Monday, September 12, 2011

AC Milan and Inter Milan Struggle in Serie A Start

Frustrated Forlan alongside triumphant Miccoli

The Serie A has been dominated by the two main Milanese clubs for a bit more than half a decade. While they have had some testing competition by the likes of Roma and Juventus, the past ten years have seen AC Milan or Inter Milan win the scudetto seven times. Yet this start to the Serie A was different than the past few, instead we saw Inter Milan spectacularly lose 4-3 to Palermo, and AC Milan squeeze out a 2-2 draw against Lazio.

While Inter have been doing their best to rebuild after the last chaotic season, there are still big problems with the nerazzurri. While away against Palermo they were able to create three goals, it was the disorganized three man defence which allowed Palermo to score four times.

While Wesley Sneijder started on the bench, after about 30 minutes of suffering Inter coach Gianpiero Gasperini decided to take out the selfish Zarate and put the Dutch playmaker in. Things began to click, and two goals by Diego Milito, and a sumptuous goal by Forlan were created thanks to Sneijder. 

Yet the man of the match had to be Palermo's captain Fabrizio Miccoli. Palermo's number ten scored twice and also provided an assist for his teammate Abel Hernandez.  Julio Cesar was impotent against Miccoli's powerful free kick, along with Mauricio Pinilla's long range rocket for the fourth goal. It was plain defensive disorganization which led to Inter's loss, along with Palermo's brilliant passing and attacking.

AC Milan hosted an equally strong opponent at the San Siro drawing 2-2 with Lazio. It was a dream start for the Roman club, two goals in about 20 minutes scored by the two new signings, Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse. A wonderful turn and finish by the German and a flicked header by Cisse seemingly put AC Milan out of action.

Early on in the game Alberto Aquilani had wasted a precious chance alone in front of the Lazio keeper Bizarri. Yet with time the attacking duo of Cassano and Ibrahimovic began to create, and eventually the former set up the latter for an easy tap-in. Just four minutes later, the short and tubby Antonio Cassano headed in the equalizer from a corner, bringing the score level at halftime.

Djibril Cisse celebrating his goal for Lazio
While the score remained at 2-2 until the end of the match, there were plenty of chances from both sides to score more. Cassano put some opportunities wide of the goal, while Hernanes also failed to score when set up with a simple tap-in. Both sides were hungry for the win, and deserved the point.

Ultimately the strikers were the key men of the match. Cisse's pace and power were devastating to the Milan backline while Klose's quick movement was a constant threat. On the other side of the field, Ibrahimovic and Cassano's creativity was unrivalled, the two of them finding each other again and again with chipped through balls and perfectly placed passes. Yet neither of the pair of strikers was able to capitalize the chances and bring home three points.

While Inter and AC Milan are still obvious title-contenders, this first match-day is a warning that other clubs have improved noticeably and are ready to win. This is also a heads-up that Lazio and Palermo are clubs to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Whether they will be able to overthrow the Milan clubs's dominance in the Serie A, only time will tell.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roma and Liverpool Kings of Summer Transfer Window

This summer transfer window has been fairly generic. We've seen Fabregas go to Barcelona, Atletico Madrid lose De Gea, Aguero and Forlan, along with a myriad of other deals which we all expected and knew were going to happen. There have been very few big surprises regarding signings, and instead we mostly got what we were waiting for as football/soccer fans.

While many clubs made the signings we all knew were going to happen, there have been a few which decided to build things a little differently. Liverpool bought a brilliant list of new players including Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique, and finishing the window off with the arrival of Craig Bellamy. Of course, while experienced players are important, Liverpool have also kept an eye on some younger players. The 20 year-old Uruguayan central defender Sebastian Coates will have time to bed in, play some games as a substitute, and slowly become essential to the Red's backline.

What will also help is the abundance of versatile players Liverpool have signed such as Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. These new signings strengthen Liverpool's midfield and secure any holes there might be in case of injuries or suspensions throughout the season. A willingness to spend accompanied by an intelligent plan of selling unneeded players have led to a much stronger squad which looks ready to compete on many different levels.

In the Serie A, there was a similar revelation in Roma's financial freedom on the transfer market. The new owner, Thomas Di Benedetto has brought cash and a new coach, Luis Enrique. The Dutch international keeper Maarten Stekelenburg has been bought, along with Heinze, Kjaer (on loan from Wolfsburg), and Jose Angel to solidify what was once a weary defence. Yet what has been even more impressive is Roma's new and improved attack.

From Barcelona's Bojan Krkic to the Argentinean wonderkid Erik Lamela (along with Pablo Osvaldo and Fabio Borini), the new attack looks ready to score plenty of goals. The midfield has also been bolstered significantly thanks to Fernando Gago on loan from Real Madrid and the signing of Miralem Pjanic from Lyon. Mixing these new players with the likes of Totti, Pizarro, and De Rossi should create a very solid midfield, and a formidable attack.

Both Liverpool and Roma have gone about their business to completely replenish their squads with astute signings while keeping the best of the old guard. The new owners brought some fresh air for everyone, making quick and surprising signings which will stir up the pot as the season progresses. Sadly, these are two anomalies in the many European clubs which either don't need to surprise fans with great unexpected signings, or clubs that don't have a board/directors which will make these bold decisions.

While some clubs don't particularly need to strengthen, or need only a couple of smart signings to taper the cracks of the squad, others continue with a very conservative transfer policy regarding signing new players. Instead, Roma and Liverpool have realized that to climb up the Premier League and Serie A tables they'd need to spend, and spend wisely. I expect great things from these two clubs, the two kings of the summer transfer window.


Related Posts with Thumbnails