It was a busy weekend at the top of the Serie A standings, with Napoli and AC Milan squaring off in a huge clash at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Nothing could separate both sides at full-time, with Olivier Giroud scoring twice in the first half, before both of his goals were cancelled out by Matteo Politano and Giacomo Raspadori.
With the points halved, it meant Atalanta were able to make up some ground on Milan, after they trounced Empoli 3-0 to go within three points of Stefano Pioli’s side.
Elsewhere, Juventus claimed a 1-0 victory against Verona to keep the pressure on Inter Milan at the top of the table, who defeated Roma 1-0 at the San Siro.
But with lots of action to digest from around the Italian top-flight, Mail Sport’s Alvise Cagnazzo walks us through ten talking points from this weekend’s action.
Massimiliano Allegri guided Juventus to second place in the Serie A standings this weekend
Olivier Giroud scored twice in AC Milan’s 2-2 draw against Napoli, breaking his goal drought
While Marcus Thuram dazzled for Inter Milan, scoring the lone goal in their 1-0 win vs Roma
Allegri is Juventus’ true leader
A fifth consecutive clean sheet, 23 points in 10 games, temporarily at the top of the Serie A table after 3 years and 124 games with Pogba and Fagioli out for the entire season.
What more could you ask from Massimiliano Allegri?
Probably nothing. The Juventus coach is getting 100 percent from his players and at least for once the fans of the ‘Old Lady’ should apologise to a constantly criticised coach.
With the 1-0 victory against Verona, Allegri achieved the 100th clean sheet of his career, placing himself behind Giovanni Trapattoni (150).
He has never been a philosopher of the agile and bubbly game but it is also true that he does not train the players best suited to that type of football.
Allegri is a concrete man who prefers to win matches 1-0, not conceding a goal and winning with the mental strength of his players. He is a lover of chess, tactical moves and psychological tricks that allow him to use the changes available as a bonus to change the evolution of the games.
He finally manages to transmit Juventus DNA to his players and this quality transforms him into the only spiritual leader of the club. This team can and must aim to win Serie A and return to winning ways after 3 years of starvation.
Thuram ends Lukaku nostalgia at ‘Meazza’ Stadium
Four goals and five assists, just like Diego Milito in his first year living in Milano city.
Marcus Thuram, within 10 games with Inter, has put an end to the nostalgia for Romelu Lukaku and after coming up against the Belgian giant, he proved to be an exceptional player, even superior to his predecessor in the tactical dynamics of Nerazzurri team.
A comparison between the two giants is inappropriate because Lukaku plays hide and seek for long periods of the match and receives boos from everyone in the stadium while Marcus Thuram understands that he is experiencing the decisive moment of his career, becoming Inter’s most important player even in the big matches.
His goal was decisive, his great quality in inserting himself behind Llorente demonstrates how the French number 9 has perfectly metabolised the role of centre-forward.
In the first 45 minutes of the game, Lukaku touched the ball only 12 times, being tamed by Pavard, Acerbi and Bastoni while Thuram jr was the point of reference for the entire Nerazzurri attack, heating up the stadium which shouted his name throughout the game.
In the right place at the right time, Thuram always manages to correctly finish Federico Dimarco’s crosses, with whom he has established a symbiotic relationship.
In a few months he has become indispensable having refining his ability to score goals.
Giroud breaks his 58-day fast
Olivier Giroud returns to score after 58 days, resurrecting AC Milan after two consecutive defeats.
After eight games without goals, the French giant scored a brace, bringing the entire Napoli defense to its knees.
He scores two splendid goals with his head, attacks his opponents from behind like a lion and despite a few white hairs in his thick mane he puts young Natan in great difficulty.
Amir Rrahmani also had difficulty controlling the French No 9, who reads all the trajectories of crosses in advance, with the Napoli star experiencing one of the worst evenings since the day he returned to the field after his injury.
For the first 45 minutes, Napoli were fearful while Milan became master of the pitch, allowing Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria to expand their range of action well beyond the defense, acting like added wingers.
At 37, Giroud is still indispensable for Stefano Pioli’s team today. He collects crosses from Christian Pulisic and captain Calabria, transforming them into goals.
If he were 10 years younger he would be Filippo Inzaghi’s heir and yet today he is considered the best in Serie A for goals and technical continuity.
He was called back to the bench by Pioli in the 81st minute, his eyes were red with anger at not having been able to participate in the final assault: this is a precious clue that reveals the French star’s attachment to the club.
Allegri achieved the 100th clean sheet of his career after their 1-0 victory against Verona
Despite scoring, Giroud was substituted in the 81st minute and was visibly incensed at the decision
Thuram has become an indispensable member of the squad at Inter
Napoli are like ‘Jekyll and Hyde’
In the first 45 minutes Napoli’s defensive performance was terrible. They were equally disastrous in attack, conceding two goals and having no shots on goal.
The substitutions made by Rudi Garcia in the second half highlighted the errors in the initial choices of the French coach, who too often has been too superficial in the selection of the starting eleven.
The choice to replace Matteo Politano a few minutes before the end of the match also reveals Rudi Garcia’s fear of losing and underlines the psychological problems of the team which never manages to complete a comeback.
In the first 45 minutes, Milan could and should have ended the match with at least a 3-goal lead and the injuries to Pulisic and Pierre Kalulu helped Napoli recover the result after a terrible start to the match.
Rudi Garcia was surprised by AC Milan’s tactical attitude and in the first half risked suffering a technical knockout, a collapse so violent that it annihilated the players.
During the interval he did well to overturn his tactical plan and Napoli clearly improved the quality of their game.
Rudi Garcia’s most serious mistake was not understanding the athletic difficulties of Mario Rui, who was recalled to the bench after the first disastrous 45 minutes.
All of Milan’s most dangerous actions come from the Portuguese full-back, including the two assists for Giroud’s brace. His contribution in attack is minimal and he was crushed by the physical strength of the AC Milan wingers.
The Pavoletti show
Claudio Ranieri’s Roma side recovered from going 3-0 to Genoa, to win the game 3-4 back in February, 2011.
It was a defeat which led to the dismissal of the Roman coach. After 12 years, the former Leicester manager avoided the sack by achieving an incredible result – a comeback victory with the same scoreline, 4-3, achieving his first win in Serie A by beating Frosinone on Sunday.
An epic match whose only protagonist is Leonardo Pavoletti, hero of Cagliari’s promotion to Serie A just a few months ago and today became a man of hope for salvation.
Pavoletti is an icon of Cagliari, the man of destiny who, when he reads the 90th minute on the stadium scoreboard, begins to take on the role of Superman.
The two winning goals scored by Pavoletti allowed Cagliari to become the first Serie A team to win a match with a three-goal deficit in the 70th minute of the second half.
The man who is a symbol of the Sardinian team, has established a new exceptional record by becoming the man of providence.
Pavoletti is 34 years old and is living the last period of his career with great enthusiasm, trying to help Cagliari as a twelfth man, as a wild card that Ranieri decides to put on the field every Sunday in the last few minutes to try to give the team a jolt.
Claudio Ranieri’s side mastered a huge 3-0 comeback win against Frosinone
Soule is the heir to Pavel Nedved’s throne
According to Opta Matias Soule has the highest percentage of successful dribbles in Serie A and with Frosinone he seems to have found the right technical and tactical dimension. At the weekend, he claimed his first brace in Serie A, his fifth goal and first assist of this season.
Soule starts playing from the outside and then centres himself to shoot, opening up the game and allowing players to run at the goal. Soule is as stinging as a wasp that flies lightly over the heads of the defenders, constantly changing speed and rhythm.
He is a true No 10, who during his career in Italy, has improved his concentration and defensive abilities, to become a complete player.
A great relationship has been established between him and Eusebio Di Francesco and the Italian coach is the only manager who has been able to transform Soule into a top player.
Born in 2003, Soule is destined to become Nedved’s heir in Juventus starting from the next summer transfer window. And his way of playing is increasingly ‘European’. He runs with order, has good tactical discipline and begins to score with great continuity.
The Italian national team continues to court him and hopes to obtain his consent for the first call-up to Luciano Spalletti’s team but, as always, Argentina will indirectly decide his future.
Without any call from Selecion, Soule will have to ‘settle’ for Italy, giving up his dream of playing in Argentina like Mauro German Camoranesi did.
Cambiaso better than Kostic
It’s not just the goal scored 15 seconds from the final whistle, in the 97th minute, that makes his first celebration in the black and white shirt special.
Andrea Cambiaso deserves to be a starter on the left flank for Juventus for his great ability to play the role of full-back in a modern way.
The No 27 immediately entered the game playing both as a winger in support of Federico Chiesa and as a left midfielder to allow Adrien Rabiot to advance in the role of raider behind Arek Milik.
Thanks to the boy from Genoa who can become the star of the team’s new technical project, Juventus are sitting second in the league. But unlike Filip Kostic, he uses both feet and also gallops diagonally without becoming too predictable in his movements.
The difference between his growth and Kostic’s psychophysical decline is so evident that it creates a new hierarchy in the left side of the field. The time to make choices has arrived and the victory against Verona finally established Cambiaso’s overtaking of Filip Kostic.
In the 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 the former Bologna star must be the protagonist, extending the list of millennials who have won a starting place in Juventus.
Matias Soule scored a brace of goals during Frosinone’s 4-3 loss to Cagliari
Leonardo Pavoletti, meanwhile, scored twice in injury time to give Cagliari the win
Maignan is not a robot, and the mistakes prove it
Mike Maignan played his worst game since moving to Italy, proving that he is not a robot.
He missed 3 goal kicks, a very simple block from a high cross and on both of the two goals conceded by Milan, he made serious errors in positioning and reactivity.
The feeling is that he is not in 100 percent physical condition and that he has lost serenity and concentration.
He was the best goalkeeper in Serie A for about two years and a moment of difficulty is physiological even if his drop in performance is quite worrying.
On Matteo Politano’s shot he appeared surprised and too shy. On Jack Raspadori’s equaliser he completely misplaced the barrier and dived too late.
Marco Sportiello or Antonio Mirante, Milan’s second and third goalkeepers, would not have made all these errors. But Maignan’s short-circuit also arose from Marco Pellegrino’s defensive errors and Theo Hernandez’s poor protection of the penalty area.
The save on Khvicha Kvaratskhelia at the end of the match softened the result but did not allow the French No 1 to improve an overall mediocre performance.
And after much deserved applause he improved his personality, experiencing fierce criticism from the Rossoneri fans.
The risk of suffering a few whistles at the ‘Meazza’ in Milan’s next matches is real but Maignan has broad enough shoulders to be able to resist what might be the first negative moment of his Italian experience.
Last summer he could have become an Atalanta player. He was Gasperini’s favourite and above all he was the man with the highest economic value in Turin. But president Urbano Cairo resisted all the offers.
In the decisive match for Ivan Juric’s future on the bench, Alessandro Buongiorno scored a decisive goal which has a much more important symbolic value than the three points won against Lecce.
He returns from an adductor injury that kept him out for over 35 days and immediately makes it clear why Torino wanted to keep him with a sumptuous contract extension.
Buongiorno broke his goal fast and simultaneously relaunched the team’s ambitions. He is a universal player, with ample room for improvement and demonstrates that he is master of the pitch.
His attitude saves Juric’s team who now hopes not to have to give up their charismatic leader again. Buongiorno leads defence too as if he were the reincarnation of Roberto Cravero, the historic Torino defender, and is a candidate to become the man who symbolises the rebirth of the Granata club.
Alessandro Buongiorno scored a decisive goal just before half-time to help Torino beat Lecce
Albert Gudmundsson scored the lone goal in Genoa’s 1-0 victory against Salernitana
The best icelandic footballer to play in Serie A?
Albert Gudmundsson is a star so bright that he will not be able to shine for much longer in the small sky of Genoa.
The Icelandic player is a thorn in the side of Salernitana’s defense and his extraordinary running ability has brought Filippo Inzaghi’s tactical strategy to its knees.
Retegui’s injury could have weakened Genoa psychologically but the presence of Gudmundsson allowed Alberto Gilardino’s team to obtain a very important victory which could open up new scenarios in the Ligurian club’s season.
The Icelandic boy is the technical leader of a team which, despite its ups and downs, is having a good start to the season which could even allow Genoa to push for Europe.
The side has 11 points from ten games and Gudmundsson has already scored four goals in 10 Serie A starts, more than 1/3 of the total goals of the team produced in the league in May 2023.
He is enchanting when he has the chance to play with a corridor in front of him and is always lethal in front of goal. This takes a lot of pressure off the rest of Genoa’s attack.
With these kind of performances he will exceed 10 goals for the season and will have a bright future in a top club.