Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Siniša Mihajlovic took over Torino in the summer after what many consider a harsh sacking at Milan. Since then however he hasn't looked back and this season he has the Granata playing some wonderful football. Torino have 22 points after 13 games which is their best start to a Serie A season since 1976-77. The Granata can also boast that they have perhaps the most exciting young Italian talent in Andrea Belotti. However, he is just one of the many young talented Italians in Mihajlovic's exciting team. Under Miha, Il Toro are definitely aiming to achieve great things this season.
One of the key factors to Miha and Torino's success this season has been their strong core of young Italians. Players such as Belotti, Davide Zappacosta, Marco Benassi, Daniele Baselli and Antonio Barreca have grown immensely under Miha. The Serbian tactician is no stranger to giving youth it's chance either as he is the man responsible for launching Gianluigi Donnarumma's career at Milan. Along with the young Italians at Torino, Mihajlovic has also helped revive Adem Ljajic and Iago Falque. Both have already scored 5 goals each this season contributing to the Granata's 29 goals this season, making Torino the second highest scoring team in Serie A this year. One of the major factors to Torino's great form in front of goal under Miha has been Andrea Belotti. The young Italian is on blistering form and is in discussions to sign a new contract with a 94 million euro release clause. Belotti has scored ten goals already this season and sits top of the capocannoniere charts with Mauro Icardi and Edin Dzeko. Mihajlovic has Granata fans constantly sitting on the edge of their seats with his attacking young side, however defensively Il Toro remain solid as well.
A large part of their defensive solidity is down to Urbano Cairo. In Joe Hart and Leandro Castan he made two excellent signings and showed that Torino were ready to mix it with the big boys once again. Hart especially has made a huge impact at Torino. After a shaky debut against Atalanta in which he cost Torino the game, he went on to keep two consecutive clean sheets. Hart seems to be growing from strength to strength in Serie A as he adapts to the Italian game. The English keeper is helped by the fact that just as his predecessor Ventura did, Mihajlovic has made the Granata a very tough team to break down. While they have conceded 16 goals, 6 of them came in the first 3 games. Since then Torino have only conceded 10 in 8 games which can be improved on, yet 4 of those ten again have been in matches that they have won convincingly. Miha has already identified that the Granata's ability to switch off after going two goals ahead is something that must be altered. However, under Miha one can only feel that as the season progresses that Il Toro will get more solid defensively and cover up their small cracks.
Mihajlovic has got this young team playing some excellent football but Urbano Cairo has to be praised for his part in constructing this team. Cairo almost took a leaf out of Sassuolo's book and built a team of young Italians that can now compete for a European place. Keeping hold of Belotti, Benassi and Baselli has been key to their success and Cairo has to be praised for this. Also his appointment of Miha was a wise decision as I've mentioned before The Serbian tactician seems to be able to get the best out of young players. Cairo must be delighted with the work he has put in to rebuilding the club. He can now dream of big things with this young exciting team.
Torino this season must have set their sights on Europa League qualification and right now it's a very distinct possibility. Mihajlovic has made Il Toro rage again and now he and their fans will hope that their team of young bulls can storm their way into Europe this season...
Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Gianluca Lapadula is well and truly living out his dream having recently scored his first goal for Milan and receiving a call up to the Italy squad. Lapadula is still quite young at 26 but his road to the elite level of professional football has been a difficult one. His story is similar to that of Jamie Vardy's, Lapadula through his sheer hard work, determination and his never say die attitude has finally reached the top. However, unlike Vardy who has fulfilled his potential, Lapadula still has a long way to go and a lot more goals to score. His first goal for Milan and call up to the Italy team represent a new beginning for him and offer him new challenges. Hopefully the man known as LapaGol can begin to score regularly for Milan and become a permanent fixture in the Italy team. Before speculating about his future however let's take a look at his inspiring journey to reach the top.
Lapadula was born in Turin to an Italian father and a Peruvian mother. Gianluca began his career in 2004 with Juventus before being released, as he wasn't achieving good grades in his studies. However, Lapadula didn’t let this break him and kept trying to find the right club for him. After being released by Juventus he floated around many different teams for three years before arriving at Ivrea in 2008. Good performances there earned him a move to Parma where he spent one year with the Primavera reserve team. After multiple loans the most successful one being at Ravenna, Lapadula was bought by Cesena in a co-ownership deal. However at Cesena he faced another setback failing to feature regularly for the first team and he never really got a chance to perform. Cesena and Parma resolved the co-ownership and Lapadula was sent back to Parma who would loan him out once again. However this time things would start to pick up for Lapadula.
During the 2013-14 season Lapadula was loaned to Slovenian side ND Gorica along with a number of other Parma players. At ND Gorica regular game time allowed him to prosper and grow as a player. He scored 11 goals in 28 games for the Slovenian side and after his loan spell ended he was wanted by many Serie C sides. Teramo won the battle to attain his services on loan from Parma and Lapadula flourished with the Serie C side. He scored 21 goals in 38 games and Teramo would have been promoted to Serie B had they not been involved in a match fixing scandal. Lapadula could have given up or resigned himself to playing in the lower leagues but he kept pushing. At Teramo not only were his goals impressive but his work ethic on the pitch was fantastic. At the end of the season Parma went bankrupt and he was released on a free. Lapadula was signed by Pescara and he ended up being arguably the most influential free transfer in Italian football that season.
At Pescara, Lapadula would become known as Lapagol and under Massimo's Oddo's guidance the electric forward scored 30 goals in 43 games. None of those goals were penalties either and he was finished as top scorer in Serie B. He was now wanted by nearly every team in Serie A and also wanted by the Peru national team whom he politely declined as he considered himself Italian. After much speculation about his future LapaGol finally chose Milan as his next destination and this would complete his dream of playing in Serie A. After almost 10 years of hard work and determination he had finally arrived in Serie A. Lapadula himself described the move as a dream come true and despite first team opportunities being limited his recent winner against Palermo, a fantastic backheel, might earn him a starting berth in the derby. This would give Lapadula a chance to go on a goal-scoring run and given that Carlos Bacca hasn't scored in 5 games many will argue that he should be given that chance.
A recent surprise Italy call up is another fantastic achievement for Lapadula and makes his story even more inspiring. Lapadula's long road to the top hasn't been easy but it's certainly inspiring for many youngsters and shows that dreams don't work unless you do.
Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Atalanta have come back strong from a slow start to this years Serie A campaign and find themselves on 19 points in sixth place. Gian Piero Gasperini, whose job was in danger after a poor start to the season, has exceeded all expectations by bringing La Dea to the top six of the table. Atalanta travel to visit Sassuolo this Sunday and a win will probably take Gasperini's men up to fifth place as Lazio are playing Napoli. The big question however is will Atalanta sustain this fantastic run of form and continue to surprise the rest of Serie A.
La Dea's poor start to the season in which they lost four of their opening five matches led to much speculation that Gasperini would be sacked. However, Atalanta was right not to act hastily on their poor start. Gasperini has turned La Dea's fortunes around dramatically with Atalanta picking up 16 points from their last six games. Since Atalanta beat Napoli 1-0 at home they have gone from strength to strength. Although it’s unlikely that La Dea will qualify for Europe, they are giving their fans every reason to dream of European qualification with their current form. However, a top half finish would still be a successful season for Gasperini’s men. Atalanta’s turnaround has been quite dramatic after the first five games of the season they had leaked a staggering thirteen goals. The backline has since shored up and in the last six games Atalanta have only conceded three goals, keeping three clean sheets along the way. La Dea have also claimed impressive victories over Napoli, Inter and thrashed Genoa 3-0 in their last match.
Key to Atalanta's change in fortunes have been the faith put in youth by Gasperini. Players such as Kessie, Conti, Caldera and Petagna have kept growing under Gasperini and are rewarding his faith in them with some fine performances. Combative midfielder Franck Kessie has arguably been the breakthrough star of the season with four goals already to his name. The only downside of his sudden breakthrough is that he has attracted a lot of interest from many top clubs in Europe and it's hard to see him staying in Bergamo next season. Gasperini's blend of experience and youth in his side provides the perfect balance and players such as Gomez, Maisello and Kurtic provide reliability and experience. Gasperini has turned the Bergamo side into a defensively solid team, which is a change as usually Gasperini's teams have always struggled with keeping clean sheets. A regular goal scorer is something that Atalanta desperately need however Pinilla, Petagna and Gomez don't seem likely to score more than ten goals a season. Gasperini however will be hoping that Paloschi can find the form he had with Chievo and give Atalanta a real goal scorer upfront.
A win this Sunday against Sassuolo would put Atalanta in a phenomenal position going into the international break. Whether La Dea can sustain this excellent form over the course of the season remains to be seen. For now however, Atalanta fans can dream of the Europa League and Gasperini will be hoping that his side can continue to be the surprise package of Serie A.