Wednesday, October 29 th, 2014
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Future Italian goalkeepers growing, Zeman's crisis: talking points from Serie A
Perin, Bardi and Sportiello seem ready to challenge Buffon's reign; Benitez on the verge of a divorce; young coaches shine eclipse the old foxes. Let's recap what happened in the fourth matchday
by John Cavenaghi
Four games are still not enough to draw even partial conclusions on this year’s Serie A, but things are starting to be clearer. Roma and Juventus remain the only two credible contenders, even though Roma’s hunger could make the difference in the long run. But we’ve heard about this already, and since this duel is going to monopolize the media all season long, we found some different talking points.

In safe hands. Farther time is slowly winning his battle with Gigi Buffon, but Conte and Italy in general should not worry. Sportiello, Bardi, Leali and most of all Perin are getting ready to wear his big, heavy gloves in the name of the country. The young keeper of Genoa, in particular, has been the best in his role (another two great saves last night), and among the best players in Serie A (7.9 whoscored.com rating, trailing only Nainggolan, Tevez and Menez). He’s been training with tennis balls and basketball exercises during the summer, and such inter-disciplinary program is bearing fruits. We can’t wait to see this long distance battle for the throne once his biggest contender is back: Udinese’s Simone Scuffet.

Short blanket? Milan’s true value is slowly, yet inexorably emerging. Inzaghi is surely an enthusiastic coach, but he lacks the fundamentals. In the away draw at Empoli his team was terrible at defending set pieces, his midfield has no quality whatsoever, not to mention his defense, which still relies on players such as Bonera and Abate (yes I know, he was among the best for the Rossoneri, but this is an aggravating factor). Add to this the many injuries suffered by defenders and midfielders, and you get the feeling that the blanket might be too short… Luckily for the Rossoneri up-front things are working well with Honda, Menez and now Fernando Torres somehow sweeping the dust under the carpet. But winter is coming, and should any of these players catch a cold…

“Time to say goodbye” used to sing Andrea Bocelli. The Italian version was “Con te partirò”, literally “with you I will leave”. In this case, it’s more like “you take the ship, I’ll watch you from the port of Naples (making sure you don’t change your mind)”: a one way, single ticket for Spain. After a terrible opening of the season (UCL playoff elimination with Athletic Bilbao, 4 points in four games in Serie A and a constant impression of impotency over this situation), the relationship between Naples and Rafa Benitez is on the verge of an irreparable divorce. This is a deja-vu of his previous spell at Inter: the impression is that if he feels that the club didn’t do as much as possible to buy him the players he wanted, he loses his motivation (in Milan this happened with Dirk Kujt), and this is reflected on the team. He probably doesn’t feel responsible for the situation, blaming the club, but how long can this situation last?

No country for old men. Mihaijlović, Stramaccioni, Mandorlini, these are the “new” names in Serie A. Their teams (Sampdoria, Udinese and Verona respectively) have been among the main protagonists of the first four games (Udinese play Lazio tonight- with three points they’d be third), while the “old school” coaches are struggling. Giampiero Ventura with Torino and, mostly, Zdenek Zeman with Cagliari aren’t performing as expected. While the Granata coach is justified by the departures of Immobile and Cerci, the Bohemian coach - one point in four games - is this close to yet another failure in his career. At 67, and with football changing at the speed of light, one might start asking himself if it’s time to call it a day.

Thursday, September 25 th, 2014
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