We are now three rounds into the season and only three teams maintain their 100 per cent record: Inter, Juventus and Napoli. All the sides have faced some sort of test that would’ve tripped them up in the past and given a response, whether negative or positive.
I wrote before the break for international duty that Milan had not truly been tested yet. That changed at the Olimpico and boy did they fail that exam. Ciro Immobile bagged a hat-trick and set up Luis Alberto for a 4-1 victory, all done without Lazio’s biggest talent, Felipe Anderson. The Aquile keep on flying below the radar and swooping when you least expect it, deservedly beating Juventus for the Italian Super Cup and now Milan. Don’t rule them out of the race for a top four finish.
Simone Inzaghi has created a team and so far you cannot say Vincenzo Montella has done the same – but then, most wouldn’t expect him to. Rossoneri supporters, so starved of reasons to brag for years, went overboard with the summer of spending. After one defeat, many are already calling for Montella’s head. Some realism is required here, as one match does not make for a disaster, nor a triumph.
Montella implied his next move is to adopt a three-man defence, which better suits Leonardo Bonucci’s skill-set. This just means more delays before we see the ‘real’ Milan and therefore more complaints calling him a flop. Prepare for a rough ride.
This is precisely the sort of thing Inter used to do, assuming a great deal of money and 11 new players every year would automatically guarantee a Champions League spot, then throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, this season the Nerazzurri have built smart, adding to the defence where they were lacking and keeping hold of key figures like Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi. I thought Milan Skriniar was overpriced, but in today’s market he is proving to be an excellent signing and a massive improvement from Jeison Murillo.
You cannot say Luciano Spalletti’s men haven’t been tested, getting the better of Fiorentina, Roma and a well-organised Spal side who had been unbeaten thus far. Juventus are on a 100 per cent record, but have they faced a genuine trial of their capabilities? Not really. The results have been very impressive, but the performances, not so much. If Inter are reliant on Icardi, then what are Juve with Paulo Dybala? The massive squad rotation against Chievo on Saturday only served to highlight how large the gap is between the first choices and their understudies. There’s Barcelona coming up in the Champions League on Tuesday and Max Allegri is going to have to step up several gears.
Napoli haven’t taken on a tough opponent yet, but their problem was always grinding out results against smaller sides and it looks like they’ve finally got that sorted out. Maurizio Sarri famously has slow starts to a season, so picking up where he left off with 10 consecutive competitive victories – including a club record eight in Serie A – suggests the Partenopei really are to be taken seriously as Scudetto contenders.
You need good fortune to get results in Italy and so far it has abandoned Benevento. Le Streghe might wonder if they are cursed or just hopelessly naïve, wasting numerous chances yet again only to concede a last-gasp goal against Torino. Atalanta found their luck, fighting back to defeat Sassuolo, while Fiorentina ran riot at the Bentegodi. Maybe we finally know why Antonio Cassano bailed on Hellas Verona.
Udinese also got off the mark thanks also to Andrea Bertolacci’s studs-up red card offence. VAR continues to play a role in this campaign and we can only hope the teething problems are worked out soon, because it cannot take five minutes to spot whether a foul was inside the penalty area or if a knee-high tackle warranted a red card.
We are in 2017 and modern life creeps in to the sport. Cagliari made a mockery of Roma’s stadium saga by building the Sardegna Arena in 157 days. The Rome council has been an embarrassment this weekend too, as flash floods ground the city to a halt, yet weather warnings urging people not to travel unless there was an emergency apparently didn’t apply to a football match. Confused messages, different committees giving conflicting reports on what to do with Lazio-Milan and public safety shoved aside when it came to saving the fixture list – the Capital really is a chaotic place to work in.