Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Perhaps the most disappointing team in this Serie A campaign so far has been Lazio. Last year the Biancocelesti finished in third place, just missing out on second to their hated rivals Roma. Last years third place was Lazio's best finish since the 2006-07 Serie A season when they also finished third. Many felt that Lazio could build on last years third place finish under Stefano Pioli and with the club keeping the stars of last season there was reason to be excited in Rome. So why now do Lazio find themselves in 8th place and 7 points off a European place? Why hasn't Pioli delivered again? And why haven't last seasons key players such as Candreva and Felipe Anderson performed?
After finishing third, Lazio managed to maintain all their key players during the following summer transfer window and signed some promising young players such as Wesley Hoedt, Ricardo Kishna and Sergei Milinkovic-Savic. Many felt that they would go on to perhaps better a third place finish but they have failed to live up to expectations. Lazio's poor campaign started with defeat to Juventus in the Supercoppa Italia and failure to qualify for the Champions League losing a play-off to Bayer Leverkusen. Since then the downhill spiral has continued. Many feel Lotito should have invested more money in the summer transfer window. Lotito seemed content that just keeping Biglia, Candreva and Anderson would be enough to push on from the last season. Unfortunately for the Laziale this has not been the case.
Last year Lazio scored a club record 71 goals and conceded 38, while this year they have only scored 38 goals and have already conceded 38 with 8 games remaining. The goals have dried up with Klose's legs no longer what they were, Felipe Anderson's inconsistency and Stefano Mauri being sidelined for large parts of this season. Matri and Djordjevic have both failed to provide an able replacement to Klose's 15 goals last season with only 6 goals between them this year. Another problem for Lazio has been their leaky defense this year, losing 4-0 to Chievo and 5-0 to Napoli shows how shaky they are at the back. Stefan De Vrij has been sorely missed at the heart of the defence this season. Gentiletti and Mauricio have both been woeful at times this season especially Mauricio who has been shockingly poor in nearly all the matches he has featured in this season. Making himself a cult figure among Lazio fans for all the wrong reasons.
Another problem for Lazio is that Pioli seems to be having second season syndrome. Pioli's problems began when he chose Biglia as captain over Candreva. This decision upset Candreva so much so that he decided to make his unhappiness public and many feel the armband not being given to him is the reason to blame for his lackluster performances this season. Pioli has also had a tough time with injuries this year. De Vrij has been out all season, while Klose, Lulic, Biglia and Parolo have all been out sometime with injury and many more have been injured throughout Lazio's season. Pioli has also had to deal with training brawls between players and severe backlash from fans, apparently he is considering resigning at the end of the season but he might not need to worry because Lotito might sack him regardless. Pioli hasn't been able to get consistent performances out of Lazio a second season round and there is no doubt part of the blame for Lazio's poor season lies with the tactician.
If Lazio are to improve next season and reach Europe again a summer clear out is needed; players like Gentiletti, Mauricio, Morrison, Djordjevic, Berisha and Patric should all be sold. Perhaps even the inconsistent Felipe Anderson should be cashed in on, Candreva and Biglia are likely to leave as well so Lazio will need to spend a lot of money on replacing players of that quality and improving their squad. A new man in charge would have a tough task on his hands in revitalizing Lazio. At the moment former Lazio star and current Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic is being linked as the favorite to the hot seat, with Giampiero Ventura, Christian Brocchi and Ersun Yanul all being linked with the job as well. Whoever is in charge of Lazio next year will inherit a revamped squad. They will face a real challenge to bring glory back to Lazio and make the Super Eagles fly high once again.
On Tuesday March 15th, it was announced that Antonio Conte was stepping down as manager of the Azzurri. So far Conte's Italy have not done as well as many have expected. Although Conte's Italy qualified for the Euro's with a game to spare, they needed the final victory over Norway to secure top spot and avoid a potentially dangerous playoff. Conte's Italy have hardly inspired belief in the fans throughout their qualifying campaign. There are many questions being asked about Italy now. Will Conte go out on a high and succeed at Euro 2016? Who is being lined up to replace him? And why hasn't he lived up to expectations so far?
When Conte took over the Italian National Team after a catastrophic World Cup, many believed he was the right man to bring Italy back to their best. One of Conte's ideas was that he would have more national team training camps so he would have more time to work with the players. So far in his time with Italy, Conte has been at war with clubs and The Lega Calcio over not letting players attend his training camps. This has infuriated Conte because he doesn't feel he has had enough time with the players, so much so that at this time last year he was threatening to resign. He said last year, "I expect greater co-operation from the clubs. To bridge the gap to other nations, I must be able to work as a coach, not just as a selector." These extra training sessions most of which Conte has cancelled must be a major factor in his decision to resign his post after the European Championship this summer.
Not many people are expecting Conte's Italy to do well at Euro 2016, most bookmakers have Italy at 16/1 to win the tournament. Conte has been criticized for his squad selection and poor performances in the qualifying campaign. Performances such as two 1-0 wins over Malta and a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria haven't been awe-inspiring. Italy struggled through what should have been an easier campaign but qualified in first place, which is in the end all that matters. It's the performances that worry the fans though; Italy will have to play a lot better if they are to succeed at Euro 2016. Conte must be aware of this himself. In Italy's most recent friendlies he experimented with a 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation but to no avail as Italy lost 3-1 to Belgium and drew 2-2 with Romania. Conte is still trying to find the right formation for Euro 2016 and he doesn't have that much time left to find it. Another aspect Conte has been criticized for is his squad selection. Players such as Bonaventura, Insigne, Sansone and Saponara not featuring in any match during the qualifying campaign has raised eyebrows. Bonaventura and Insigne who are both playing the best football of their careers, surely should be playing for the national team. Conte certainly must bring them to Euro 2016. Also many fans have been left wondering how players such as De Sciglio and Ranocchia who both haven't enjoyed the best of seasons are finding time in Conte's Italy squad. Conte's squad selection for Euro 2016 will be eagerly awaited. Conte needs to succeed at Euro 2016 if he is to leave a lasting memory in the fans of the Azzurri. A semi-final berth would be considered a success but anything less and his time at Italy will not be fondly remembered. Who he decides to bring with him will play a vital role in Italy's performances in France at Euro 2016.
So who are his potential replacements after Euro 2016? Some of the names being mentioned are Capello, Raneiri, Donadoni, Ventura and Mancini. Capello is currently the favorite but he has come out and said that he doesn't want the Italy job. I find it unlikely that Raneiri will leave Leicester with them being in the Champions League next year bar a major disaster. Donadoni is then the most likely with him being interested in the job and in my opinion he will be the next Italy manager. Ventura and Mancini are outsiders especially Ventura, Mancini hasn't had the best of times at Inter so he might consider Italy should they come calling.
The real question for whoever replaces Conte is will they be inheriting a team fresh from success at Euro 2016 or a team in disarray coming back from a hugely disappointing campaign. Can Conte leave with the taste of success in his mouth or will his time with Italy be considered a failure. This summer at Euro 2016 we will find out all the answers.
Collab Blog by Matt Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo, co-founder of @ACMilanBros) and Sandro (@TransfersCalcio):
It was a pretty quite winter mercato in Italy this year but we analyze the top 10 deals.
Cristian Tello to Fiorentina
- The Spanish winger joined La Viola on a 6-month loan deal on January 26th. Fiorentina have an option to buy Tello with Barcelona also having a counter-option. The pacey winger has integrated into Paulo Sousa’s squad pretty nicely so far. In seven Serie A appearances, he has one goal and three assists. In Sousa’s fluid 4-3-3 formation, Tello has found himself playing on the right wing. His silky dribbling skills fit pretty well into Sousa system. He was very dangerous in Fiorentina’s match against Napoli, even hitting the corner of the post and crossbar of a beautiful curling shot. If he can continue to put in performances similar to that match, Tello will be a very effective signing.
There is a good chance Fiorentina exercise their option to buy him this summer and Barcelona using the counter-option doesn’t seem too likely considering their attack. His agent Jose Maria Orobitg told Calciomercato: “Sousa has given him chances, now Cristian must improve physically to repay that faith. Clearly the style of play is perfectly suited to his characteristics, but he has to get used to the mechanics… If today you asked him to choose between Barcelona and Fiorentina he’d definitely pick the second option.”
Mauro Zarate to Fiorentina
– The Argentinian striker joined the Florentine club on a permanent deal from West Ham for an undisclosed fee. Zarate has scored two goals in only 218 minutes of Serie A play, including this absolute superb game winner against Carpi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmWcmQBB7UM. Most of his appearances have been off the bench so far and he got himself sent off with a three-match ban on February 14th due to an off-ball incident in the match against Inter. Zarate can play out wide and also as a second striker behind a target man like Kalinic or Babacar. It’s not easy to judge Mauro’s role and effectiveness yet as he hasn’t received too much playing time but his skill set could certainly be lethal in Sousa’s system. It will be interesting to see if Zarate will mostly play out on the wing or in the middle behind a central striker. Zarate spoke about his troubles in England and why he’s happy about the move: “In England, it was good because English football is enjoyable, but I wasn’t too comfortable with my role at the club. That is why I decided to come here. I prefer to play in a free, attacking role, one that allows me to roam. I have already spoken with Sousa and he has assured me I will have that here.”
Ciro Immobile to Torino
- The 26-year-old Italian striker rejoined his former club on loan with an option to buy from Borussia Dortmund. After failed spells at Dortmund and Sevilla, Immobile has returned to the club that put him on the map after being capocannoniere in 2013-2014. He doesn’t have Alessio Cerci to set him up for goals like two seasons ago but Ciro has returned with a pretty good start. He’s got five goals and two assists during 899 minutes in 11 Serie A appearances. Immobile will look to finish the season in top form, in hopes for a Euro call-up from Azzurri manager Antonio Conte. I’m sure both club and player will hope to find an agreement to secure a permanent move over the summer. Ever since Immobile left Torino, he never looked like the same player or found his scoring touch. Ciro just fits in perfectly with the Granata and he should stay there for the benefit of his career. In fact, if Immobile stays at Torino for the majority remainder of his career and keeps banging in goals on a consistent basis, he could even become a club legend.
Diego Perotti to A.S. Roma
– The Giallorossi signed Perotti from Genoa on the deadline day of the January transfer market. Originally a loan, the move has since become a permanent deal for a total of about €10 million. Considering Milan was also in the race to sign Perotti, Roma got a pretty good deal. He’s a versatile attacker who can play on both wings and in the middle. In fact, he has already found success both out wide and as a false nine for Roma. In just 516 Serie A minutes, Perotti has managed to score twice and dish out four assists. The Argentine has looked like a brilliant signing thus far. Dribbling and crossing are his best attributes, which is ideal for any winger. His versatility will be extremely useful under Luciano Spalletti, who has proven he’s willing to change his system unlike Rudi Garcia. His interplay with El Shawraawy and Salah has been superb and they’ve only been playing together for about a month and a half. Now, if Edin Dzeko could start scoring goals consistently as he’s been expected to, this offense would be top class. It looks as if basically swapping Iturbe and Gervinho for Perotti and El Sharaawy was a perfect move at the right time, with Spalletti taking over.
Ervin Zukanovic to A.S Roma
– The 29-year-old Bosnian joined from Sampdoria on January 29th. Just like Perotti, Roma turned his loan into a permanent deal for a total fee of €4 million. Joining his 12th team in his senior career and never staying anywhere for more than two seasons, Ervin might find some stability at Roma for a few years. The defender is a quality utility man who can play both left back and center back. It’s very unlikely he’ll ever become a regular starter for the Giallorossi but he will be a valuable backup option. Zukanovic has only played 390 minutes in 5 Serie A appearances so far but managed to assist El Sharaawy’s first goal at the club. He put in a great 90-minute performance against Real Madrid in their second leg Champions League match, recording nine clearances and five blocks. If Zukanovic can consistently put in performances like that when he gets playing time, he’ll be a splendid low-cost high-reward signing. Head coach Luciano Spalletti had some nice words when the defender signed for Roma: “He’s a player with lots of character and mentally he’s very strong. He’s good with the ball at his feet and is able to build the play well.”
Stephan El Shaarawy to A.S. Roma
- After finding it difficult to adapt to French football, Stephan El Shaarawy returned to Milan after the principality refused to play the winger for his 25th appearance. Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim did not observe the former Genoa player as part of his plans, and the club did not want to be forced into a €16 million obligation. Adriano Galliani had a few suitors, but only Roma was big enough to offer the Rossoneri a proper return for their depreciating asset. Sure enough, the Giallorossi acquired him on a €1.4 million loan with an option to buy at €13 million for the summer.
Since Luciano Spalletti was brought in to replace Rudi Garcia, Roma have been soaring in Serie A play, and Stephan El Shaarawy has been at the heart of it all. According to Opta, El Shaarawy has played a role in seven goals (5 scored, 2 assisted) in seven Serie A appearances with his new club. Spalletti has played him out on the left, but he’s letting El Shaarawy be himself and not tying him down to the left flank completely. While he is still tracking back to cover his defensive duties, he’s more controlled and not exerting himself as much as he did with Milan; using his energy more efficiently. When he’s been dealt a goal scoring opportunity, he’s looked like the '12-'13 version of himself. Composed and confident. The club itself has struck fire over the past few months, having reeled off eight consecutive league wins. They find themselves in third place on 59 points and trail the white-hot club of Juventus by 8 points.
Roma are hungry for a top three finish and right now, it appears they are the favorites for the final Champions League spot. Stephan El Shaarawy has simply been dynamite in little time and it seems as if Roma made the correct decision taking a flyer on him. If he continues to shine and Roma meets their league objective, there is no doubt that his option will be picked up for next season. Still only 23, Milan may wind up kicking themselves on this transaction, especially if Roma beat them out for third.
Éder to Inter
- The Brazil native shined last season under Siniša Mihajlović, bagging 12 goals with five assists. Since Antonio Conte’s options at striker are limited, Eder had managed to carry his solid ‘14-’15 form to the national side, becoming one of the favorites of the Azzurri boss throughout Euro 2016 qualification. Through the first part of the campaign, the 29-year old was among the top goal scorers in Italy tallying 12 goals in twenty-one matches across all competitions. Since making the rather obscure two-year loan move to the Nerazzurri in January, the Italian national has endured his share of woes, failing to find the back of the net in 8 total appearances for his new club.
Over the past few months, Roberto Mancini’s Inter have struggled to stay the course in pursuit of the top 3, slipping to 5th. Despite being ahead of city-rival Milan, fans of the black and blue are far from confident in their side as we enter the final three months of the season. For Inter, they will surely need more from their big winter signing. Mauro Icardi needs a supporting goal-scorer to lighten the burden and Mancini would love nothing more than to have Eder be that guy. Plus, by no means is Eder’s spot on the Italy roster for the Euro cemented. He’s not only fighting for his spot with Inter; he’s fighting for a trip to his first major competition. A lot is on the line for the former Cesena ace.
Suso to Genoa
- The Spaniard moved to Italy in January 2015 from Liverpool after his role could no longer be defined under former manager Brendan Rodgers. Despite his successes and growth abroad in the offensive-driven La Liga with Almeria a few years back, the 22-year old hasn’t been convincing enough to press his managers into trying him on a regular basis. At Milan, Mihajlović showed the willingness to hold “open tryouts” for a few of the roles up for grabs in the starting eleven. Unfortunately for Suso, his lone start against Empoli back in round 2 of the campaign was enough for Mihajlović to properly assess what he could – or perhaps couldn’t – provide the squad this season. As a result, the club sent the former Spain under-21 playmaker to premier business partner Genoa on a dry-loan.
Last season, M’Baye Niang underwent a successful spell with the Rossoblu, thus allowing him to compete for a starting role this year at Milan. For Suso, he has hopes of doing the same. However, in twelve matches under Gian Piero Gasperini, the former Merseyside starlet has scored just once, with two assists.
As Genoa jockey their way around mid-table, it’s likely that Suso will continue to get favorable playing time to prove his worth, but it will take an awful a lot for the Rossoneri to give Suso another go next season, for whichever manager it may be. He has some exceptional qualities but he is still very much a raw talent who needs to fine-tune a few things about his game.
Kevin Prince-Boateng to A.C. Milan
- After falling out of favor with Schalke, the Ghanaian had his contract terminated, allowing him to find refuge back in Italy where he endured the most success in his career. Kevin Prince-Boateng spent nearly three seasons with AC Milan in the Serie A, helping the club win an Italian Super Cup as well as the 18th Scudetto in team history. Boateng had been training with Milan since last fall, but officially signed a short-term deal with the Rossoneri this past January, hoping to restore order to his free-falling career. Fans of the club scratched their heads yet again. Adriano Galliani was silent during the window and the only move made to help bolster the squad for a Champions League spot was a free transfer.
In his second stint with the club, the 29-year old has appeared in 10 matches across Serie A and Cup play, scoring one goal. While the numbers are far from impressive, he’s only played a total of 256 minutes, which equates to about 25 minutes per appearance. That is simply not enough time to gauge a player’s impact, especially since Mihajlović’s tactics are vastly different to his former manager Massimiliano Allegri. For Boateng, it’s becomes a very interesting situation. The club has been injury-ridden in recent weeks and has several underperforming - and unfit - attackers like Jeremy Menez, Mario Balotelli and Luiz Adriano. At this point, it seems that Boateng is nothing more than a fresh set of legs at Mihajlović’s disposal. With the club slipping further away from the top three, it appears this could be a short-lived reunion for the 2010-11 standout.
Fabio Quagliarella to Sampdoria
- The 33-year old journeyman has traveled around Italy quite a bit throughout his career, featuring for Napoli, Udinese, Torino, Sampdoria, Ascoli and Juventus to an all-around solid playing career. After playing in 16 league matches for Toro, Quagliarella was sold to Sampdoria during the winter mercato as Torino elected to open up a return for Ciro Immobile to pair with the young Andrea Belotti.
Under manager Vincenzo Montella, the former Scudetto winner has enjoyed a successful spell back with the Blucerchiati. The 2010 World Cup goal-scorer for Italy has collected 3 goals in seven league matches, and has been key in helping Sampdoria escape – for now – troubling waters down in the relegation zone. Prior to his arrival, it seemed as if Sampdoria would become a potential candidate for the drop, but the pressure seems to have cooled a bit as they are 6 points clear of Frosinone for 18th. Down the stretch, Montella will surely call upon the veteran striker to ensure the club plays in the top-flight of Italian calcio next season at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Even though his better years are behind him, the ex-Bianconeri attacker still eyes his 100th career Serie A goal, and it could potentially come this season should he bag four more through the final nine matches of the campaign.
Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Walter Novellino becomes the seventh different manager to take charge of Palermo since November and the eight coaching change (Iachini was fired and reappointed). Palermo are a club in disarray with trigger happy owner Maurizio Zamparini seemingly impossible to please. It's no surprise to find them in real trouble sitting in seventeenth just one place and one point above the relegation zone. Can Novellino steady a fast sinking ship? Or will Zamparini drag Palermo back down into Serie B?
One might call Novellino brave for taking on the Palermo job, working under an owner who provides no security to his managers. Zamparini has sacked Iachini and Ballardini after both earned wins this season. Palermo are currently on a run of seven matches without a win. Their last win came against Udinese on January 24th. This barren run has seen them fall to seventeenth place in the table with Frosinone hot on their heels just one point behind them.
The majority of blame has to lie with Zamparini for this poor run of form. Throughout his time at Palermo, Zamparini has always been fond of sacking managers. Since buying Palermo in 2002 there has been 35 managers in just 14 years at Palermo. This figure shows the chaotic background scenes at Palermo and a clear lack of stability from the owner. Beppe Iachini who was Palermo's longest serving coach under Zamparini (September 2013 to November 2015) was fired this season after a 1-0 victory. If we take a look at Palermo's managers this season the statistics are incredible. Beppe Iachini started the season and lasted until November as he was sacked after a 1-0 win. Davide Ballardini took the reins after Iachini but lasted only seven games during which he faced a revolt from the players led by the captain Stefano Sorrentino. He too was then sacked after a 1-0 win. Next up was Guillermo Barros Schelotto, however Palermo failed to realize that the Argentine did not have the necessary UEFA License. Up stepped Giovanni Tedesco who was put in charge until Schelotto got his license from UEFA but Schelotto's application was declined by the European football governing body. Palermo then turned to Giovanni Bosi who lasted just one game in charge, a 3-1 defeat to Torino. Iachini was then re-hired who lasted three games before being sacked again after a 3-1 defeat to Inter.
Now the new man in charge is Walter Novellino who's first match in charge is at home to Napoli, a tough ask for Novellino to pick up any points. Novellino faces an extremely tough task to keep Palermo up and will need to be given some time by Zamparini. Novellino is going to be relying on the form of Vazquez and the experience of Sorrentino and Gilardino if he is to succeed. If Novellino can get Vazquez firing on all cylinders then Palermo have a great chance of staying up. The Argentine has already provided 5 goals and 7 assists this year and is easily Palermo's most important player. He will be a key figure if Novellino is to succeed at Palermo.
Palermo getting relegated might be the final straw for Zamparini and he could finally grant the Rossonero fans wishes and sell the club. Perhaps a season in Serie B with a new owner might not be a bad thing for Palermo or maybe as it has done many times in the past, Zamparini's method of changing coaches more often then he changes his mind about selling the club will prevail and Palermo will somehow manage to survive with Zamparini's managerial carousel well intact.