Serie A this season, five more than anyone else.

Giampaolo Pazzini has struggled for playing time for rivals Hellas Verona and he is a possible target for the Flying Donkeys. Throughout his career he has performed better in an attacking duo than in a lone striker role so Rolando Maran’s system should be ideal for the 33-year-old.


Creative Midfielder

New coach Walter Zenga has maintained Davide Nicola’s philosophy of defending deep and working hard but Crotone is struggling offensively.

Although the Squali could do with better wingers and a more prolific centre-forward, they need more creativity in the middle of the park. They have been linked with former player Lorenzo Crisetig, who is owned by Bologna, and he has played his best football in his two stints in Calabria.

According to Sky Sport Italia, Crisetig should arrive on loan with an option to be bought outright but the Pitagorici would be better off signing him permanently as soon as possible.


Central Midfielder

Coach Stefano Pioli has tried a number of formations since arriving from Inter but he needs better central midfielders regardless of the system he uses.

Jordan Veretout has been a fine performer since arriving in the summer from Aston Villa but Marco Benassi has been inconsistent and Milan Badelj is once again a transfer target for a number of clubs.

The Gigliati have been linked with deep-lying playmakers such as Federico Viviani from SPAL and Danilo Cataldi at Benevento. Viviani would be a better acquisition because of his consistency and his ability in dead-ball situations whereas Cataldi has been inconsistent throughout his Serie A career.



The Grifone could be depleted in January due to Armando Izzo and Davide Biraschi potentially leaving the club and Leandro Castan from Roma could be a likely replacement.

Hellas Verona


Coach Fabio Pecchia has alternated between the 4-3-3, 4-4-2, and 4-2-3-1 formations this season so that is why I have decided to use forwards in general as opposed to one role.

Ryder Matos from Udinese and Bruno Petkovic from Bologna are reportedly close to arriving and possibly Lucas Boye from Torino. Those three players are not defined by one system or philosophy and they would probably be happy to play at a club that will give them a chance.

Matos is arguably the most ideal because of his versatility but Petkovic could provide Moise Kean with competition in the centre-forward role.


Attacking Midfielder

Coach Luciano Spalletti is crying out for more defenders but he also needs more creativity in midfield.

The Nerazzurri have been linked with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Javier Pastore, and Alex Teixeira as well as Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu but their attempts have not been successful.

Inter has a lot of defensive and workman-like midfielders while Borja Valero is the main creator. The Spaniard is at his best operating from deep so the Biscione needs someone who can play in between the two wingers in the 4-2-3-1 formation.



Mattia De Sciglio is fit now but Stephan Lichtsteiner is past his prime and workhorse midfielder Stefano Sturaro cannot be a long-term option in that role. Matteo Darmian has been linked with Juventus but he will likely move elsewhere.

The Bianconeri have been focusing more on free transfers if the reports are anything to go by. Turkish-German midfielders Emre Can and Mesut Ozil could be signed from Liverpool and Arsenal respectively, with the former providing more versatility and the latter adding more creativity.


Right Wing-Back

Originally I had listed the centre-back role because Stefan De Vrij is rumoured to leave and Bastos has been erratic but Martin Caceres has joined from Hellas Verona so that role is filled. The 30-year-old Uruguayan can play as a centre-back and right-back so he provides options.

If there was a role that Lazio can add depth to, it would be the right wing-back role. Dusan Basta is 33 years old so perhaps a younger option for that position might be convenient. Even if the Biancocelesti don’t acquire someone now, a player like Manuel Lazzari would suit Coach Simone Inzaghi’s system.



The Rossoneri need to sell players more than they need to buy but an old school centre-back would be useful. Matias Musacchio, Leonardo Bonucci, and Alessio Romagnoli are all ball-playing centre-backs but the Diavolo need someone who is more physical and has a no-nonsense approach.

Gustavo Gomez and Cristian Zapata have these attributes but they are not reliable performers and struggle to establish regular spots in the team.

AC Milan is also linked with Udinese midfielder Jakub Jankto, who has similar attributes to Giacomo Bonaventura, and he would also add more options on the left flank.



Although Napoli has an excellent first XI, its squad lacks depth. A centre-forward would be adequate because Arkadiusz Milik is still injured and Dries Mertens is out of form so  Roberto Inglese will probably be called back from his loan at Chievo earlier than anticipated.

Despite trying to bolster the attack with more centre-forwards and wingers, another left-back is essential for the Partenopei. Faouzi Ghoulam has been a loss and Mario Rui has been a decent deputy but someone of a higher quality is needed for the title chase.

Numerous clubs including Napoli have been linked with Manchester United full-back Matteo Darmian, who has struggled to adapt to English football. A move to Naples should provide him with a chance to return to form and also be a protagonist while Coach Maurizio Sarri could do with his versatility.


Central Midfielder

With Monchi and Eusebio Di Francesco in their first season as sporting director and coach respectively, Roma is still in a transitional phase. Although the Giallorossi have been competitive, their performances have not always been convincing.

The Lupi have plenty of box-to-box midfielders but they need a player that can win the ball back and distribute it around.

Daniele De Rossi has battled with injury and suspension this season while Maxime Gonalons has been a disappointment. Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj is reportedly a target for Roma and he could be the pivot that Di Francesco’s side needs.



Coach Marco Giampaolo has created a team that can press and also dictate the play but it is vulnerable defensively. Another issue with the defenders is that not many of them are comfortable on the ball.

The current central defensive pairing of Matias Silvestre and Gian Marco Ferrari are good stoppers but their characteristics do not suit Giampaolo’s possession-based style. Perhaps the Blucerchiati should have bought Jorge Mere from Sporting Gijon before he went to FC Koln. I would acquire Vlad Chiriches from Napoli, who can also score goals at set-pieces.

It does not seem that Sampdoria will chase a ball-playing centre-back but another midfielder because Federico Viviani is a target. If he does arrive, he would operate in a similar role to Dennis Praet or take the place of Lucas Torreira if the Uruguayan leaves in the near future.



Domenico Berardi and Matteo Politano could leave in January so new coach Giuseppe Iachini needs to make sure that he has some attacking flair in wide positions. Defence needs bolstering with Paolo Cannavaro gone and Lorenzo Tonelli from Napoli as well as Armando Izzo from Genoa are Neroverdi targets.

Tonelli would probably be the more keen to arrive due to a lack of playing time at Napoli and Genoa might not want to get rid of one of its best players.



Midfielder Jasmin Kurtic will arrive from Atalanta and he should improve its midfield depth but SPAL needs to improve the defence too. The Biancazzurri could be another team battling out for Napoli’s Lorenzo Tonelli and they could try and bring back Kevin Bonifazi from Torino but new Granata coach Walter Mazzarri wants to keep him for now.



After an impressive 2016/17 campaign, Andrea Belotti has struggled with a knee injury this season as well as former Toro coach Sinisa Mihajlovic switching from the 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 formation. The Granata have been linked with Diego Falcinelli from Sassuolo and Stefano Okaka from Watford.

Falcinelli might be a possible arrival but Okaka is no longer a target according to Torino president Urbano Cairo.



New coach Massimo Oddo has transformed the form of Udinese and it does not need a lot of reinforcements for the time being. If the Zebrette had to add to their squad, another centre-back would be ideal.

Brazilian defender Samir regularly start for the Friulani but his form has been erratic and his compatriot Lucas Verissimo from Santos has been linked with a move as well as Napoli centre-back Lorenzo Tonelli.

Udinese could sell Czech starlet Jakub Jankto to Milan so the Zebrette might need to find a replacement in midfield too and defender Gustavo Gomez could be included in the deal.

Sampdoria Must End Rot Against SPAL

Sampdoria needs to end a disastrous run of form in Serie A and register its first league victory in over a month by beating SPAL next Saturday afternoon.

The Blucerchiati have not won a league game since defeating Juventus 3-2 and have lost four of their last five since that shock victory on November 19.

There are a few winnable matches coming up in the next seven rounds albeit they are against the three teams that were promoted from Serie B. Although Sampdoria has to play Roma twice, it plays SPAL at home, Benevento away, and Hellas Verona at home.

Surprisingly Il Doria still remain sixth in the Serie A table with 27 points but they are only on top of Atalanta because they have a game in hand and also defeated La Dea 3-1 in Round 8.

Since the triumph against Juventus, Samp have not played with the same lucidity and conviction like in their previous games. Bologna outclassed them 3-0 in Round 14 while the other games were unfortunately decided by individual errors from the Blucerchiati.

Poor goalkeeping by Emiliano Viviano allowed the Aquile to turn the game around in the 2-1 defeat against Lazio; a Viviano error sparked a Sardi comeback in the 2-2 draw versus Cagliari; and Alessandro Matri was given too much space to volley the ball into the net and give Sassuolo a 1-0 win.

If that was not bad enough, Sampdoria committed defensive suicide in the 3-2 defeat away to Napoli on Saturday afternoon CET. Although the Partenopei are on top of the Serie A table and often play entertaining football, the Blucerchiati made horrible errors on all three goals.

Napoli’s first goal came from Edgar Barreto being dispossessed in midfield, the second came from a poorly placed pass from Gian Marco Ferrari, and the third was caused by three players failing to close down Allan’s dribble as well as players failing to track down the runs made by Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik.

The first two goals scored by the Neapolitans were examples of modern defending at its worst. There is too much emphasis on trying to play the ball out of defence and the old-fashioned clearance is rarely used. For those goals, it would have been ideal for Barreto and Ferrari to kick the ball long and start a counter-attack.

Doriani coach Marco Giampaolo should not be blamed entirely for his philosophy or the tactics he implements because the team has often remained competitive and tried to win games but it is evident that the mistakes made by certain players in defence have to be rectified.

Facing a newly-promoted side like SPAL at home in Round 19 should provide Sampdoria with an opportunity to regain its confidence but the Biancazzurri managed to come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Torino in their latest Serie A match so there is no room for complacency.

On paper the Doriani have stronger squad than the Spallini and they need to make the most of that in order to end this winless streak.



Follow the Progress of Massimo Oddo at Udinese

In a short space of time Massimo Oddo has turned Udinese’s form around and his progress as Zebrette coach is worth keeping an eye out for.

He replaced Luigi Delneri as the coach of the Friuli side on November 21, and although he lost 1-0 to Napoli on his debut with the northern Italian side, he had already given his squad purpose and a structure.

When Delneri was coaching the Friulani, the players would line-up in the 4-4-2 or the 4-3-3 formation, but the team often lacked balance as well as a clear identity. Since Oddo took over, he has used the 3-5-2 formation and the side now has the right balance in defence and in attack.

Since that defeat to the Partenopei on November 26, Udinese has its last four competitive fixtures including the 3-1 away victory to Inter on Saturday afternoon CET. Before the clash in Milan, the Zebrette had defeated relegation battlers Crotone 3-0 and Benevento 2-0 so winning against one of Italy’s giants was a great step forward for Oddo and his team.

The Friulani defended deep against Inter but they counter-attacked at pace and made an often watertight Nerazzurri defence look vulnerable. Left-back Davide Santon received most the embarrassment due to being dispossessed by Silvan Widmer for the first goal scored by Kevin Lasagna and then his handball enabled Rodrigo De Paul to convert the penalty which gave the away side a 2-1 lead.

Inter had 66 per cent possession compared to Udinese’s 34 but most of it was predictable and lacking in conviction. Albano Bizzarri made a few decisive saves in the Zebrette goal while Biscione right-winger Antonio Candreva made a bad habit of blasting his long-range efforts over the crossbar.

Oddo has created a team that defends in numbers and the back line often keeps things tight while his players make quick transitions from defence to attack. The midfielders are often comfortable on the ball and they can make late runs into the penalty area, as evidenced by the third Udinese goal on Saturday.

De Paul found Jakub Jankto on the left-wing, who then crossed low to Antonin Barak at the far post. Barak had made the run into the box and then he side-footed the ball softly over the head of Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

Udinese is now in 11th place in the Serie A table with 21 points after 16 matches, it is three points off a Europa League spot, and it has a game in hand against Lazio in January. It is still the Coppa Italia after demolishing Serie B team Perugia 8-3, which was Oddo’s first victory as coach.

At this moment coaching the Zebrette is the ideal role for the 41-year-old. In his first senior role as a coach, he took Pescara from Serie B to Serie A through the play-offs in 2015/16 and relied a lot on goals from Gianluca Lapadula.

When the striker was sold to AC Milan, the Delfini played entertaining football but struggled for goals and thus struggled to obtain points. Experimenting with Gianluca Caprari and then Ahmad Benali in the “false nine” role did not work and natural centre-forward Stefano Pettinari looked out of his depth.

With a better squad to work with thanks to Udinese’s great scouting system, Oddo now has a team that can defend well and score freely. The aforementioned Lasagna has scored four times in those four competitive victories under the new coach, Jankto has two goals and two assists in the last three league wins, and Maxi Lopez score four in that victory against Perugia.

If Udinese keeps climbing up the table and obtaining impressive results, Massimo Oddo will surely gain more attention from the bigger Italian clubs.

Sampdoria Draw Against Cagliari Two Points Lost

Sampdoria drew 2-2 with Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena on Saturday night CET and was a case of two points lost for the Blucerchiati after failing to capitalise on their early dominance of the match.

Two goals in the first half from veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella gave Il Doria a reasonably comfortable lead at half-time but a horrendous error from Emiliano Viviano resulted in Diego Farias pulling the score back to 2-1 and former Genoa striker Leonardo Pavoletti equalised four minutes later.

The Farias goal came from an insipid clearance from the Samp goalkeeper 11 minutes into the second half when he kicked the ball into the Brazilian forward and it rolled rapidly into the net.

Viviano must shoulder the responsibility for both of the goals he conceded while former Isolani left-back Nicola Murru can also share the blame for the second goal after he was dispossessed by Farias, who then found Artur Ionita and he crossed to Pavoletti.

Sampdoria can also feel unlucky though because of the excellent performance from Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno. The Doriani should have lead by more than two goals before half-time and had the opportunities to regain the lead after the Isolani equalised but Cragno made several decisive saves.

The aforementioned Quagliarella scored two goals in less than 20 minutes but he could have scored another two or three. One of those addition efforts was an audacious chip from roughly 30 metres and Cragno was off his line but the Samp striker failed to hit the target.

Uruguayan starlet Lucas Torreira advanced forward more than usual and he too nearly found the back of the net but Cragno denied him after he played a one-two with Quagliarella.

Playing behind the strikers was Gaston Ramirez, who was in excellent form in the first half. He provided the assists for both goals scored by Quagliarella and his turn and long-range shot almost resulted in another Sampdoria goal but the Cagliari shot-stopper made another excellent save.

Ramirez was replaced in the second half by Gianluca Caprari and had two chances to score near the end of the match. The first was a low angled drive in the penalty area and the second a shot from about 25 metres but Cragno was quick to parry both efforts away.

For all the attempts Il Doria had on goal, it was a bit of surprise that Duvan Zapata failed to test the Isolani goalkeeper. Although his link-up play was adequate, he was not getting into clear scoring positions like in previous Serie A games.

Aside from the inability to add to the two goals, this result feels like a defeat because Cagliari coach Diego Lopez had to use all three substitutes before half-time while Sampdoria tactician Marco Giampaolo only used two. Despite the early changes, Viviano’s error gave the Sardi confidence and the moment swung in the home side’s favour before Caprari came on.

Sampdoria has gone three Serie A games without a win and with AC Milan defeating Bologna 2-1 on Sunday night CET, sixth place in the table could be at risk.

There aren’t any serious flaws with Giampaolo’s tactics but the Blucerchiati must be clinical with their finishing and less individual errors in defence must be committed.

Italian Football Needs to Shift from Brera Ideology

The late Italian journalist Gianni Brera once said that “the perfect match would end 0-0” and he would have been impressed with the results involving the Top Four sides in Round 16 of the 2017/18 Serie A season if he was alive today.

Juventus v Inter, Chievo v Roma, and Napoli v Fiorentina ended in 0-0 draws and all three games were typical of his ideology of football. Although there were scoring chances created in those games, it was evident that the goalkeepers and defences were the dominant figures in those matches.

Although these happened in one round of Serie A action, this must not become a trend in the Italian game because Italian teams so far this season have shown that they can do well when they attack.

Many teams in Serie A and several more in Serie B are adapting a more proactive approach to football but there are still a few coaches in Italy that prioritise defending and nullifying opponents instead of seizing the initiative.

Although Juventus and Inter are giants of Italian and world football, they both play in a conservative fashion; Roma had to travel away to Verona and face arguably the most defensive team in the modern Italian game; and Napoli once again had to face a team that parked the bus to stifle its possessed-based approach.

Hopefully this round of Serie A action was an exception to the rule because most of the top teams are still scoring freely. Inter is averaging 2.06 goals per match, Napoli averages 2.19, and Juventus averages 2.56. Lazio has averaged 2.5 goals per match prior to the Monday night CET match with Torino while Sampdoria averages 2.

The way the 2017/18 season has been progressing is against the beliefs of Brera, who was a difensivista, a person who favoured defensive football over attacking philosophies.

He also had this absolutely absurd belief that Italians had to play defensive because they were not strong enough physically to play offensively. Perhaps someone should have told him that not everyone plays with speed and strength like a stereotypical British team.

One person who was against Brera’s mentality was former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi. He once said:

Brera used to say that Italian clubs had to focus on defending because of our diets. But I could see that in other sports we would excel and that our success proved that we were not inferior physically. And I so became convinced that the real problem was our mentality, which was defensive and lazy.

When Brera rose to prominence as a journalist, World War II had ended and Italy was in a mess. Then the Azzurri underperformed at the 1950 and 1954 World Cups and losing players from Il Grande Torino in the Superga air disaster in 1949 impacted on Italy’s squad depth. In those circumstances, you can understand why Italian coaches had to do something to be competitive.

In 2017 Brera’s thoughts sound outdated whereas Sacchi’s comments are still applicable to this day. Although there have been signs of progress, Italian football still has problems with its mentality and Italy failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup illustrates some of these mindset problems.

Since the Azzurri won the 1982 World Cup, people involved in Italian football as well as the supporters have this idea that Italy can take it easy in qualifying and in the early stages of major tournaments before peaking in the knockout stages.

This approach does not work all the time because the Italian national team have shown at times that they struggle to get out of first gear. After Espana 82, Italy has only won one major trophy since then, the 2006 World Cup in Germany. What has happened the other times?

There have been tournaments in which the Azzurri have been unlucky due to penalty shoot-outs and controversial refereeing decisions but they cannot be used as excuses. Italian teams at club and international level must control their own destiny and not worry too much about things out of their control.

Unfortunately Italy’s football mentality in addition to other factors contributed to the national team missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958. Carlo Tavecchio was a horrible appointment as FIGC president in 2014 and then his decision to replace Antonio Conte with Giampiero Ventura as Azzurri coach two years later was worse.

Ventura’s national team lacked a clear football identity and he was reliant on veterans instead of integrating more of the new generation. If losing 3-0 away to Spain in September this year was not a enough of an indicator, losing 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden in the qualifying play-offs confirmed that Italian football needs a revolution.

Italian teams cannot take it easy in so-called meaningless matches because eventually it affects them one way or another. It could impact on the goal difference in a table or the opposition will persist in a relentless chance for whereas the Italian side would likely defend a “comfortable lead”.

On the weekend, Serie A fans saw some of Italy’s biggest clubs cancelling each other out, which is not ideal from a marketing perspective. Italian football still has its fair share or critics and haters who are keen to rubbish it whenever possible so it would be great to avoid giving them ammunition to spill out dated stereotypes or be Italophobic.

Most of the current Serie A campaign has consisted of exciting games which go against the notion of the Italian style being cautious and defensive. This is the path Italian teams must go down, not just because it pleases the neutrals, but it is the best way for them to be competitive and get results.

Tactics and defensive organisation are important parts of the game, especially in Italy, but so are football intelligence and technical skill. It is important to avoid defensive naivety but having the confidence and the guile to create goals are fundamental too.

Italians are considered to be “the masters of defence” but there is an old saying that “offence is the best form of defence” so Italian teams and coaches should make more of an effort to be masters in attacking because Italy does produce technically gifted players.

Italy can be proud to have produced great goalkeepers such as Gianluigi Buffon, Dino Zoff, Giampiero Combi, Walter Zenga, and Gianluca Pagliuca as well as great defenders such as Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Giacinto Facchetti, Gaetano Scirea, Alessandro Nesta, and Fabio Cannavaro but Italy is also the land of many great attacking talents.

For a football nation known for its defensive prowess, it has still been able to produce such footballing geniuses such as Giuseppe Meazza, Gianni Rivera, Roberto Baggio, Valentino and Sandro Mazzola, Gigi Riva, Silvio Piola, Andrea Pirlo, and Francesco Totti among countless others. Why just play for 0-0 draws and 1-0 wins?

The new generation isn’t well-known to most non-Italian football fans but with the right nurturing and coaching, they can become stars. Goalkeepers such as Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Simone Scuffet, and Alessio Cragno have great potential while Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara, Daniele Rugani, Andrea Conti, and Antonio Barreca can be stars in defence.

When it comes to attack-minded players, some of the players to look out for include Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi, Patrick Cutrone, Domenico Berardi, Riccardo Orsolini, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Manuel Locatelli, Bryan Cristante, and Nicolo Barella. Players like this must not believe that 0-0 is a perfect score and they should be taught to score as many goals as possible against an opponent.

Gianni Brera might not have liked goals but the rest of the world does and Italian teams are capable of scoring goals.For the sake of Italian football rising again and also earning deserved praise, the results from the weekend must not be a trend and they should be an exception instead.

The Italian way of playing football must become the antithesis of Brera’s ideology as opposed to remaining true to it.

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