Serie A: 10 things we learned from the weekend action

Round five in the Serie A championship saw yet more drama and intrigue.

The Derby della Madonnina saw AC Milan defeat their rivals Inter 3-2 to continue their undefeated start to the league campaign, but it’s Napoli who remain the early leaders following a 2-1 win at Lazio.

Juventus were forced to settle for only a point at Fiorentina, while Jose Mourinho’s Roma endured a nightmare 4-0 defeat at Udinese.

All of that and more in our latest 10 things we learned from Serie A with ALVISE CAGNAZZO. 

Match-winner Rafael Leao (middle) and his AC Milan team-mates celebrate their derby win

1. SMALL RATHER THAN BIG MC

Weston McKennie, the American midfielder at Juventus, appeared slow and out of shape despite the confidence placed in him by coach Max Allegri.

There is a need for patience in this new-look Juventus but also a need for a lot of initiative from the likes of McKennie who must prove that they can be top players.

On this occasion, he got it wrong and showed a lot of mental confusion about which role he was meant to be performing.

The former Schalke starlet is the weak link in the Juventus midfield and never misses an opportunity to show he is distracted and unresponsive in the 20 metres in front of the opposition goalkeeper.

Weston McKennie looked off the pace as Juventus were held to a draw at Fiorentina

Weston McKennie looked off the pace as Juventus were held to a draw at Fiorentina

He runs a lot but misses all the decisive moves and becomes generous when he doesn’t have to be.

Against Fiorentina, he was the worst player on the pitch and showed gaps that would be difficult to fill even with hours and hours of work at the Juventus training centre.

The feeling is that the player has other thoughts on his mind – he isn’t very concentrated and always makes the wrong choice.

His physical form seems to be lacking compared to a few months ago and he is lacking the ability to be decisive in the most delicate moments of the match.

You sense McKennie has run out of chances and will soon be considered no longer useful for the team’s technical project.

2. COULD PERIN PIP SZCZESNY?

According to Opta data, Juventus did not even have a shot in the second-half against Fiorentina – this is the fifth time this has happened to them in Serie A since 2004-05 and three of those occasions have been against Fiorentina.

Without the exceptional saves of Mattia Perin, including the saved penalty from Luka Jovic, Juventus would have returned to Turin with zero points.

Perin has returned to being the extraordinary goalkeeper who in 2014 was close, by his own admission, to joining Bayern Munich.

The Juventus No 36 was good and showed a lot of personality, putting the unreliability of Wojciech Szczesny, victim of numerous muscle injuries, under the magnifying glass.

Juventus goalkeeper Mattia Perin saves Luka Jovic's penalty during the draw at Fiorentina

Juventus goalkeeper Mattia Perin saves Luka Jovic’s penalty during the draw at Fiorentina

In the coming weeks, the never-forgotten battle between the two goalkeepers could restart and this time Perin could even be preferred to the Polish goalkeeper.

You have to go back to Michelangelo Rampulla for a time when Juventus didn’t have a reserve goalkeeper so strong as to deserve a high number of appearances in the first team.

In these months ahead, there will be plenty of reflection and Perin could try to overtake Szczesny.

The Champions League opener, away to Paris Saint-Germain, will be a test of maturity for the Latina-born keeper who is saving Juventus in this troubled start to the championship.

3. LEAO DANCES LIKE CASSIUS CLAY IN THE RING

Two goals and one assist in the derby is always an extraordinary return due to the importance of the match but Rafael Leao is always decisive in the key matches of the season.

The Portuguese striker is AC Milan’s most brilliant jewel and his ability to attack the spaces behind the half-wingers and full-backs is such an important quality that it has revived the Scudetto ambitions of Stefano Pioli’s team.

His strength is that he is difficult to block from the opposing defence and his presence transformed Simone Inzaghi’s Inter from a three-man defence into a five-man defence for almost 45 minutes.

Rafael Leao was mesmerising during the Milan derby and proved the difference in the contest

Rafael Leao was mesmerising during the Milan derby and proved the difference in the contest

Leao is a hurricane that overwhelms and eradicates everything in his path with a smile on his lips, transmits the infinite beauty of football and transforms the fans into angels entranced by his talent.

The Portuguese striker dances on the pitch as Cassius Clay danced in the ring before throwing his punches at opponents. It is a tornado that gives off happiness and makes the San Siro sing.

Chelsea would have paid money for him this summer but the appointment with the great football of the Premier League seems to have been postponed for some time.

Pioli has worked a lot on his concentration and the presence of the coach just a few metres from him in the first 45 minutes allowed him to drive him like a radio controlled car.

In the second-half, Leao behaved like a student who has studied and lives the match dancing on the rubble of Inter’s defence.

4. INZAGHI IS A CONFUSED COACH

Simone Inzaghi is a confused coach who fails to stem Inter’s defensive problems and who continues with the tactical madness of an attack without a No 9.

Edin Dzeko scores and fights like a lion in just a few minutes on the field, highlighting Inzaghi’s tactical errors.

The ‘Sarajevo heron’ is no longer a fast and powerful striker but he is an exceptional penalty area sniper.

Inzaghi will also have to try to remedy the problems of a defence that has lost the ability to read games.

Simone Inzaghi is giving off all the signals of being a confused coach as Inter stumble

Simone Inzaghi is giving off all the signals of being a confused coach as Inter stumble

His manic changes and grimaces are driving Inter away from the top places in the standings and the magical effect of last year seems to have dissolved under the last sun of this hot summer.

Inter is experiencing a blackout and Inzaghi is certainly the main culprit from the two defeats suffered over the last few weeks.

Inter lack a left-back and, above all, it lacks a tactical idea capable of creating a new spark of enthusiasm. Skriniar, Bastoni and De Vrij are in apnoea for 90 minutes and play with the fear of conceding at least one goal in each match.

Milan Skriniar reacts after AC Milan's Rafael Leao scored what proved to be the winning goal

Milan Skriniar reacts after AC Milan’s Rafael Leao scored what proved to be the winning goal

Until Robin Gosens has recovered 100 per cent of his physical form, the squad will suffer from the lack of a full-time left-back with greater charisma and technical quality than Federico Dimarco.

The sad gaze of Zhang and Marotta in the stands perfectly illustrated the negative mood of the team that has started the march towards the 2022-23 Champions League in the worst possible way.

5. INTER HAVE A BUTTER DEFENCE!

The iron defence has become a butter defence and a small breadstick is enough to break it down.

Inter’s second defeat in Serie A has opened a crisis within the Nerazzurri team which suffers mainly in defence – eight goals conceded in five matches are too many, it’s even six more than Juventus.

The three-man defence that made Antonio Conte’s career at Inter so extraordinary seems to have lost its effectiveness.

Skriniar is distracted by the constant rumours of the market, Bastoni is unable to concentrate and De Vrij has been living in a bubble of amnesia and sudden drops in performance for 18 months.

Milan Skriniar looks on in horror as Olivier Giroud nets for AC Milan in Saturday's derby

Milan Skriniar looks on in horror as Olivier Giroud nets for AC Milan in Saturday’s derby 

The strangest aspect of the story is that all three have been playing together for a long time and this should strengthen the defence mechanisms.

Serie A statistics, on the other hand, tell of a vertical collapse probably originating from a different way of defending which has put the Inter defence in difficulty.

The loan signing of Francesco Acerbi from Lazio will lift the competition between all defenders but it seems very difficult to think that the experienced defender can solve the structural problems of Inzaghi’s team.

The weakening of the wings, fundamental in a 3-5-2 formation, is the main cause of Inter’s crisis of results and as long as Inzaghi does not try to tactically fix the team, positive results will be difficult to achieve.

6. A VERONA STRIKER WITH AN APPROPRIATE SURNAME

12 months ago in Verona, there was no one to welcome him on the first day of the summer retreat.

Today, after a year of acclimatisation in Italy, Thomas ‘the giant’ Henry, the striker with a very important surname and weight, is helping Verona in every way to stay in Serie A.

His way of playing football seems to be that of a wrestling fighter – he is clumsy, his feet are covered with wood but he has an impressive physical strength which in this Serie A can be a fundamental resource.

After the relegation of Venezia, he chose to stay in Serie A and Verona welcomed him for the very low price of his salary.

Giant striker Thomas Henry celebrates scoring for Hellas Verona against Sampdoria

Giant striker Thomas Henry celebrates scoring for Hellas Verona against Sampdoria

The goals he scored against Sampdoria were a small masterpiece of physical strength and precision and compared to the first months in Italy, Henry seems to have improved his play on the side.

Alongside him, Kevin Lasagna also seems to have been reborn and the coach Gabriele Cioffi has bet on the 193cm tall French giant, with about 92kg of muscle.

At 27 years old, the decisive moment of his career has come and Verona can offer him the right showcase to be able to aspire to a club that participates in European competitions.

Henry is good at defending the ball and is dangerous in aerial play and is rarely the protagonist of virtuosity in the penalty area.

This year’s target is to reach at least 10 goals in Serie A.

7. ABRAHAM WASTES HIS AUDITION IN FRONT OF SOUTHGATE

Tammy Abraham was a non-paying spectator of the match against Udinese – a situation made worse by the presence of England boss Gareth Southgate at the Dacia Arena in Udine.

The former Chelsea striker failed to threaten as Rodrigo Becao muzzled him so he couldn’t turn in the final 20 metres.

The England manager received bad impressions of both Abraham and Chris Smalling and this news isn’t good for future squads that will be announced in a few weeks.

Tammy Abraham failed to make much impression as Roma were thrashed 4-0 by Udinese

Tammy Abraham failed to make much impression as Roma were thrashed 4-0 by Udinese

Paulo Dybala’s presence has completely changed Abraham’s performance which has changed his way of playing. All the actions pass from the feet of the Argentine player and crosses are fewer and fewer, a very negative aspect which risks drastically reducing his goals this season.

Abraham’s physical condition also seems precarious and very often Tammy appears to be in pain in his right thigh.

With the introduction of Andrea Belotti in the second-half, the English striker played with less and less aggression until he injured his left shoulder.

Jose Mourinho tried a trident to try and overcome Udinese’s defensive wall but the quality of Roma and the midfield suffered a negative imbalance.

8. HOLM WOULD SUIT BIG CLUBS WELL

Emil Holm is a Swedish footballer who could become one of the most precious players in Serie A.

Spezia is an important step for this Scandinavian player who in the 2-2 draw with Bologna proved to be a right-back box-to-box player who can conquer a place at one of Italy’s top clubs.

His physical strength and his ability to grind out between 10 and 12km in each match recalls the characteristics of Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Swedish right-back Emil Holm (in white) is one of the most exciting defenders in Serie A

Swedish right-back Emil Holm (in white) is one of the most exciting defenders in Serie A

The Swedish defender of Luca Gotti’s team is a millennial who has a great desire to improve and it took only five games to elect him as one of the most promising defenders in Serie A.

On August 14, he made his Serie A debut, coming on in the 75th minute of the win over Empoli and he has since become one of the most important players in the team.

Unlike most of the full-backs who play in Italy, Holm seems to have a physique sculpted in marble by running non-stop for 90 minutes.

Juventus, Inter and AC Milan could decide to change the right-backs in the team at the end of the year and Holm is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating solutions considering the need for the Ligurian club to sell a player every year to finance their summer transfer market.

9. PEREYRA WOULD HAVE BEEN HANDY FOR JUVE

Roberto Pereyra is the most important player of this Udinese side who, like a pirate, is silently conquering the role of a revelation team in the sea of Italian football.

In addition to Destiny Udogie, who scored a splendid goal against Roma, Pereyra played an extraordinary game confirming that he is the charismatic leader of the team.

‘El Tucumano’ Pereyra is one of Juve’s biggest regrets because a midfielder with these characteristics would have been very useful to Allegri.

Pereyra is a very technical and fast player who combines midfield and attack starting from the right side of the pitch.

Udinese's Roberto Pereyra (right) has impressed with his technical skill and speed this season

Udinese’s Roberto Pereyra (right) has impressed with his technical skill and speed this season

It was a poisonous thorn that hurt Roma by constantly forcing Pellegrini to play defensively.

Udinese’s third goal was a technical masterpiece that helps them raise their ambitions in Serie A.

They are an accordion that attacks and defends with all the men available and never stops running – credit goes to the coach Andrea Sottil, who has built a team capable of always presenting a free man to pass the ball to at all times.

10. MOURINHO NEEDS TO GET ANGRY WITH HIS TEAM, NOT THE REF

Mourinho came out of the Dacia Arena with broken bones and with the certainty that his Roma has serious character problems that not even the presence of Dybala seems able to heal.

The creature he has created is hysterical, with no midfield and three players completely out of place. Matic, Rui Patricio and Abraham stifle the club’s ambitions and collapse the Friedkin family’s Serie A ambitions for 2022-23.

Jose Mourinho can't bear to watch as his Roma side are demolished by Udinese

Jose Mourinho can’t bear to watch as his Roma side are demolished by Udinese

Mourinho will have to be careful not to keep blaming the referee and to try to empower his players.

Dybala raised his hands and apologised to the fans at the end of the match but there are no justifications – Roma was an open construction site that conceded four humiliating goals.

Without balance in the middle of the field, the team will continue to suffer the attacks of opponents. Cristante and Matic have been overwhelmed.

The main problem is that Roma do not have the psychological strength to manage difficult moments and Mourinho with his attitude does not seem to favour the concentration of his key men who have failed the decisive match.

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Serie A: 10 things we learned from the weekend action

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