Written by Matt Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo) & Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese)
Within hours of the January mercato closing for business, we take a look at some of the underrated deals that happened. From bargain prices to little known talents here are some deals that got the best for their buck.
Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo > Genoa, loan with obligation to buy at €2.5 million)
Palermo isn’t exactly a hotbed for top talent. However, one of the few players worthy of a look was 24-year old Oscar Hiljemark. The Swede will be a welcoming addition to Ivan Juric’s midfield, which must cope with the departure of its brutish force, Tomas Rincon, who made the switch to Juventus. Hiljemark is a ready-to-go starter for Genoa who is fully capable of playing in several midfield roles. His short passes and maneuvers in close quarters open an outlet for goal opportunities in the final third. Take his 2016-17 statistics with a large grain of salt. Last year, Hiljemark featured in 38 matches for the Rosanero tallying 4 goals and 5 assists in a season that nearly saw the Sicilians drop to the second division. Palermo sit 19th in the league and have once again made a move at the post, sacking Eugenio Corini for Diego Lopez. Hiljemark’s upside exceeds the fee Genoa president Enrico Preziosi spent for his signature.
Genoa has been praised for the shrewd business of selling Leonardo Pavoletti and Rincon, but should be applauded for snagging Hiljemark on a market-friendly fee.
Leonardo Morosini (Brescia > Genoa, €2.5 million purchase)
Before Genoa added Hiljemark to fill the void left behind by Rincon, Preziosi flew under the radar by adding to his clubs’ youth for the future.
Earlier in the window, the Rossoblu began bolstering the attack with skill players, adding 21-year old Leonardo Morosini from Brescia. Primarily an attacking midfielder, the Italy U-21 international had been deployed out wide under manager Cristian Brocchi this season before his move to the top-flight. In 13 Serie B matches for the Leonessa, Morosini held a respectable 4 goals and 1 assist. With this versatility, Juric now has another alternative on the bench to look at late in matches.
Investing in Italian youth is quickly becoming common practice amongst Serie A competitors. Along with Morosini, Genoa added SPAL playmaker Andrea Beghetto who looks ready for the next level. Rather than pocketing the money from the sales of his two stars and staying the course as a mid-table club, Preziosi acted accordingly to ensure Genoa were in position to compete – for the present and future.
Marco Sportiello (Atalanta > Fiorentina, 18 month loan with €6 million obligation to buy)
Fiorentina managed to sign a young yet proven goalkeeper at a very reasonable price. The move should be beneficial to the keeper as well who needs to get playing time again and regain confidence. Sportiello, who came through the youth system at Atalanta, had been demoted to the bench this season in favor of Etrit Berisha. After two impressive seasons as the starter, Sportiello earned high praise from many, including talk about being a potential keeper for the national team in the future. La Viola were able to find an upgrade between the posts when his price tag was quite low. He may need some time to get back his match sharpness back but make no mistakes about it; Sportiello is a very good goalkeeper. La Viola faithful will be delighted with their clubs January transfer window and can expect many productive years from the 24-year-old in net.
Miha Zajc (NK Olimpija > Empoli, €1.5 million)
This is certainly an under-the-radar signing of a little known talent. The 22-year-old Slovenian joins Empoli as they sold their best midfielder Riccardo Saponara to Fiorentina. Zajc’s skillset is actually quite similar to Piotr Zielinski, who Empoli sold last summer to Napoli. He brings a high work rate and energy to the midfield while also being very effective with both feet. Zajc is primarily a central midfielder but can also play out on the wing. He scored 18 goals in 74 appearances in the Slovenian PrvaLiga. The Tuscan club has struggled this season and now Zajc will be asked to fill the big shoes of Saponara. It won’t be an easy task but expect Zajc to fit into Empoli’s style of play quite well and for the Slovenian to make an instant impact in the midfield.
(Shoutout to @SLOSpy for some info on Zajc)
Kevin Lasagna (Carpi > Udinese, €4.5M)
The club from Udine snapped up the striker who will stay on loan at Carpi in Serie B for the rest of this season.
Lasagna has scored nine goals in 17 appearances for Carpi in the second division this year. The 24-year-old Italian will bring some needed speed and creativity up top that Udinese has been lacking since Antonio Di Natale left the club. In Serie A last season, Lasagna was mostly used as a substitute but made noteworthy impacts. He became known in the calcio community after scoring goals in big games against Fiorentina, Inter and Roma. Expect Lasagna to make significant contributions to Udinese’s attack starting next season.
Written by @fussbALEXperte
Now that 20 games have been played in the Serie A, let’s look at what could happen the rest of the season according to my model:
Who will win the Scudetto?
Who will finish top 3 and qualify for the Champions League?
Who will finish top 5?
And who is expected to be relegated?
The projected final league table...
And here are the distributions of final league positions for every team. We can already say a lot about what might happen.
Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
After their big victory against Juventus, Fiorentina still find themselves in a disappointing eight place with only 30 points. Although they have one game in hand against Pescara, which they should pick up three points in, they are at serious risk of missing out on Europe. Sousa has been under pressure this season and he can't seem to escape the rumors that he will be sacked. Unless Sousa can start to turn things around in the second half of the season then it's very like he will be sacked before the end of the year. La Viola desperately need to start improving if they are to qualify for Europe this year.
Last season Fiorentina finished in fifth place and qualified for the Europa League which was a good first season to build on for Paolo Sousa. However instead of improving and building on that fifth place finish, La Viola seem to have gone backwards under the Portuguese tactician. One of Fiorentina's problems this year has been there inability to convert chances into goals. La Viola have only scored 30 goals this year so far which along with Milan is the second lowest of all the teams in the top half of the table with only Chievo having scored less. Fiorentina's lack of killer instinct in some matches has been the difference between picking up all three points or just one. Sousa's men have drawn the most matches in Serie A this year along with Pescara finding themselves with six stalemates. Many of these draws were matches Fiorentina dominated but failed to put the opposition away and they'll have start killing teams off if they want to qualify for Europe.
The defense has also been a problem for Sousa this season with Fiorentina being anything but solid at times. Fiorentina have conceded 29 goals this season and Torino are the only team in the top half of the table that have conceded more than La Viola. Sousa has failed to address Fiorentina's defensive issues and in aforementioned matches where they lack the killer instinct they end up getting picked off at the back. La Viola will have to improve the defense if they are to qualify for Europe but their match against Juventus showed us that perhaps Sousa worked on the defense over the winter break. The win over their fierce rivals was very important both for confidence and in their hopes of European qualification.
Despite all of these problems that Fiorentina are having this year there is reason to believe that they can still finish in the European places. La Viola still possess quality players such as Gonzalo Rodriguez, Milan Badelj, Borja Valero, Nikola Kalinic and Fernando Bernardeschi. While it looks certain Badelj will leave in the summer, Sousa will be desperate not to lose him in January and Fiorentina will look to keep all of those key players. A mega money offer for Kalinic from China would’ve been foolish to turn down but the Croatian has announced he will stay in Florence. One player that La Viola cannot afford to lose in January at all costs is Bernardeschi. The young Italian has been in inspired form this season with nine goals already and he has been the shining light of their season so far.
While La Viola have had a below par season so far they have enough quality in their team to mount a comeback in the second half of the season and finish in the European places. However, Fiorentina will need to continue improving quickly or La Viola's fans will have to mark this season down as one to forget...