Monday August 21 2017
Wk1: Milan Calling

The San Siro giants are back in business, Roma learned how to win ugly and VAR had mixed results, as Susy Campanale rounds up Week 1.

The transfer window isn’t shut yet, but we’ve already got the first verdicts from this 2017-18 Serie A season. The Milan clubs are most definitely back in business, Napoli pick up where they left off, Roma have learned how to win ugly and Gigi Buffon remains the best.

As if the summer spending spree weren’t enough to make the San Siro faithful – on both sides of the arena – optimistic, then the opening weekend performances certainly did the trick. Luciano Spalletti confirmed the pre-season friendly signs with a commanding 3-0 victory over Fiorentina. Mauro Icardi is the same great target man, but now he’s finally got some decent service thanks to Borja Valero and Matias Vecino pulling the midfield strings. When you compare the Spaniard to Geoffrey Kondogbia, and realise Joao Cancelo is on his way from Valencia to resolve the full-back issue, then this is truly an impressive Nerazzurri outfit.

Stefano Pioli’s Viola proved that good players do not make a team, as he was forced to cobble together a completely new XI, including Giovanni Simeone with the ink on his contract not yet dry. The Tuscans lacked cohesion, understandably, yet it was the few faces left over from last season who did the most damage on the night. Davide Astori and Nenad Tomovic are simply not good enough to lead an all-new defence and were made to look painfully inept.

There were concerns on how Vincenzo Montella would forge a unit from so many new players, but the truth is Milan haven’t really been tested yet. A 6-0 Europa League victory over Macedonians Shkendija couldn’t tell us much and playing 85 minutes against 10-man Crotone was not a fair examination either. We have ascertained one thing, though: Patrick Cutrone is the real deal. He can make his mark this season and I hope his opportunities won’t be too limited by the arrival of Nikola Kalinic.

Roma are revamped too and it was feared Eusebio Di Francesco wouldn’t be able to bring the necessary grit after his experiences at Sassuolo. Instead, the Giallorossi did something in Bergamo we rarely see from the Lupi under any tactician: they won ugly. The bare minimum, a cheeky Aleksandar Kolarov free kick under the Atalanta wall and Josip Ilicic somehow hitting the post from 30cm made for three points.

Juventus are the masters of winning ugly, of course, and made relatively short work of Cagliari. Miralem Pjanic is relishing the freedom he has to make searching passes now that Leonardo Bonucci isn’t beating him to it and the assist for Paulo Dybala was Francesco Totti-esque in its execution.

Video Assistant Referee technology has been introduced in Serie A this season and I did warn this would cause even more controversy. I’m already being proved correct after one round. Cagliari received a spot-kick thanks to VAR – which the peerless Buffon saved anyway – and yet all the debate afterwards was about why Dybala’s goal wasn’t disallowed for handball. Easy – VAR can only be used to correct CLEAR errors from the referee. The footage from several different angles did not clarify whether La Joya used his arm or his chest, and do not send in blurry freeze-frames, because I’ve seen them and they are inconclusive. As long as there is an interpretation to be made, there will be controversy, but that's the nature of the sport. 

Torino unfortunately proved the limitations of VAR when robbed of a winner away to Bologna. It cannot be used once play has already been halted, so the fact Andrea Belotti was demonstrably not offside made no difference – the whistle was blown and that was that. Hopefully, this incident so early will encourage officials to hold off on the interruptions next time for at least a few seconds.

I tipped Napoli for the Scudetto before the season began, as I feel the relatively few changes allow them to build on already strong foundations. The 3-1 victory at Hellas Verona confirmed Maurizio Sarri’s men are the same as ever – beautiful to watch, don’t make all that dominance count and can’t help but make life difficult for themselves in the final 20 minutes. It’s good to see Arek Milik back on the scoresheet and that Sarri has finally embraced the concept of squad rotation.

Spal and Benevento immediately suggest there will be no easy games in Serie A this season. The minnows gave a very good account of themselves, earning a draw away to Supercoppa victors Lazio and unlucky to lose 2-1 at Sampdoria. Amato Ciciretti scored perhaps the goal of the round and will be one to watch along with his Streghe teammates.

It was also pleasing to see youth continues to be given a chance in Italian football. Along with 19-year-old Cutrone, Genoa gave a Serie A debut to 15-year-old Eddy Salcedo Mora – and he almost won it at the death away to Sassuolo. Simone Scuffet was given the gloves in Udine, but the 21-year-old was at fault for both Chievo goals and the positioning on Valter Birsa’s lob was atrocious. He’ll live and learn, though patience is short in the Peninsula, especially for shot-stoppers. 

Have your say...
Miles,Miles,Miles,Miles....Milan are only running small teams. Wait till they play Juve, then the salt will come out from you Milanisti. Buying mediocre players works against teams like Craiova and Cagliari. Why did it take Milan until THIS WEEK to pay for Bonucci?...those darn delayed bonds...
on the 28th August, 2017 at 8:13pm

Thanks davide, i actually changed my mind because of the picture.

On tv i looked like a clear handball.. However, a picture doesnt really justify the rest, Im not sure what happened afterwards based on the pic, but as I recall it took just then arm?
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 4:06pm
Beppe Rossi are you still running magick rituals against Milan? Worked well this weekend bud :)))))
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 2:07am
Who cares what some people "personally" think? The fact is the ref saw it as a foul on Icardi, and VAR confirmed it. There's no question it was a penalty. Did Icardi make the most of it? Of course! Show me a player today that doesn't make the most of a contact, but it was a clear penalty as seen by the ref, confirmed by VAR, and there was no Fiorentina dissent. Rizzoli, while admitting there were VAR mistakes in other games, said the penalty call on Icardi was correct.
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 3:46pm
@Viktor google "dybala cagliari mano" and look at the first image result that comes up. You have to select the worst angle possible and freeze it before the ball strikes Dybala to claim it was a handball, which is exactly what clowns like Ziliani and Pistocchi did because they get paid to create controversy and behave like infants on TV.
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 1:45pm
@Viktor have a look, not that I expect evidence will actually change your mind:

(Replace (dot) with a .)
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 1:32pm

Are you kidding me!?

HE USED HES ARM, i was a CLEAR handball. Perfect pass from pjanic, but it was handball, like its not even up for debate.
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 11:10am
@Maldini's Heir: True, It's true, the best teams in the world play with pretty much the same team in the same formation week in/week out. But to win every games (in 3 competitions) you need depth of your squads. Look at Real Madrid, they have balanced quality between starters and subs, where are they now? #1 in the world. Juventus is their latest victim because Juve at Cardiff didn't have a quality replacement for Dybala, Pjanic, and Mandzukic. When they knew all three were limping, Madrid hit
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 4:54am
Susy, there are photographs that capture the moment Dybala trapped the ball and he clearly used his chest.
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 4:41am
@AMMO ANNO you are smoking something strong here... everyone will put napoli / milan duo / roma there and yet there you are with lazio, well its not illegal to dream
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 1:30am
@ Rosari The best teams in the world play with pretty much the same team in the same formation week in/week out. Barcelona, Real and Bayern all play off a core. Chelsea won the title last season playing the same side/same formation several games in a row. Teams win nothing by constantly changing. These modern super-squads don't actually win very much but fans get excited about new signings.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 10:12pm
Random early prediction:
1) Juve
2) Napoli
3) Milan
4) Inter
5) Roma
6) Lazio
7) Torino
8) Fiorentina
9) Atalanta

I may be a fool for putting both Milanese above Roma but only time will tell. I would not be surprised if I am wrong.
Dreaming for Napoli to win the Scudetto, they have the ability, but Juve is Juve so the Bianconeri must be considered favourites.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 9:22pm
Icardi made contact with Astori? Icardi got the ball, then Astori went into him , in no way did he dive or was able to get by him. Therefore VAR or not, a full penalty, no doubt. What game are you people watching? both his legs were taken out by Astori. He went into Astori? he touched the ball past him.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 9:13pm

Lolol, lazio third...
on the 21st August, 2017 at 8:16pm
This could be one of the better seasons to a serie a fan. Juve is still ahead with mentality, org and depth but there looks to be a real dog fight for remaining 3 spots.
1. Juve (10 points up on 2)
2. Napoli (15 points up on 3)
3. Lazio
4. Roma (3 points up on 5)
5. Inter (1 point up on 6)
6. Milan
on the 21st August, 2017 at 4:56pm
@Maldini's Heir. You need to see past the formation. The best teams in the world change formations and systems mid match. I don't see Jack and Calhanoglu being similar. Firstly, Jack needs to return to fitness. But upon being match fit, he is a lot of dynamic, unpredictable and offers a lot more flexibility than Calhanoglu. From the 3 games he has played in so far, I would say he's the least useful of the new recruits. But still early days. Ultimately, Milan will play with 3 at the back.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 4:20pm
@ Rosario I was joking (sort of). Seriously if Montella is playing 4-3-3 then we don't have many options down the left hand side so that leaves Borini and Cutrone competing for one place unless Montella intends playing Bona ahead of Hakan (which is not ideal given they're too similar). Personally I would've played 3-4-3 but that doesn't seem like an option given we're selling all of our defenders.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 3:23pm
@rosario i can see you point but he did make contact with icardi which resulted in a unfair advantage for fiorentina. It was a ridiculous dive personally i think icardi should have been given a yellow card and fiorentina a free kick. It is a mistake by astori to go for that ball anyway he had no chance of getting it and with this system any small infraction will be punished.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 2:22pm
@Paolo. If Mariani had given a pen and yellow to Ceccherini, it would've been fair, especially when it was A. very early in the game and B. it practically made it a no contest. But. He did tug Cutrone back and he was last man. His reaction when sent off was one of a man who knew he was at fault. On the other hand, Astori only made contact with Icardi because Icardi ran into him whilst going down. Astori sticks out a leg, but withdraws it prior to Icardi's fault. Absolutely no foul contact.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 1:41pm
VAR has been the talking point of this round i felt for Ceccherini it was a honest mistake if it was up to the referee it would have been a yellow and a penalty instead of a straight red. As for icardi penalty it was a dive no doubt about it but astori did make contact and with this system everything is going to get punished. I am not a fan of these systems it doesn't give much room for exceptions crotone game was over in 5 mins however if players didn't cheat these system wouldn't be needed.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 12:48pm
@Maldini's Heir. The negativity is unwarranted. Every1 knows that Borini won't be a starter. But Milan played on thurs, yesterday, will play again on thurs and then again at the weekend. Fitness is still an issue as well as incorporating new players. Bonaventura is injured and niang is being sold. With Calhanoglu deployed centrally, he isn't a forward and lacks pace to play as part of a 3 man attack, Borini is the only choice. A.Silva had a full season and went to the confed cup. Calm & patience
on the 21st August, 2017 at 12:40pm
Can anyone in their right mind, despite allegiances really state with absolute certainly that the penalty given to Inter for the first goal was a penalty? How on earth could a referee with access to VAR still stick with the original decision of giving the pen? Astori made absolutely no contact with Icardi. It was Icardi who pushed his legs into Astori. I'm all for VAR, but we need a panel like in rugby to decide on the contentious decisions. It was a poor poor decision.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 11:01am
If Montella plays 4-3-3 then there may be space for Cutrone since he could compete with our star signing Borini on the left! 200 odd million spent and we're starting Borini! Well let's hope for the best.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 10:10am
@ Alex Gu I agree about Cutrone. I don't want him to go out on loan since most loans are a disaster. Think about how many loanees/new signings actually perform. Not many. The minute you remove a player from an environment where everything is working for them you always bring in an element of the unknown. Footballers at this level are like Formula 1 cars they can't just be moved around the place. Montella really needs to make the most of the confidence and form of Cutrone now.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 10:08am
Great start for Milan and great to see a young spine in Donna, Locatelli and Cutrone. Kessie was class and we'e had a massive upgrade in defence with Conti and Rodriguez especially providing a great attacking base from full back. All round a very good performance (albeit against 10 men).
on the 21st August, 2017 at 10:01am
@Alex Gu

Loaning out Cutrone could be a wise move, considering he won take silvas nor kallinic spot. Personally I think we should keep him and play him as much as we can
on the 21st August, 2017 at 9:40am
I am not for VAR but if it must be used it still relies on the referee of course, that is the flaw. It was never a penalty at the San Siro, and a yellow card would have sufficed in Crotone.

Inter Schick please, but Candreva should remain, this rumour about Suso? Why would Milan sell their best performer?! Someone asked why no Berardi, I don't know, I want him but can he play off the bench? I enjoyed Borja but he better sharpen up, can get caught on the ball and makes lunges too often.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 9:36am
If you could just explain to me how Juve's win was ugly??? 3:0, 72% possession, beautiful goals, constant pressing, even Cagliari had chances to score. How on Earth was that game and win ugly? Too much bias, every single time.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 8:40am
Sadly this might be the last game Cutrone has with Milan. With Kalinic and Silva there's no way he'll play. Going on loan to Cotrone seems set for him.

Spal and Benevento might survive if they keep playing like that. They have some seriously talented players on their hands. Verona seems certain to go down, probably along with Cotrone and Cagliari.

Roma will be out of top 4. Once settled, Cancelo and Dalbert will make Inter extremely dangerous and Milan have a great depth.
on the 21st August, 2017 at 5:43am
To me Inter looked the best this weekend. But come seasons end it will be Juve #7
on the 21st August, 2017 at 3:20am

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