The anticipation is over, and we have game week one in the books for the 2017/18 Serie A season, writes Frank Crivello.
Let’s use this edition of The Calcio Consultant to get my first impressions of each team. Very early days of course, but let’s look at what the first round of games have taught us.
Juventus 3, Cagliari 0
The Champions opened their title defense in impressive fashion with goals from Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, and Gonzalo Higuain.
Cagliari, aided by VAR, were given a penalty in the first half that would have equalized. However, Diego Farias’ effort (if you can call it that) was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
- For Juventus: No Bonucci, no Dani Alves, no problem. Not that they’re needed against a team like the Sardinians. If this is supposed to be the season that La Vecchia Signora are finally caught, the contenders appear to have their work cut out for them. Daniele Rugani looked assured, and the usual suspects popped up for the goals. A comfortable performance from Juve.
- For Cagliari: Yeesh. Well, at least the beating at the J is past them. The defensive problems, now with a new cast of players, are still there. They’d better sort this out quickly with a trip to the San Siro against AC Milan coming up. What’s worse, last season’s leading scorer Marco Borriello was not in the lineup, and in fact has moved on to SPAL. Cagliari may be in for a relegation fight.
— RespectTheReferee! (@referee_fan) August 20, 2017
Hellas Verona 1, Napoli 3
Napoli got help (like they needed it) through a Souprayen own goal, followed by goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Faouzi Ghoulam.
The hosts salvaged a goal late through a Giampaolo Pazzini penalty. Elseid Hysaj was sent off for the Partenopei.
- For Napoli: I tweeted that it’s August, but Napoli are already in midseason form. Between this and how they’ve looked in the Champions League qualifier, they are certainly proving my prediction that they’ll be the stiffest challengers to Juventus. Lorezno Insigne has been in eye-catching form, and Milik returning to the lineup with a goal enhances just what Napoli can do going forward.
- For Verona: Welcome back to Serie A! You got to start by hosting the league’s highest scoring team from a season ago. In the long run, I still think this Verona side is equipped for survival. Pazzini getting on the scoresheet, albeit on a penalty and as a substitute, should provide some encouragement. They head to Crotone next, in what will be an early relegation six-pointer.
Atalanta 0, Roma 1
Last season’s surprise package dominated the stats board, but lost where it counts. Aleksander Kolarov with a free kick goal to open his account for the visitors.
- For Atalanta: Maybe the result wasn’t there this time, but Gasperini’s men will look to be a handful this season once again. Plenty of chances to get something out of this game and perhaps even win it. Josep Ilicic had the best chance, hitting the woodwork. The danger of 0 points from their first two games exists though; a trip to the San Paolo to play Napoli is next.
- For Roma: This is three points that the other contenders may not get. It might not have been pretty, but it’s a case of not worrying how the sausage is made. Defensively they look solid, and with the attacking options you can expect the goals will be in higher supply. They may not be the 87-point spectacle of last season, but they will be in the mix. Inter are next at the Olimpico, and a chance to have as impressive a 6 out of 6 start as you’re likely to find across Europe.
Kolarov's debut is going well so far; beautiful free-kick under the wall
Atalanta 0-1 Roma
— Analyse Football (@AnalyseFootball) August 20, 2017
Bologna 1, Torino 1
The hosts jumped out in front via a goal by Federico Di Francesco, which was cancelled out by Adem Ljajic just six minutes later.
VAR turned up here, as Torino thought they had a late winner, but it was ruled offside. Replays confirmed the offside, and a draw was the result.
- For Bologna: Torino stand to be one of the more impressive attacking sides this season, so to keep them at the one goal is a good start. Considering the disappointing preseason and crashing out to Cittadella in the Coppa Italia already, Roberto Donadoni will take this and hope to build. He’ll now have a veteran presence to help the young players, as Rodrigo Palacio has joined from Inter.
- For Torino: For a team that is hoping to kick on and grab a European place, they need to win a game like this. Still, the defending looked better, which is an encouraging sign. Salvatore Sirigu’s experience back there appears to be key. Andrea Belotti was in the lineup, which will encourage Granata fans that maybe he’ll stay.
Crotone 0, AC Milan 3
The match was pretty much over after 5 minutes when Milan were awarded a penalty after Federico Ceccherini pulled down Patrick Cutrone of Milan.
VAR was used again to show Ceccherini committed the foul on a clear scoring opportunity, and the referee showed the defender a straight red.
Franck Kessie converted that spot kick, followed by goals from Cutrone and Suso, all in the first 25 minutes.
- For Crotone: It was going to be hard enough to deal with a hungry Milan side, but even harder when you are having to go nearly 90 minutes with ten men after losing their best defender. Crotone are going to have a hard time staying up, but it’s hard to judge them on this match. They await Hellas Verona next, as mentioned, and we’ll have a better account of them after that one is over.
- For AC Milan: Hard to judge them against 10 men, but Milan looked far better and more convincing going forward than at any time last season. Next up, home against Cagliari, who had the worst defense in Serie A. A nice squishy schedule to allow all this new talent to get acclimated to each other. We might not know what this new look Rossoneri are made of until we get to October, when the schedule gets exponentially tougher.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) August 21, 2017
Inter 3, Fiorentina 0
Mauro Icardi started his campaign as The Calcio Consultant’s favorite for Capocannoniere with a brace, and Ivan Perisic provided a third goal to give the Nerazzurri a flying start under new boss Luciano Spalletti.
- For Inter: Now THAT was talent living up to its potential. Spalletti was brilliant last season at Roma and it looks like his new charges are buying into his methods The defense got the job done, which was also encouraging. Perisic-Icardi-Candreva could be even better than what Spalletti had at Roma with Perotti-Dzeko-Salah. Roma v Inter coming up will be appointment viewing.
- For Fiorentina: Stefano Pioli had a bitter return to the San Siro, but I’ve said multiple times that this is a Fiorentina that will get worse before getting better. La Viola just brought in Giovanni Simeone, who was a revelation at Genoa last season. This team will take time to come together, and if faith can be kept in Pioli, they will be a fun watch later on in the season. A key match at home against Sampdoria is next.
Lazio 0, SPAL 0
Lazio’s followed a 5th place finish last season with a disappointing goalless draw to promoted SPAL.
- For Lazio: The attack was fine. 23 shots with 13 on goal. They’ll win just about every game with those numbers. Unfortunately, they ran into an all-timer of a goalkeeping performance. Sergei Milinkovic-Savic looks to be taking the next step up with Lucas Biglia no longer part of the Biancacelesti, and that is a sign of encouragement. Still, when the other teams around you win, it’s not a good thing to start with a draw, especially against a promoted side.
- For SPAL: Validation that they can play at this level. This is a massive point that the other relegation strugglers may not get. If we did a week one Squadra Finora on our Serie A Sitdown pod, Alfred Gomis would be the goalkeeper, and it wouldn’t be close. SPAL now have a proven goalscorer in Marco Borriello, signalling their intent that they may surprise everyone and survive the drop. He can be to SPAL what Diego Falcinelli was to Crotone last season.
Sampdoria 2, Benevento 1
Amato Cicieretti gave the visitors a surprise lead before Fabio Quaglierella came through with a brace for the hosts, sparing their blushes.
- For Sampdoria: Three points is three points is three points. The Blucherati are revamping this season under Marco Giampaolo and are coping with key departures, so let’s take a glass-is-half-full approach with them on this one. They’ll continue to improve, but they’ll have to find scorers other than Quaglierella. Gianluca Caprari will eventually get there, and in Gaston Ramirez they have a playmaker to replace Bruno Fernandes. It’s a win, but if Samp are to challenge for Europe, they need to put teams like Benevento away more convincingly.
— Serie A TIM (@SerieA_TIM) August 20, 2017
- For Benevento: When you have a lead away, and just about everybody is predicting you’ll be at the foot of the table all season, you have to somehow come away with at least a point. Benevento were massively out-possessed this game, and this will be a recurring theme. The Ciciretti goal was a bright spot, but the events of this game suggest this will be a long season.
Sassuolo 0, Genoa 0
Two teams hoping to snatch a top half finish this season shared the points at the MAPEI Stadium.
- For Sassuolo: Domenico Berardi, Diego Falcinelli, and Matteo Politano have the makings of a promising attack trio, but in their debut together this season put up a dud. With Christian Bucchi’s attacking style, much (and better) will be expected from these three. Perhaps this is part of a needed grace period for the Neroverde to buy into Bucchi’s project. They head to Torino next, in what could be a sneaky good match to watch.
- For Genoa: This is progress. And how the Grifone missed Mattia Perin in goal. Just this past Spring, this would be the kind of result you’d expect to see Genoa lose (and sometimes miserably). With Perin back, and experience just about everywhere on the pitch, this is the makings of a stingy team. However, they’ll have to find a way to produce goals without Giovanni Simeone’s services. Next up they’re at home to welcome Juventus, a fixture Genoa won last season.
Udinese 1, Chievo 2
Roberto Inglese’s opener for the visitors was cancelled out by Cyril Thereau, though Valter Birsa restored the Flying Donkeys’ lead before the hour, giving them the three points.
- For Udinese: The Zebrette will have to sweat this out until the defense gets a better understanding of each other. Simone Scuffet is a good goalkeeper, but he’ll only help so much. The talent is there going forward and in the midfield to be a handful for everyone in the league, and Cyril Thereau will be leaned on quite heavily for the goals. The faster the defense improves, the better for Luigi Del Neri.
MOTM: Valter Birsa vs #UdineseChievo
4 acc long balls
2 acc crosses
1 assist ️
1 goal ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/9YLUcgV3su
— Lega Serie A (@SerieAchannel) August 20, 2017
- For Chievo: They might not threaten for a European place, but Chievo will be fun. Roberto Inglese is continuing to improve, and Birsa is getting comfortable in a playmaking role with the team. Manuel Pucciarelli and Lucas Castro also provide nice attacking options. The defense still has issues, and this will be something the Flying Donkeys will deal with all season. Still, an away win against a team you’ll be battling for table position with is something to be happy with.
The Calcio Consultant’s Team Of The Week (3-4-3)
Gomis (SPAL); Rugani (Juventus), Manolas (Roma), Skriniar (Inter); Conti (Milan), Kessie (Milan), Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Ghoulam (Napoli); Perisic (Inter), Icardi (Inter), Quagliarella (Sampdoria).
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