lørdag den 29. august 2009

Serie A 2009/10 preview. Final installment (finally!)

Finally the final installment! Meaning I can now, in hopefully not too long, proceed to talk about some of the games I watched this weekend.

Here are the previous parts:

Part 1: Milan, Atalanta, Bari, Bologna, Cagliari and Catania
Part 2: Chievo, Fiorentina and Genoa
Part 3: Inter
Part 4: Juventus
Part 5: Lazio, Livorno, Napoli and Palermo

The Roma part of this preview was written some days ago and of course now there have already been some drastic change.

Spalletti is gone and in comes Ranieri!

It's always interesting when a coach takes over a team very much created by another, and what exact fingerprints Ranieri will leave only time will tell.

I have a feeling I'll be watching Roma again in not too long so hopefully there will be some intersting things to talk about there.

But first things first, here is thefinal part of the Serie A 2009/10 team by team preview:


One of the best teams of the 90s featuring many great players, Parma has struggled a lot in recent years.

It began with the "Parmalat scandal" in late 2003 which caused their ownership to collapse and saw them under controlled administration for a while.

Following that the club basically went from top team to midtable and finally to fighting relegation which they then succumbed to in the 2007/08 season finding themselves in Serie B for the first time since that first ever promotion, the start of their great run, back in 1990.

This turned out to be a much shorter stay however and after finishing second in Serie B to Bari, Parma are now back in Serie A.

Their coach is very proven Francesco Guidolin who is finally free (for now at least) from his on and off, getting sacked, getting rehired relationship with Palermo, and who in the past has done wonderful things for smaller clubs. Which Parma incidentally is now.

Last season he brought immediate improvement after Parma disappointingly had not started Serie B all that well, with just 6 points from a possible 18.
Under Guidolin's guidance they eventually ended up with the best goal difference in the league. Scoring the most and conceding the least and losing just four games. Also the lowest total in the league.

So what about the squad? Could this be the start of another run ala what followed their last promotion to Serie A in the beginning of the 90s, winning an impressive 8 trophies in 14 years?

No of course not. There is no Sensini, Asprilla or Zola here. Or likely coming up one great future signing after another, like the ones the club used to specialize in back then.
Instead we have a curious mixture of experience and very young that's pretty hard to predict, but at least I think there is some upside to be found here. Maybe a lot even.

Livorno hero Lucarelli who played for Parma last season is now back where he belongs.
And he for an example has been replaced by some upside.
Extremely unlucky Bulgarian forward Valeri Bojinov has arrived on loan from Manchester City.
He is still only 23, has Serie A experience and should have a good season hopefully rebounding from his terrible injuries.

Possible even more upside lies with young 19 year old striker Alberto Paloschi. Co-owned by Milan but staying where he can get playing time. It will be interesting if it will be baby steps for Paloschi or the big breakthrough that some people will (already) expect.

He could have his own little scoring duel with Atalanta striker Acquafresca (now too old) who took most of his playing time for the U-21 team.

As outsiders for the starting spots there are even more young talent. Unfortunately for Parma, if they turn out really good. They're on loan from other clubs.

Former U-21 national team player Davide Lazafame on loan from Palermo, and on loan from Inter 21 year old french forward Jonathan Biabiany.

The midfield also looks quite intriguing:

Captain Stefano Morrone I quite frankly haven't seen play for some time now but I'm assuming he still isn't exactly setting things on fire with his play.

More interesting is Daniele Galloppa who is yet another player stolen from Siena. There have been quite a few of those already.
Galloppa even recieved an Italy cap recently which he commented wasn't a highlight in his career but rather a starting point from where he could do better. Ambition! Nice!
As the holding midfielder we find a guy who I've never seen play and considering he used to play just 30 minutes from where I live, that's pretty sad, IF reports about how good he is are really true.

So is Kenyan midfielder McDonald Mariga the man who'll make me forever regret that I haven't been paying any attention whatsoever to the Swedish Allsvenskan since the days of Zlatan Ibrahimovic toying with it for Malmö?

Reportedly Mariga is a tough tackling marathon man with the stamina you usually only see from his long distance running countrymen. He is, it's been said, now arguably the best african player in Serie A! Hmmmm.

Worth watching: Christian Panucci: How much does he have left and will it be enough to make a positive contribution to this team.
From what I understand Roma simply did not want to renew his contract. He will likely play in central defense and will likely want to prove Roma wrong.

Since forever, dangerous on set pieces, scoring a header against them from a corner would be just about perfect. I full expect this to happen now.


Without a doubt the biggest underachiever from last season.

From 2nd places to 6th place. From goal differences of +35 and +40 to just +3 last season.
And that with a largely unchanged team from the previous good years.

The easy and most obvious answer was that the team failed to still be effective when talisman Totti wasn't present or not a 100 percent.

This is after all a team where coach Spalletti uncompromisingly has made everything about Totti.
Constructing flexible and sometimes quite unique attacking systems aimed to get the best out of Totti who would then get the most out of the players around him.

What makes the answer to the cause of their failure a little more tricky is that Totti actually only played one less league game than the year before.

Having said that, overall from what I can remember, he did have more fitness worries, something sadly for Roma, that could easily continue this season.

Then there is the issue of mental collapse. A collective mental collapse even. Something that's probably used way too much as an easy explaination for a team's failure to live up to whatever expectation but in this case it kind of makes sense.
Led by still not in control of his temper, midfield general Daniele De Rossi, the whole club (including the Sensi ownership) did suffer some epic meltdowns, resulting in them blaming everyone but themselves for their poor results.

The squad once again have not seen many changes and spending has pretty much been suspended amidst various rumors of takeovers.

Gone for a good amount of money is talented but sadly often injured Alberto Aquilani and of course veteran Christian Panucci who didn't have his contract renewed.
He has been replaced by Nicolas Burdisso on loan from Inter.
Of Inter's willingness to plant Burdisso at what I guess is still a potential rival, I'm sure some interesting theories can be made.

Mostly in have come a bunch of people returning from loan and it can never be entirely ruled out that maybe one of those will have some kind of breakthrough season, even if it's difficult to see who exactly that should be.
23 year old defensive midfielder Ricardo Faty I haven't seen for some time now but out on loan he did just play a full season in Ligue 1, for eventually demoted Nantes.

Another could be 22 year old Alessop Cerci who would either steal a lot of games from someone like Taddei (not that likely) or just a game here and there from veteran Esposito (more likely).
Finally there is 20 year old striker Stefano Okaka. And Roma doesn't have a lot of those. But realistically he probably still has some way to go.

No, more likely to make a positive impact is what I think is their only actual real signing, Stefano Guberti who has been an ever improving wing that I think could help fill roles in systems that so far, and especially last season, haven't been all that effective when Totti wasn't playing.
Elsewhere in attacking midfield Jeremy Menez needs to have a breakthrough season.
17 of the talented frenchman's 29 appearances last season were as a sub and though potentially more of a forward type of player, a wonderful thing for Roma that could really provide them with a lift, would be if Menez would become the Aquilani who never quite materialized.

One who did have a breakthrough season was Matteo Brighi. Always talented and always a good allround player, last season he was consistently good. Hopefully for Roma that will continue.

A player who could have a better season is the always underrated Simone Perrotta who like many others struggled with fitness and rarely was at his best.

When he has been that he is an excellent two-way player with a great workrate who defends his position well defensively, plus who just about as good as anyone can makes great runs in and around the penalty area, complementing someone like Totti perfectly.
For Roma and maybe even for Italy it would be a great thing if he, on the wrong side of 30 now, has at least one more good season left in him.

Up front there is still not a lot of strikers making this team still very much geared for the systems where Totti is the closest to being that.
But hopefully now with the arrival of Guberti who can play the leftwing, whenever Totti isn't fit, Mirko Vucinic often playing that wing-role, and very well it should be said, can take the place as a striker.

4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 with Totti and Vucinic up front could also be an option, Menez would then be a backup, if Spalletti feels the more attacking systems, for whatever reason (players older? Not the same workrate?) have become too vulnerable to opponent's counter attacks. Arguably that was the case last year but most players on this team are still better in more flexible systems.
For an example someone like David Pizarro. The at times very good deep lying Chilean playmaker is not someone I imagine is very ideal on a two man central midfield.

In the back Roma has one of the best partnerships in Mexes and Juan. On a very attacking team they have a more difficult job than most, yet have consistently done a good job of holding things together.
While Mexes is a beast, one worry is the fitness of Juan which could mean quite a lot of playing time for the alternatives.
Last season one of those, Simone Loria, was a disaster. It's now Burdisso's job not to be!

On the fullback positions John Arne Riise had a good first season in Italy.

Brazilian Cicinho probably due to injuries, mainly a terrible ACL one suffered for Real Madrid, sadly confirmed he will never be the excellent player that he started out looking like when he first came to Europe.

Instead the right-back position saw the emergence of Italian U-21 captain Marco Motta who's performances earned him rave reviews from just about everyone.
While he is already a complete player without any real weaknesses and that iself is a good thing, I do think there are some areas where there is room for improvement if we're talking becoming elite at his position.
Some of that will mainly come with more Serie A experience. Like taking the right decisions under pressure.
Other things like his technical ability can definitely be worked on. Not saying he is bad but something like his one touch passing could improve.

Worth watching: Daniele De Rossi: I sometimes feel like when I'm complaining about De Rossi that I'm nitpicking, being too negative and unfair, so lets look at the positives.
He is a very complete midfielder who does just about everything imaginable well.
He is good in the defensive areas of the game and he is good in the attacking areas of the game.
He can work hard. Run for an entire game. Pass well. Has a great shot and make tackles.

And when he is on a team that is functioning, he consistently does all those things to the best of his very good ability, making the team even better.

The problem that's still there is when the team isn't going great that he is a player who'll make things even worse.
Not just what's the standard, which is have your game affected by the team.
That's obviously the case with everyone.
But Rossi, one of the best players on every team he is on, he can become one of the worst if things aren't working and bring teammates down with him.

Even if the idiotic dirty play and bad temper thankfully is more rare these days, he is still at 26 year old a player who doesn't react well when things are going bad.
With time running out for Francesco Totti, this will, even moreso than what's been happening already, increasingly become De Rossi's team.
And with that he needs to become a reliable leader. One who will do everything for his team to win throughout a season, not lose focus at the first signs of trouble.


Arguably another great underachiever from last season, Sampdoria followed their 6th place from the 2007/08 season up with a disappointing 13th place finish.

Those poor results cost Walter Mazzarri his job and in to replace him this season, leaving Atalanta, is former Chievo miracle man Luigi Del Neri.

What everyone talks about when it comes to this team is of course the duo upfront.
The undisputed number one badboy of calcio Antonio Cassano and his newfound partner in crime Giampaolo Pazzini.

There are even misguided comparisons to the legendary Sampdoria "twins" Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini.

Vialli and Mancini led Sampdoria to a Scudetto and European glory. They had great careers on great teams where they won domestic and European titles. At the height of their careers they were among the best players in the world.
This current duo aren't even close to making Sampdoria anywhere near that good and Antonio Cassano has never contributed anything to any winning team ever and never even been good enough to actually play for a great team.
Comparing him of all people to great champions such as Vialli and Mancini is ridiculous.

He is a talented attacking player who is creative with a lot of flair, but also someone who through sheer unprofessionalism throughout his career has been unwilling to even try and improve other areas of his game.
That's why he is playing for a midtable Serie A club and not a big one. European or Italian.

27 years old now having wasted many years of his talent, he does still have time to improve, or mature if you will, but even last season while being praised by the media, there were many games, especially early on, where he didn't even seem fit, slightly overweight like in the Madrid days and when without the ball was probably consistently the worst player on the pitch, hurting his team with his lack of work/movement/effort.

As absurd as it is, while hysterical voices for Cassano being selected for the national team grew louder and louder, his team where he had been made the most important player, was slumping and slumping, flirting with relegation!

It was when Pazzani arrived from Fiorentina that things started to improve and if anyone in this duo deserves lavish praise, it's actually him.
Fast, hardworking with good technical ability he is a very effective striker who when he was giving the chance to be what he couldn't be at Fiorentina, the main striker, shone brightly.
You could say he does a lot of the things that Cassano doesn't while of course Cassano does things Pazzani can't and never will. And in that sense they complement eachother very well and give Sampdoria a forward duo on a high level.
Even if they're not Vialli/Mancini.
Those two of course also had a much better team around them than what we're seeing now.

Worth singling out however are players such as former U-21 regular talented midfielder Daniele Dessena. He has a nice passing game and should continue to improve further in other areas this season in order to establish himself at Sampdoria.

Also worth keeping an eye on is Lithuanian international Marius Stankevicius who has had a long solid career in Italian football.
He can play anywhere on the right and contribute well both to attack and defending. A good complete player.

Worth watching: Angelo Palombo: For many years not really noticed by anyone.
In recent years, he has started to get recognized as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league.
He has very good physical ability resulting in a very impressive workrate as well as good strenght man to man when it comes to tackling where he can be tenacious.
When it comes to technical ability he isn't great of course but certainly capable when things are kept simple.
He will of course be aiming for a place in the World Cup squad and with constant questionmarks surrounding someone like Gattuso's fitness, Palombo must like his chances.


From underachievers to perennial overachievers Siena.

Every year they're tipped to go down. Every year they survive. Last season quite comfortably ending up in 14th place.

Then they were robbed.

I've almost lost count of the number of teams I've gone through so far who have strengthened their teams with some of Siena's best performers from last season.

The two best midfielders Houssine Kharja and Daniele Galloppa have gone to Genoa and Parma respectively.

One of the best fullbacks last season, Zuniga is now at Napoli and solid defender and key player Daniele Portanova to Bologna.

To some extent this was the case following last season too and some of the replacements then are some of the players right there above.
So you could say perhaps they "just" need to have similar success with the relative unknowns brought in this year!

The real star of the team might be manager Marco Giampaolo.
Previously best known for a chaotic reign at Cagliari and before that guiding little Ascoli to Serie A survival.
Last year he created a well balanced side with a good defense who provided a tough test for just about anyone.
This year his job looks to be even harder and if Siena once again have a good season, look for Giampaolo to get the chance at a bigger club.

Worth watching: Albin Ekdal: The 20 year old Swede is on loan from Juventus and they'll be hoping he gains some valuable experience.
Ekdal is someone who has great potential as an allround player since even if he is considered more of an attacking player his defensive qualities are already sound.

And it's mainly with that beginning defensive ability where I think the cause for his significant upside can be found.
Cause even just developing that, alone would make him a good player.
Likely someone in the complete central midfielder player mould, but versatility too.

The question is then how much things like his already good technical skills can improve.
If THAT could somehow get even better too, then we have, not just a good, but a very good player.


One of best run teams in Italy, Udinese are well known for their ability to find and/or develop young talent. Then integrate them into their flexible tactical systems.

Under very promising coach Pasquale Marino that has mostly been a 4-3-3 and it's also mostly been some quite attacking football.

However with some real questionmarks surrounding the Udinese three man frontline, and that for the first time in a while, the strenght of this team is now definitely the midfield.

In midfield we find one of the real revelations from last season Gaetano D'Agostino.
Last season he was fully transformed into a deep-lying playmaker and went from a just good player to a very good one, who had several big clubs interested in his services.

A move to Juventus especially was very close but a last minute high price tag by president Giampaolo Pozzo, kept D'Agostino at the club.

D'Agostino is very good at set pieces and his accurate deep ball is a something of a special gift to pacy forwards drawing comparisons to Andrea Pirlo.

Also on the midfield is Gokhan Inler who quite simply is bad at nothing. Which is great!
He works hard defensively, as well as being sound technically and rarely make any mistakes.
A complete player who can contribute well in both ends.
I think it's only a matter of time before he will take a central midfielder role on a bigger club.

To complete a Udinese midfield that could be right up there with the best in the league is 20 year old Kwadwo Asamoah from Ghana.

A great physical talent who is also good technically with some impressive looking ball-control. He has seemingly endless stamina and can move from box to box without much trouble at all!
Add to that his great strenght when tackling and explosive pace and you have one of the most interesting midfield talents in world football.

Like already touched upon though, unfortunately it gets less great if we look at the forward line this year.
Not that it isn't good, BUT for the first time in quite a few years for Udinese there is some uncertainty.

For starters top scorer Quagliarella was sold to Napoli.
And what looks like his direct replacement, veteran targetman Bernardo Corradi, I'm just not convinced by at all.
He is miles behind the departed Quagliarella when it comes to ability and pace,
meaning that at least in open play he won't complement D'Agostino all that well, and won't he likely be so dependant on service that he requires the other parts of the front line, to be just that, servicemen, instead of consistent goalscoring threats.

One of those other parts of the forward line, is captain Antonio De Natale.

Now normaly he would be far from a questionmark but a serious injury at the wrong side of 30 is always worrying. Especially for a player so dependant on his great pace.
De Natale missed most of last season with that injury, and how he comes back this season will be key for Udinese.

On Udinese's attacking right side coach Marino has some interesting decisions to make.
There is Simone Pepe who both Marino and Marcello Lippi for then national team really likes to use in that right forward/wing spot. He works really hard and while rarely spectacular, he definitely has something to offer both ways.

His rival, who will also be our player "worth watching", on the other hand IS quite spectacular.
From Chile, 20 year old Alexis Sanchez. He has been hugely impressive during Chile's so far great World Cup qualifying campaign.
Taking fans by storm with his technical ability and exciting dribbling trickery, he also seems quite strong and with good stamina, especially for Chile, where he does very well in their high pressure game when not in possession.

Could he turn into more of a striker? Play on the left? I think to replace Quagliarella's attacking contributions, it's someone like Sanchez who needs a bigger role. Not someone like Corradi.

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