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Serie A Review: Is Optimism Evaporating in Milan?
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
August 27, 2018
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Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

Maurizio Sarri took a shot at Serie A in his latest prematch press conference. He claimed that the big difference between Italy and England is that in his homeland, an early 2-0 lead basically ends the game. That line didn’t age to well, as we saw two dramatic comebacks this weekend which show that there’s more than enough competition.

This latest dramatic weekend in Italy has hugely changed the picture, especially for a city on the up. While Serie A needs a strong, competitive pair of Milan clubs, the wait for their resurgence is dragging on. This was set to be their breakthrough year, but their latest results suggests that there’s a lot of work still to be done for Inter and AC.

Also See: Serie A Transfer Window Review

Inter Fumble Builds Pressure

Inter Milan lost out at Sassuolo last weekend, but that poor result was explained away by their terrible record against the Neroverdi. It was a false start for Inter, but they had the chance to steady the ship with a result on Sunday night. They were being supported by a huge crowd of over 60,000, with fans flocking back now that the Champions League is coming back to San Siro. With that faith from the supporters, Luciano Spalletti’s men had to deliver. Early on, that was what they did.

Within six minutes, Ivan Perisic swept home the opening goal of the season for Inter. New signing Stefan de Vrij hit the second, and with an hour to play Inter were in complete control of the game. Everything was fine for the Nerazzurri, just up to the moment when Andrea Belotti pulled one back. They had control of the match, but they fell asleep for one long ball and got punished.

From there, the talent which brought their first half display disappeared, and nerves game to the fore. Inter were panicked, and they looked shaky in every aspect of their play. Torino passed up about three chances to score in the move which brought Soualiho Meite’s equaliser. From the optimism ahead of the opener, to fragility just two matches in to the campaign.

Also See: Serie A Opening Weekend Review

Spalletti Lowers Bar

The slip up brought questions for the side who were said to have improved throughout the transfer window. They brought in talented players, and strengthened key areas, so it’s not a question of talent. Spalletti laid out the issue facing his side after the game. Telling the media, “It’s difficult to explain how we conceded those goals, but clearly the reality is that the team is struggling with pressure”.

Before the Sassuolo game, Inter were seen as the challengers to Juve. They were what the Italians call the, “anti-Juve”, the main opponents standing in the way of the Old lady and a eighth straight Scudetto. While that claim came from reporters, Spalletti didn’t swat it away, he said that a title challenge has to be their aim.

However, the opening results have brought some revisionism from the Inter boss, who walked back his statements, and firmly passed the buck. It’s now the media who were bringing up the title, who gave them the label of challengers, and that’s created a problem for Spalletti. “You say it and let it all rest on my shoulders”, is what he said to the media after the latest slip, a claim that he’s the innocent party in hyping up Inter, and the press are destabilising the dressing room.

Regardless, that kind of mentality will get nowhere with Serie A at its most competitive for years. Spalletti’s finger pointing is a long way from the optimism of two weeks ago, and it’s only making things worse.

Carlo’s Comeback Kings Dismantle Rossoneri

On the other side of the city, things weren’t much better. AC Milan kicked off their campaign on Saturday night, and they also made a brilliant start. Giacomo Bonaventura hit the opener, and Davide Calabria doubled the lead. That start shocked the Neapolitans yet again, who fell behind at Lazio in their opening game.
Milan played some great football to take the lead here, but they aren’t entirely comfortable with their passing style. Gattuso is suffering from the problems Unai Emery has at Arsenal, as the Rossoneri are shaky at the back. As Napoli’s press improved, that looked more and more clear.

Napoli pulled off their second fightback in the space of a week, and they were 3-2 ahead with 10 minutes to go, with Dries Mertens coming on to score the all-important goal. It’s showing the strengths and weaknesses at Napoli, and the Partenopei have looked far better in their difficult start than either of the Milan duo. Meanwhile, the Rossoneri have shown promise, but their style of play has to be questioned.

For the second season in a row, they’ve uprooted a team who showed promise in the previous season. It feels like everything Gattuso built last term is gone, and yet again Milan are back to square one. While both Milan sides will recover in Serie A, the renaissance both Italian giants deserve feels a long way off right now. Instead of chasing each other up the table, the pair seem to be racing downwards to see who can appoint Antonio Conte first.

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