Di Maria can be a bully, Napoli’s fans make them unstoppable and something is wrong at Inter


After the seventh round of fixtures in Serie A there are only two teams left unbeaten, after Napoli brought an end to Milan’s run and Atalanta saw off Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the capital. 

And Udinese continued their own fine form against the top sides with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Inter, while Juventus suffered a shock as Monza recorded just their first win of the season over the Old Lady who played most of the game with 10 men. 

All of that and more in our latest 10 things we learned from Serie A with Sportsmail‘s ALVISE CAGNAZZO. 

Napoli are top of the table after securing a 2-1 win over Milan and ending their unbeaten run

Juventus' 1-0 defeat by Monza is just their first loss but they have already drawn four times

Juventus’ 1-0 defeat by Monza is just their first loss but they have already drawn four times

1. ANGEL DI MARIA CAN BE A BULLY 

He was supposed to be the extra man for Juventus, but Di Maria’s ‘bullying’ attitude against Armando Izzo at the weekend has seen his stock take a sharp decline in the Juventus locker room. 

The Argentinian continues to show discouraging signs of intolerance that hurt the team, letting them down in key moments. Angel Di Maria must become a key figure for the Old Lady rather than a player full of anger and resentment. Against Monza he threw away several opportunities to be a hero and now his adventure in Italy looks verging on a failure. 

At 34, you need to be mature and capable of handling the pressure, but that red card highlighted the frustration of a player going through an unhappy period in his career a few months before the World Cup. The former PSG star left his team-mates facing an uphill battle for over 60 minutes. 

These are not the traits of a charismatic leader and his performance speaks to a certain trepidation in his approach to Italian football. Without him it will be even more difficult for Juve to return to the top of the standings, and Massimiliano Allegri’s bench will continue to tremble nervously. There is a lack of confidence and the blame can only be attributed to Allegri’s contrived way of playing football.

Angel Di Maria let his side down after his red card left them with ten men for most of the game

Angel Di Maria let his side down after his red card left them with ten men for most of the game

2. NO BARELLA, NO PARTY 

When Nicolo Barella is in excellent physical shape, Inter’s midfield takes a completely different speed and intensity. A goal from a free kick is just reward for a player who showed great character in an impressive technical performance. When he is on song, everything runs smoothly and the other midfielders win back possession balls and create space in the middle of the pitch. 

But when he is tired, his almost magnetic touch loses its potency and the team are prone to implode mentally. 

When his performance collapses, as it did against Udinese, the entire Inter XI struggles, and Marcelo Brozovic in particular is made to look fragile and predictable. 

Nicolo Barella scored in the fifth minute but Inter still fell to defeat at the hands of Udinese

Nicolo Barella scored in the fifth minute but Inter still fell to defeat at the hands of Udinese

Barella suffered up against Tolgay Arslan for the majority of the game, forgetting to track back and press him at key points in the match. The difference in physicality between the two was marked, and it was evidently this which cost the entire Inter midfield. 

The impression is that Barella is being deployed tactically in a different way than he is used to, and that fatigue is setting in faster. The relationship with Simone Inzaghi is far from perfect, but his performances are becoming visibly affected by a lack of fitness that is difficult to explain, having played just seven games in the league since August.

The Nerazzurri are under the microscope, but the feeling is that something is wrong in the relationship between the squad’s leaders and Simone Inzaghi.

Inter now sit seventh in Serie A with four wins and three losses from their first seven games

Inter now sit seventh in Serie A with four wins and three losses from their first seven games

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3. SAMPDORIA LOOK LIKE A DEAD MAN WALKING

Sampdoria are starting to look like something out of a horror film, but their inefficacies are simply the result of several mistakes made by the club in the transfer market, as well as the tacitcal decisions of Federico Giampaolo. 

The Blucerchiati are at ricks of having their destiny already sealed in September, after a 2-1 defeat to Spezia in the Ligurian derby, and Giampaolo’s men are slipping further and further down the table. They already look to be a team tired of fighting. 

Federico Giampaolo's Sampdoria are 20th

Federico Giampaolo’s Sampdoria are 20th

Giampaolo has unfortunately done everything wrong, from the formation to the choice of substitutions, and his team are playing with the uncertainty of a team has acquired all the uncertainties of a coach who looks like a UFO landed in Genoa, ready to leave immediately with a one-way ticket to Mars. 

Sampdoria will be a meteor this season, and the corporate uncertainties do not help the players in a start full of disappointments. 

Francesco Caputo and Fabio Quagliarella are far too old to play for the top flight,  and Abdelhamid Sabiri is too inconsistent a player. 

The international break will allow the club to take stock and perhaps now is the right moment to make a change in the dugout and bring in someone more clear in their approach, and perhaps less confusing than Giampaolo.

M'Bala Nzola scored Spezia's second in their Ligurian derby win over Sampdoria

M’Bala Nzola scored Spezia’s second in their Ligurian derby win over Sampdoria

4. GASPERINI IS RUTHLESS BUT ATALANTA ARE A TOP SIDE 

Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini is perhaps the most fearsome coach in Serie A, so ruthless is he in what he demands from his players, even to the point of asking his president Antonio Percassi to get rid of them. For Gasperini, every player has a purpose, but none of them are essential, and his skills lie in his ability to turn anyone into a top player. 

Gasperini can be unpleasant, but in this particular season he has also managed to turn his side into a team that are now able to withstand heavy pressure from their opponents. 

Gian Piero Gasperini has managed to teach his side to cope better under pressure

Gian Piero Gasperini has managed to teach his side to cope better under pressure

Sunday’s big match against Roma exemplified how much they have grown mentally,  resisting waves of attacks from Jose Mourinho’s men to win three key points. 

Atalanta still require work, and several players want out of the club, but at the same time they are also capable of winning against Roma and moving further and further up the table. 

Gasperini has unearthed yet another gem, moulding Giorgio Scalvini, one of the youngest Italy Under-21s with a starting berth at senior level, for Robert Mancini and for this alone he deserves a gold statue at the sports centre in Coverciano. 

Giorgio Scalvini's 35th minute goal was enough for Atalanta to see off Jose Mourinho's Roma

Giorgio Scalvini’s 35th minute goal was enough for Atalanta to see off Jose Mourinho’s Roma

5. MONZA REPEAT CATANZARO’S FEAT AGAINST JUVENTUS

Catanzaro in 1972, Monza in 2022. 50 years after the Calabrian club’s first Serie A victory against Juventus, Monza have repeated the feat, with a historic victory over Juventus in their first year in Serie A. For Monza it is a historic afternoon, with their  first victory in Serie A coming unexpectedly after Giovanni Stroppa’s dismissal and Raffaele Palladino’s promotion as first-team coach. 

Where the hero for Catanzaro was Angelo Mammì, for Monza it was Danish centre-forward Christian Gytkjaer. This victory must not, however, deceive Silvio Berlusconi’s club. The team needed to win, but moving forward Monza will have to improve if they are to have any chance of getting out of the relegation zone.

Former Inter and Sampdoria midfielder Stefano Sensi at this moment is their most important player. He brings co-ordination and balance to a side that have struggled so much with communication in a horror start to the season. 

Sunday’s match against Juventus may have a catalytic effect for Monza but there are still many issues on which young coach Palladino will have to work hard to achieve salvation in Serie A.

Monza secured just their first victory of the season when they beat Juventus 1-0 on Sunday

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Monza secured just their first victory of the season when they beat Juventus 1-0 on Sunday

6. NAPOLI ARE UNSTOPPABLE WITH THEIR 12th MAN 

Napoli attack with 11 men and defend with 12, or at least that is how it feels with their fans behind them, home and away, following Luciano Spalletti’s side who, with the victory against Milan, are favourite for the title. 

Olivier Giroud's goal couldn't rescue a point for Milan

Olivier Giroud’s goal couldn’t rescue a point for Milan

Simply put, Napoli are the best team in Serie A and are probably one of the top 10 teams in Europe. At the moment the team has no discernible flaw and plays sparkling and football, rightfully drawing comparisons with their wonderful past. 

Spalletti’s style of football has altered the shaken up in Serie A, sweeping away clichés about Napoli’s inability to mount a sustained charge over time. With or without Spalletti in the dugout, the team grind out points and can put fear into the hearts of their Scudetto rivals. 

The international break comes at a useful time as it allows the Neapolitan club to nurse Victor Osimhen back to fitness, and gives many players who have not been called up by their national teams a well-earned rest.

Kim Min-jae has slotted seamlessly into Napoli’s defensive unit, and Stanislav Lobotka continues to conduct the side. Without their contributions Napoli would likely have been overwhelmed by Milan but the technical and physical quality of the team’s core kept their opponents quiet.

Giovanni “Cholito” Simeone’s goal rewarded Spalletti’s courage and gifted a hard-earned win to the city of Napoli, which awaits the miracle of San Gennaro.

Giovanni Simeone's goal ensured that Napoli stayed on top of Serie A with 17 points

Giovanni Simeone’s goal ensured that Napoli stayed on top of Serie A with 17 points

7. MERET BRINGS CONSISTENCY AT THE BACK 

Alex Meret endured a very difficult summer after the De Laurentiis family club tried to sell him to make room for Keylor Navas. However the move never materialised and Meret remained at Napoli only due to the lack of alternatives and concrete offers. 

Sunday’s clash against Milan showed not only how reliable Meret has become between the sticks, but also that the team and the fans have a lot of trust in him. If Napoli withstood the siege of Milan, it is thanks to Meret and his extraordinary reactions. 

The move away from David Ospina freed Meret from the role of back-up, but Sirigu’s proximity never really allowed him to mount any competition for a place in the starting side. 

The former Torino and Genoa goalkeeper is a friend of Meret’s, encouraging him to improve and has no ambition to usurp his place. This new comfort zone has helped the Frenchman, who’s self-esteem has visibly improved on taking the gloves match after match.

Alex Meret has thrived since becoming Napoli's undisputed No 1 goalkeeper

Alex Meret has thrived since becoming Napoli’s undisputed No 1 goalkeeper

8. MIHAJLOVIC WAS NOT THE PROBLEM AT BOLOGNA

Bologna’s problem wasn’t Sinisa Mihajlovic. Yet the club president thought that a simple change of manager could magically solve the crisis at the start of the 2022-2023 season. 

Sinisa Mihajlovic was not the problem at troubled Bologna

Sinisa Mihajlovic was not the problem at troubled Bologna

Thiago Motta is obsessed with ball possession but despite 61%, his Bologna surrendered to Empoli’s advances, demonstrating how vertical football is more effective than horizontal football. 

Empoli are a young team, but a naïve team, committing too many fouls and tries to solve its issues of quality with quantity. Now the fear of Bologna fans is that Mihajlovic will become a regret and that the boomerang effect of his dismissal could have devastating effects on his team. 

When Arnautovic fails to score the whole team suffers tremendously from the lack of quality in attack. Thiago Motta will have to try to be more concrete by trying a less-aesthetic approach to try to revitalise the enthusiasm of a city that fears a psychological collapse. 

Now Bologna occupies 16th place with just seven points and immediately after the international break, they will have to try to rake in as many points as possible to get away from bottom of the table.

Marko Arnautovic carries the only significant goal threat for Bologna who struggled again

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Marko Arnautovic carries the only significant goal threat for Bologna who struggled again

9. UDINESE ARE SERIE A’S CINDERELLA STORY

On the pitch, Udinese seem to behave like an English team: they run for 90 minutes and show lion-like courage in every action of the match. At the beginning of the year in Italy there were few chances attributed to the Pozzo family’s team who found the best emerging Italian coach in Andrea Sottil. 

His way of playing football is even superior to that of Vincenzo Italiano. Udinese play and have fun and do not seem to suffer from fatigue.

Beto and Gerard Deulofeu seem more effective than any other attacking pair in Serie A, and are behind only Napoli and Roma for the highest number of touches in the final 25m of the pitch. 

Tolgay Arslan scored deep into stoppage time to make it 3-1 against Inter on Sunday

Tolgay Arslan scored deep into stoppage time to make it 3-1 against Inter on Sunday

Udinese is made up of an assortment of players, many of whom with less than 50 appearances in Serie A, yet the war machine put together by Sottil has destroyed Inter’s hopes and re-evaluated Udinese’s place in the Serie A championship after fluctuating technical management in recent years. 

Sottil is not just a coach but an idol for the fans of the Friulian team who have always loved the former defender’s strength and energy, which he has translated into his ew role as the club’s coach. 

Arslan is an architect who directs the works in the middle of the pitch but every single player knows what to do in any given situation. Four consecutive victories is just a snapshot of the great work done by a coach and team that is now seriously bidding to enter the European qualification places. 

Udinese are now up to third in the table with only one loss as they sit on 16 points so far

Udinese are now up to third in the table with only one loss as they sit on 16 points so far 

10. AGUSTIN ALVAREZ WANTS TO BECOME SUAREZ’S HEIR 

“El Canario” have experienced many difficulties in the past when it comes to scoring, with 1 goal in 19 appearances. 2022 began with a positive Covid diagnosis, but today he is Sassuolo’s star and wants to shine until the end of the season. 

Agustin Alvarez hopes to become heir to Luis Suarez's throne for Uruguay

Agustin Alvarez hopes to become heir to Luis Suarez’s throne for Uruguay

He comes from a small Urugayan town of 1,994 people, and in the first meaningful Serie A match, he scored a precious goal that allows Sassuolo to beat Torino in the final minutes of the game. 

This is how Agustin Alvarez, born in 2001, presented himself with the poster of Luis Suarez in his grandparents’ bedroom hanging on the wall and venerated as a religious square. 

His dream is to become Luis Suarez’s heir and to win a starting place in the Uruguayan national team. A wish that might have seemed impossible when Alvarez was a child but today is a real possibility. 

Thanks to the faith placed in him by Sassuolo, he will be able to play many matches in Serie A with the task of making the fans forget they ever heard of Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca, sold by the club for a total of 80 million euros.



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