Gonzalo Higuain was the sole real difference between Juventus and Milan at San Siro, but his skill-set proved decisive. Where Nikola Kalinic floundered and Suso struggled, Pipita created two goals out of nothing to win 2-0. It was awfully reminiscent of when Mauro Icardi’s hat-trick decided the derby, or Ciro Immobile ran riot for Lazio. Vincenzo Montella confessed “not everyone has a Higuain.”
The Rossoneri invested over €220m this summer, but have been sorely missing a real hitman, someone who can simply bang in the goals. Patrick Cutrone has done the best job of that role so far, while Andre Silva is seemingly used only for the Europa League. Kalinic was not that man, as his history shows he has never been particularly prolific.
It's not as if Kalinic and Andre Silva were cheap either, costing a combined €63m. The real target was Andrea Belotti and he showed on his comeback after a month out just how important he is to Torino. Il Gallo didn’t score, but a great centre-forward doesn’t necessarily have to find the net every time.
Just look at Immobile: he was on target in the 5-1 victory away to Benevento, but he also provided three assists and was back defending on set plays. Can he maintain this pace after 14 goals in 11 Serie A games? Icardi, Mertens and Paulo Dybala aren’t far behind, so the Capocannoniere race might be worth a flutter.
We cannot underestimate the importance of Immobile’s form to Lazio, especially at the moment when Felipe Anderson is out and Luis Nani getting to grips with Serie A. If Simone Inzaghi’s men are doing this well with key players nowhere near full fitness, then they can be allowed to dream for the future.
Dries Mertens marked the one-year anniversary of his conversion to a centre-forward and that Napoli tactical masterstroke born from an emergency situation is still paying dividends. Since switching from winger to that very different role, the little Belgian has scored 42 goals in 52 competitive games. The 3-1 win over Sassuolo was his 200th appearance in a Partenopei jersey and these last 12 months have genuinely transformed his entire career.
Roma were so reliant on Edin Dzeko last season, which is why he eventually took the Capocannoniere title, but they’ve moved beyond that now. Few expected former Sassuolo boss Eusebio Di Francesco to bring such defensive solidity to the team, but that’s precisely what he has done. It seems odd to have a disciple of Zdenek Zeman and the 4-3-3 formation notch up three consecutive 1-0 wins, but these are the results you need to stay in the running for silverware.
Much of Crotone’s turnaround in the final months of that miracle season was down to Diego Falcinelli’s goals, but Ante Budimir hasn’t taken up the slack after the striker’s move back to Sassuolo. There were signs of the old Squali when beating Fiorentina, although they can also thank Davide Astori having one of his extremely off days.
SPAL’s victory took them out of the drop zone and plunged Genoa into the bottom three, a seemingly implausible position for such a big club. Ivan Juric is paying a heavy price for the lack of goals, as Gianluca Lapadula hasn’t found his confidence yet in the centre-forward role. Benevento continue to play really quite attractive football and create chances, but Pietro Iemmello is not going to keep this team in Serie A. If Le Streghe find a real hitman in the January transfer window, watch those 11 opening defeats fade into memory.
Atalanta continue to live and die by late penalties: rescued by a save on Paulo Dybala, now failing to get the equaliser in Udine with a weak Bryan Cristante spot-kick. It’s those little unpredictable moments that can make or break a season.