Daniele Rugani is finally getting the plaudits he deserves, under fire Napoli boss Rudi Garcia is NOT an elite coach – and Federico Dimarco’s wonder strike is one of the best ever goals in Italy… TEN THINGS we learned in Serie A
- Napoli’s woes continued as Rudi Garcia’s side lost 1-0 to Empoli on Sunday
- The champions are out of form, with Inter Milan and Juventus the title favourites
- City had their pants pulled down by a development team – It’s All Kicking Off
Inter sit in pole position as Serie A head’s into the November international break, with Simone Inzaghi’s side two points ahead of Juventus thanks to their 2-0 home win over Frosinone on Sunday.
The two giants will face off after international duty in what could prove a pivotal match in the Serie A title race, with Milan, Napoli and Atalanta all dropping points at the weekend.
The reigning champions’ 1-0 defeat by Empoli mounted even more pressure on Napoli boss Rudi Garcia, who is struggling to replicate the exceptional domestic form his side managed under Luciano Spalletti last season.
And down the other end of the table, Salernitana are still winless after 12 matches, squandering a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with Sassuolo.
But what else happened in Serie A last weekend? Mail Sport takes a look at what we learned heading into the international break.
Inter head into the international break at the top of Serie A after beating Frosinone on Sunday
Max Allegri’s Juventus are two points behind the leaders Inter thanks to their win over Cagliari
1 – Dimarco’s ‘Recoba’ strike proves he’s the real deal
Federico Dimarco netted an extraordinary goal against Frosinone on Sunday, and it was a perfect replica of Alvaro Recoba’s strike against Empoli in 1998.
The Inter defender, seemingly trapped on the wing with nowhere to go, laced an effort from just inside the halfway line over Frosinone’s despairing goalkeeper Stefano Turati, after noticing the Italian was a few metres off his goal line.
It will no doubt enter the Hall of Fame as one of the most beautiful goals in the history of Serie A. Fans have already grown accustomed to Dimarco running relentlessly for 90 minutes, but few believed he had that in his locker.
Almost bionic in the way he moves down the left flank, Dimarco is a box-to-box full-back who is fast becoming one the best in world football. There’s no wonder why Inter are working to agree a contract extension.
2 – Rugani is Juventus’ talisman
With Daniele Rugani on the pitch, Juventus haven’t lost a match this season. The defender, whose impact often goes under the radar, finally had his moment in the spotlight on Saturday, netting the winner in the 2-1 victory over Cagliari.
The Tuscan defender has never been more important to Juventus. For too many years, he was almost considered a mediocre player, unsuitable for a top club. Now at 29, Rugani has finally become a stalwart for the Old Lady by doing the basics extremely well.
Cagliari may have ended Juventus’ 615-minute streak without conceding at the weekend, but it was through no fault of Rugani. The Italian was the best player on the pitch by some distance and continued to prosper alongside Federico Gatti and Gleison Bremer in Massimiliano Allegri’s back three.
Even after scoring the winner, Rugani marshalled the backline with order and tactical discipline to help the team over the line, earning three points in what could have proved a banana skin for Juventus.
Federico Dimarco nonchalantly celebrates after scoring one of Serie A’s best goals of all time
Juventus’ Daniele Rugani has long been underrated, but he is now a stalwart for the Old Lady
3 – Garcia’s not a top club coach… but are Napoli still a top club?
Empoli were shrewd, clever and organised against the champions, and Viktor Kovalenko’s goal was a just rewards for their endeavours in Naples.
It is fair to say, after his start at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Garcia isn’t part of the top 20 managers in Europe right now. An elite coach would have found a way past Empoli, who climbed out of the relegation zone thanks to the 1-0 win.
However, it should be highlighted that Napoli’s problems stretch far beyond their manager. The exits of Spalletti and former sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli forced a violent reset both technically and tactically, and this had repercussions on the entire team.
That being said, without star man Victor Osimhen out for approximately a month, the decision to name Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the bench was a very serious mistake and demonstrated Garcia’s lack of awareness in the crucial moments. Garcia will need him on the pitch if he wants to remain in charge.
4 – Matteo Guendouzi is emerging a rare talent
Lazio signed the former Arsenal star on the recommendation of Maurizio Sarri, and he was undoubtedly the best player in the Roman derby.
An attentive and dynamic warrior in midfield, he played a tactically impeccable match during the 0-0 stalemate, muzzling Edoardo Bove’s attacking threat and picking up excellent positions within Lazio’s engine room.
Box-to-box midfielders who are capable in both attacking and defensive phases are hard to find, but Guendouzi frustrated Roma’s Bryan Cristante and Leandro Paredes throughout the match while also supporting his team-mates Luis Alberto and Danilo Cataldi superbly.
In Italy, Guendouzi has all the tools necessary to become a top player. He is always in the thick of the action, knows where to position himself to receive the ball and has an experienced coach in Sarri to help him improve further.
Pressure is mounting on Rudi Garcia after Napoli’s disappointing 1-0 defeat against Empoli
Matteo Guendouzi was the best player on the pitch during Lazio’s 0-0 stalemate against Roma
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5 – Giroud is passionate… but he needs to control his emotions
AC Milan’s promise to renew Olivier Giroud’s contract for another 12 months has filled the Frenchman with such enthusiasm that he’s scoring with extraordinary regularity. He bagged his seventh of the season against Lecce, having already racked up three assists in Serie A.
Even without Rafael Leao, who was injured after 10 minutes of match, Giroud didn’t lose his knack for scoring, netting the opener in Milan’s 2-2 draw with Lecce.
But the striker’s goal-scoring enthusiasm turned sour at the end of the match, and he was too overzealous in his protests to referee Rosario Abisso, earning a red card after refusing to back down from the argument.
Giroud’s inability to control his emotions has left Milan in a difficult position ahead of their next league clash with Fiorentina. It proves there’s still plenty a footballer can learn at 37.
6 – It’s all falling apart for Anguissa
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s career in Italy so far has been a story of ups and downs. The former Fulham midfielder is going through a very negative period after being one of the most important players in Napoli’s title season.
Today, Anguissa seems devoid of confidence: a ghost who is afraid of making mistakes on the pitch. Fans are starting to turn on him too, booing after he missed a potential assist in the first few minutes at the weekend.
Only a few months ago he was one of the most loved players in Naples, but now he is the midfielder most criticised by fans.
The resemblance he once had to Edgar Davids is only a distant memory, and today the only possible comparison fans can make between Anguissa and the the former Dutch superstar is the long braids hairstyle.
Olivier Giroud is a superb goal-scoring talisman in attack for Milan, but he needs to control his emotions after attracting a red card for arguing persistently with the referee against Lecce
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa seems devoid of confidence in the Napoli midfield and looked like a ghost afraid of making mistakes on the pitch during his side’s disappointing 1-0 defeat
7 – Thorstvedt is Sassuolo’s saviour
Kristian Thorstvedt’s brace either side of half time fired Sassuolo from the pit of despair to an incredible 2-2 comeback on Friday. Without his goals, the Italian outfit would have been the first to lose to Salernitana this season.
The Norwegian star, who the best on the pitch by some distance, picked Sassuolo up after a nightmare start and helped them gain a very precious point.
Son of historic Tottenham player Erik Thorstvedt, the ex-Genk star is fast becoming one of the most important players at Sassuolo. His father Erik is still widely considered the best Norwegian goalkeeper of all time, with 97 appearances for the national team – and the 24-year-old is beginning to carry on the legacy.
In Sassuolo’s 4-2-3-1, Thorstvedt is an excellent playmaker manages to provide the attack with a several teasing opportunities while putting in a hard graft in defence. He isn’t a box-to-box player just yet, but with time and experience in Serie A, he will be able to become a complete midfielder.
8 – Reijnders was a bright spark for Milan
Tijjani Reijnders scored his first Serie A goal against Lecce at the weekend and accompanied it with a perfect match both defensively and offensively. The last Dutch player to score a goal with in an AC Milan shirt against Lecce was Ruud Gullit in 1991.
While suffering from his side’s disappointing performances over the last month, Reijnders has continued to play with great determination and quality, winning all the duels he entered against Ylber Ramadani, Mohamed Kaba and Hamza Rafia.
The Dutch midfielder made Milan play with speed, cutting the pitch vertically and spreading the game to the side flanks. He seems like a different player nowadays, motivated in possession and full of self-esteem as he continues to emerge a key player in Milan’s system.
However, Reijnders lost his vigour during the last half an hour of the match, in tandem with Stefano Pioli’s entire team as they embarrassingly conceded physically to Lecce, and began to disappear from the pitch. Although he was Milan’s best on the day, he must learn to manage his fitness so that he doesn’t finish matches before the final whistle.
9 – Berisha is a late bloomer
Etrit Berisha is experiencing a crucial moment in his career after struggling for opportunities at Lazio, Torino and Atalanta. Today, the Albanian goalkeeper is one of the most reliable shot-stoppers in Serie A, and his performance against Napoli demonstrated how highly he’s regarded at Empoli.
He regularly protects Empoli’s goal with a series of extraordinary saves, defusing all efforts like a bomb disposal unit. Discovered by the former Lazio sporting director Igli Tare, Berisha is one of the most experienced Empoli players in the Italian championship, with over 150 appearances in Serie A.
Chosen as the best on the pitch by supporters via DAZN’s ‘Fan Zone’ poll, Berisha has won the trust and attention of Aurelio Andreazzoli despite starting the season as a reserve for young goalkeeper Elia Caprile.
After several years on the sidelines, Berisha is more than taking his opportunity in the limelight.
Kristian Thorstvedt (left) and Tijjani Reijnders (right) also enjoyed excellent weeks in Serie A
Goalkeeper Etrit Berisha is taking his opportunity at Empoli after several years on the sidelines
Radu Dragusin was very underrated at Juventus, and Genoa’s summer transfer is bearing fruit
10 – The one that got away for Juve?
Radu Dragusin was one of the most underrated players at Juventus, and now Genoa are reaping the rewards.
The Romanian defender was sold to Genoa for just under £5million in the summer and today his market value has increased approximately five times over. Dragusin has been the protagonist of Genoa’s solid start to the season, and his first goal in Serie A against Verona certifies his great personality and talent.
He was both attentive in defence and refused to give up in duels with Milan Djuric, while cancelling out Federico Bonazzoli and Cyril Ngonge, arguably the two most dangerous players for Verona during the match.
The 21-year-old is the best young defender in Romania and lives and breathes football. Juventus will certainly be kicking themselves after letting him go.
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