Straight from the dark heart of Italy
This season has finally seen a shift away from one team’s dominance in the league and this is reflected by the Serie Aaaaargh! team of the campaign so far.
The goalkeeping positions were always up for grabs, so to speak, with Julio Cesar suffering from an uncharacteristic lack of form and persistent injury problems, while Gigi Buffon has not played a match as the Juventus No.1 continues to recover from back surgery.
There are a number of home-grown keepers who have impressed, such as Buffon’s stand-in Marco Storari, Stefano Sorrentino at Chievo, Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano and Salvatore Sirigu of Palermo - all of whom have both broken into the Italy squad. But taking the gloves is Fernando Muslera who has taken his excellent performances from the World Cup with Uruguay into the league to help Lazio maintain their chase at the top of the table.
The full-back positions are always tricky ones to fill – what with the need for those in that role to have both defensive and attacking attributes. Lazio’s Stephan Lichtsteiner has certainly been a force of nature - if at times erratic - while Palermo's Mattia Cassani has been efficiency personified. However, with three goals to his name and a solidity obviously honed out during his time in the Bundesliga, Cristian Zaccardo of Parma claims the starting place at right-back.
There are very few ‘true’ full-backs around with the majority midfielders converted to the role or wing-backs masquerading as defenders to reinforce three-man backlines such as Domenico Crisito at Genoa, Udinese’s Pablo Armero but for the genuine article we need look no further than Federico Balzaretti in the left-back position.
Central defence has seen the development of some fine partnerships, such as that of Andre Dias and Giuseppe Biava at Lazio; the indomitable Thaigo Silva and Alessandro Nesta of AC Milan and Cesare Bovo and Ezequiel Munoz with Palermo while Andrea Ranocchia has cemented his growing reputation at Genoa.
Each one could stand beside the man who has been head and shoulders above the rest – Giorgio Chiellini. The Juventus defender has thrown his body in where others fear to wave a boot so a touch of class provided by Thaigo Silva would dovetail nicely with the Juve action man.
A midfield three has been the platform to instigate attacks for the majority of the clubs enjoying success this term, and anchoring the centre of pitch have been a number players combining grace and a high work rate – Gokhan Inler of Udinese and new Italy international Cristian Ledesma with Lazio have been two who have caught the eye but it is the diminutive Walter Gargano who has really been pulling the strings in Napoli’s charge into the top four.
The Uruguayan has the ability to switch the direction of the attack in a split second and in a moment to intercept an opposition drive forward and bring the pace of game back into control of his own side.
The right-hand side of most Serie A midfields has seen a mix of tricky from the likes of Alexis Sanchez at Udinese, genuine pace and a direct running in Milos Krasic of Juventus and the more explosive all-purpose performer as witnessed by Kevin-Prince Boateng’s eye-catching performances. All three can find the net but the Juve man just shades it with his desire to get to the by-line at both ends of the pitch.
The opposite side of the midfield trio needs a player who can support the attack with timely forward runs rather than out and out dribbling and another new arrival, Kevin Constant has impressed at Chievo, Mathieu Flamini has been busy with AC Milan while Josep Ilicic has been a real surprise package at Palermo. However, Stefano Mauri’s all-round approach makes it difficult to look beyond the Lazio man.
It is even further forward that fans have been treated to a real bumper year for the trequartisti – Javier Pastore, Jeremy Menez and Marek Hamsik have all shone, but Hernanes slipped into the league with little or no fanfare to quickly become the talk of the town at Lazio and then throughout the league.
It has been a vintage year for the frontmen, with the evergreen Hernan Crespo and Marco Di Vaio in rich veins of form, Samuel Eto’o has been a one-man wrecking ball for Inter, Marco Borriello has finally offered AS Roma the targetman they have been lacking while few would bet against Antonio Di Natale finishing the season as top goalscorer again.
Of course, any one of these strikers would flourish even more alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Robinho has done and the little and large partnership is always a real threat.
Mauro Zarate could offer the unexpected as could Ezequiel Lavezzi and Fabio Quagliarella but Edinson Cavani - who may not be that little but is certainly on the lean side - would provide it more often so the Napoli man completes the line-up which would be coached by Stefano Pioli who has taken Chievo into the top ten and along the way defeated Inter and Napoli as well as drawing with Roma and Juventus.
Serie Aaaaargh’s team of the season so far: Muslera; Zaccardo, Chiellini, Thaigo Silva, Balzaretti; Krasic, Gargano, Mauri; Hernanes; Ibrahimovic, Cavani. Coach: Stefano Pioli.
No mention of Wesley sneijder makes this a silly article.
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