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.

Atalanta

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.

Benevento

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.

Bologna

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.

Cagliari

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.

Chievo 

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.

Crotone

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.

Fiorentina

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.

Genoa

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.

Inter

Eder

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.

Juventus

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.

Lazio

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.

Milan

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.

Napoli

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.

Roma

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.

Sampdoria

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.

Sassuolo

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.

SPAL

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.

Torino

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.

Udinese

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.

 

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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.

Atalanta

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.

Benevento

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.

Bologna

Right-Winger

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.

Cagliari

Wing-Backs

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.

Chievo

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.

Crotone

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.

Fiorentina

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.

Genoa

Centre-Back

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

Forwards

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.

Inter

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.

Juventus

Right-Back

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.

Lazio

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.

Milan

Centre-Back

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.

Napoli

Left-Back

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.

Roma

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.

Sampdoria 

Centre-Back

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.

Sassuolo

Centre-Back

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.

SPAL

Centre-Back

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.

Torino

Centre-Forward

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.

Udinese

Centre-Back

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.

Spalletti Produced a Complete Inter Against Chievo

Inter demolished Chievo 5-0 on Sunday afternoon CET and the performance from the Nerazzurri was the most complete one so far under new coach Luciano Spalletti.

The former Roma tactician was missing three key players in Miranda, Matias Vecino, and Roberto Gagliardini but the Biscione remarkably played better without them and balanced defensive solidarity with attacking impetus.

Previous performances from Inter were scrappy at best but the Milanese giants were able to collect points despite their unconvincing displays. On Sunday the Nerazzurri were the dominant side from the first whistle despite some attacking forays from the Veronese team in the first half.

Without the three aforementioned absentees, Spalletti started Andrea Ranocchia in defence while Marcelo Brozovic and Joao Mario started in midfield. The changes in personnel also allowed Spanish midfielder Borja Valero to play in a deep-lying playmaker role instead of operating as an attacking midfielder behind Mauro Icardi.

Making these adjustments to the team without switching formation worked to Inter’s advantage. Valero had arguably his best game for the Biscione, completing 101 passes and passing with 98 per cent accuracy. Playing deeper allowed him to dictate the play and he had more space to do so than if he had played as a trequartista.

Joao Mario operated as an auxiliary playmaker in midfield by keeping his passes simple and effective. He wasted two chances to score in the first half but his attempted shot at the end of the match became an assist for Ivan Perisic’s third goal and the Bauscia‘s fifth of the match.

The attacking midfield role was occupied by Brozovic, who provided the assist for Icardi’s strike, and he also played a part in Milan Skriniar’s goal by switching the ball to Antonio Candreva on the right-wing before the former Lazio winger crossed for the Slovakian defender to head it in.

Candreva put in another energetic display on the right-wing and he could have scored in the opening minutes of the second half, but the clear standout individual was left-winger Ivan Perisic, who scored a hat-trick.

The Croatian international has been a match-winner for Inter in the past but has also lacked consistency. In 2017/18 he has scored seven goals in 15 Serie A matches and on current form he should be able to add to that tally with ease.

One of Inter’s clear strengths is its defence but it is incredible to see certain players in that back line against Chievo perform well under Spalletti’s tutelage. Danilo D’Ambrosio’s form this season has earned him call-ups to the Italian national team, Davide Santon reminded people why he was so highly rated in his teens, and Ranocchia was surprisingly reliable and confident.

D’Ambrosio made his regular forays forward but Santon in particular looked dangerous. He took a shot from the left before Perisic opened the scoring with the rebound and another powerful shot of his just went wide.

The 26-year-old has struggled with injuries in recent seasons but against Chievo he looked rapid and energetic, demonstrating why he was compared to Italian legends Giacinto Facchetti and Paolo Maldini in the late 2000s.

In recent years Ranocchia has been a source of ridicule because of his calamitous errors but he looked like transformed player against the Mussi Volanti. Solid in defence, comfortable playing the ball out from the back, and an aerial threat at set-pieces, the 29-year-old was able to join his team in attack without neglecting his defensive duties too much.

For all the outstanding performers in the team, it was intriguing that Inter centre-forward and captain Mauro Icardi scored just one goal, but it is a testament to his teammates for contributing with the goals and providing the Nerazzurri with additional scoring options.

The victory against Chievo result puts them on top of the Serie A table after 15 rounds and Spalletti’s team looks more convincing than what it was under Roberto Mancini two seasons ago.

Spalletti is in his first season as Inter coach but he has already created stability as well as demonstrating the ability to put out-of-form players back on track and the win against the Flying Donkeys was a fine of example of how the Nerazzurri squad have bought into his methods in a short time.

Sampdoria Reserves Show Their Worth Against Pescara

Starting an abundance of players that are usually reserves can sometimes throw a team off balance but Sampdoria won comfortably in its Coppa Italia fourth round fixture with Pescara with only a few of the regulars featuring from the first whistle.

Coach Marco Giampaolo started just three of his regulars in Il Doria’s 4-1 victory against the Delfini, and although their opponents rested some of their own players, the Blucerchiati reserves made the most of their opportunity.

Samp lost 3-0 in their Round 14 Serie A match away to Bologna so there needed to be a response and the changes made by Giampaolo paid dividends.

The clear standout was Polish starlet Dawid Kownacki, who scored two goals and created one for Gaston Ramirez. The Pole opened the scoring with a tap-in after Valerio Verre headed down Ramirez’s free-kick and then he sealed the result with a low diagonal drive from the right side of the penalty box.

Originally seen as a replacement for the departed Patrik Schick, Kownacki is a striker with similar attributes and could emulate the Czech prodigy at Sampdoria. Tall and elegant, he too can score goals despite limited opportunities. So far the 20-year-old has played just 68 minutes of Serie A time but has scored every 34 minutes.

He was paired with Gianluca Caprari in attack, who has been in-and-out of the Doriani squad but the former Pescara forward is another player capable of making the most of limited opportunities.

Although he squandered a great chance to make it 2-0 when he was one-on-one with Delfini goalkeeper Mirko Pigliacelli by shooting wide, he atoned for it by exchanging passes with Ramirez and scored the third goal of the match.

Giampaolo usually uses Caprari as a trequartista behind Duvan Zapata and Fabio Quagliarella but he played as a support striker against Pescara and he benefited from playing a more familiar role. He now has two goals in the Coppa Italia in addition to his three strikes in Serie A.

Another former Pescara player who played well for Sampdoria against the Delfini was midfielder Valerio Verre. In addition to creating Kownacki’s first goal, he was praised for his ball-winning abilities in the TuttoMercatoWeb player ratings.

Giampaolo has gradually given the 23-year-old more playing time in Serie A and he is starting to be more influential in games. The likes of Dennis Praet, Edgar Barreto and Karol Linetty are likely to play more in the league fixtures but the improved form of Verre adds healthy competition for midfield spots.

Back-up goalkeeper Christian Puggioni was another Il Doria player who performed admirably despite not being a first-choice player.

Although he started the first 10 matches of the 2017/18 Serie A season, he lost his spot in the team once Emiliano Viviano returned from injury but the 36-year-old demonstrated that he is a fine deputy by making excellent saves from a Marco Carraro strike and two efforts from Simone Ganz.

The defence in front of Puggioni did not fare too greatly in the ratings from the Italian press but Vasco Regini was given a 7/10 by La Gazzetta dello Sport. Often criticised on social media by Samp fans, the former captain has played better when he is plays in central defence instead of the left-back role.

It is important for reserve players to make their most of their opportunities whenever the regulars are injured or rested and it is arguably more crucial for the smaller teams because injuries to key players can really affect them.

Sampdoria might have been playing against a Serie B team but those players on the pitch made the most of their time and hopefully it sends a signal to the regulars that no spots can be guaranteed this season.

 

Italian Clubs Must Learn from Modena Demise

Modena has been forced into folding after failing to pay off its debts and will not be allowed to finish the 2017/18 Serie C campaign off.

The Canarini had been declining since being relegated from Serie A in 2003/04 and then Serie B in 2015/16 but the final straw came after they forfeited their last four Serie C Girone B matches against Mestre, AlbinoLeffe, Padova, and Santarcangelo, which resulted in the Emilia-Romagna club being expelled on November 6.

It is a shame that Italian teams keep falling into crises like these but presidents and directors must change the way the clubs are being run these days.

Gone are the days when Italian industrialists could spend billions of Lire or millions of Euros to purchase the best players in the world and now these stars are more like to play in the Spanish Primera Division (La Liga) or the English Premier League.

We need to see Italian clubs invest more wisely and also become more realistic about the targets. There is little point in trying to overachieve if it results in a club going in debt later on.

Clubs such as Fiorentina, Napoli, Parma, and Venezia are just a few of the clubs that have gone bankrupt in the last two decades and they had to reform. Most of those clubs spent an abundance on money on gigantic transfer fees but it hurt them financially in the long term.

Italian clubs need to provide more stability unlike Cagliari, Palermo, and Genoa that have a history of sacking coaches regularly and constantly changing their squads. How can clubs progress up the Serie A table if there is instability on and off the field?

Throughout the 2010s, there have been a number of teams that have climbed from the lower divisions in Italy and have earned promotion to the top flight.

Clubs such as Novara, Sassuolo, Carpi, Frosinone, Crotone, SPAL, and Benevento have shown that it is not necessary to spend vast sums of money and it is better to focus on good scouting and developing youth instead.

Aside from SPAL – who come from Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region – and Novara, these teams come from towns with less than 100,000 people so achieving promotion to Serie A is more remarkable for these sides.

The rise of both Carpi and Sassuolo are particularly remarkable because they both come from the province of Modena. The Canarini are now defunct yet their local rivals have been run far more shrewdly and have clear projects.

The biancorossi used to acquire the best young players in the amateur leagues thanks to sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli and they went from playing in Serie D in 2009/10 to playing in Serie A in 2015/16 while the Neroverdi thanks to the financial support of Mapei have become a stable Serie A side and have been keen to prioritise the development of Italian starlets.

Perhaps Modena was lacking that sort of project or those recruitment policies but once the club is reformed, the new owners and directors need to find financial stability and identify talent in better ways.

Sadly the Gialloblu are not the only club to have been run poorly and fold in recent years. Numerous others in Italy have endured this fate and it needs to stop. Dreams cannot be confused with reality and clubs cannot look for quick solutions to reach the top.

Italian football must learn from the expulsion of Modena because incompetent management and poor spending should not be tolerated.

 

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