New attacking options drafted in over the summer appear to be having an immediate effect. Giancarlo Rinaldi struggles to keep count on a bad weekend for goalkeepers and defences.
If Gianni Brera was looking on from beyond the grave, he would have tutted in disapproval. For one of Italian football’s most famous scribes, the perfect game was one which finished without a single goal. The Serie A weekend would have given him 43 reasons to be unhappy.
Perhaps it was something in the crazy, rumour-filled air of a round of fixtures still being played with the transfer window wide open. It creates a daft atmosphere about matches in which players are unsure where they might be playing after the international break or who could lose their places to last-minute signings. Whatever the cause, the goals flew in across the country at an average of more than four a game.
The overall impact was to leave five teams tied at the top of the table with a 100 per cent record. On last season’s form this was not such a surprise for top four finishers Juventus, Napoli and Fiorentina. However, it represents a more notable recovery for Inter and Roma – even on such a small sample of results.
There is already something different about Rudi Garcia’s Giallorossi and Walter Mazzarri’s Nerazzurri this term. They seem to have a certainty, shape and growing confidence about them which must give their supporters a flicker of hope. Capping their respective 3-0 wins over Verona and Catania were classy finishes from Miralem Pjanic and Ricky Alvarez. If both sides can get such talented individuals to deliver to their full potential, they could have some fine times ahead.
Make no mistake, these were the kind of games these clubs could easily have mucked up last year. Instead, they took their chances with style and also kept things tight at the back. It is a small step, no doubt, but at least it is finally in the right direction.
The feeling, of course, is that there is still a long journey ahead of them to challenge the likes of Juventus and Napoli who were both in crushing form on Saturday. Antonio Conte’s men reprised their Super Cup demolition of Lazio with an Arturo Vidal double contributing to a 4-1 victory. It was also notable for another strike for new boy Carlos Tevez and a Leonardo Bonucci attempt to impersonate Andrea Pirlo with a couple of delicious assists. It is now 10 years since the Biancocelesti managed a League win against La Vecchia Signora.
In Verona, Rafa Benitez’s men confirmed the entertaining qualities they displayed last week. Marek Hamsik underlined his credentials as team leader with another brace in a pulsating 4-2 victory. It was hard not to feel a little sympathy for Alberto Paloschi who grabbed a couple of goals and still ended up on the losing side. There were some defensive lapses from the Partenopei but, with Gonzalo Higuain getting his first Serie A strike, they look pretty irresistible when they sweep forward in attack.
The most madcap performance of the top teams came, almost inevitably, from Fiorentina. Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi both spurned chances in the opening two minutes but more than made up for it with a double each. They should have been home and dry with a 3-0 lead at half-time, but instead they showed failings at the back which let Genoa have an outside hope of getting something out of the game until Super Mario converted a penalty late in the game.
The other Super Mario – the Milanese one – was also on the mark against Cagliari to cap a good week for the Rossoneri. With Champions League qualification secured and rumours of Kaka’s return swirling around the San Siro, there was a much more positive feel to Max Allegri’s post-match interviews. Who knows, he might even go a couple of weeks without speculation that he will be replaced on the Milan bench.
A first League goal in Parma’s colours did Antonio Cassano little good as his team was ultimately submerged by Udinese. There was also a precious win for Atalanta over Torino, while Bologna and Sampdoria shared four goals – including one beauty from Manolo Gabbiadini. You get the feeling it will not be his last strike for the Blucerchiati this campaign. It was capped by a call-up to Cesare Prandelli’s latest Italy squad.
The final world goes to a game which already had the air of a relegation six-pointer even at the start of the season. Livorno were the big winners away to Sassuolo with Innocent Emeghara making an immediate impact with a couple of goals in the Tuscan side’s 4-1 triumph. There was a time when these crunch matches among newly-promoted times would be tense, tactical and tedious affairs. However, on the evidence before our eyes across Saturday and Sunday, those days are clearly long gone. It might not be perfect in Brera’s eyes, but it is pretty entertaining.
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