With Coppa Italia quarterfinals and another round of Serie A action, it’s been a busy week in Italian football. What did you miss? Let FloFC’s 10 Things catch you up!
1. Max Allegri in Denial
A huge fan of Max Allegri, this writer takes no pleasure in seeing the Juve boss struggle of late, but on Saturday he delivered a press conference that was simply unbelievable. Having watched his team concede three goals for the second time in a week, the Livorno native could’ve taken ownership of the situation and displayed some strong leadership, but instead he opted for a different tack.
“At least we gave those who complained we weren’t entertaining enough something to enjoy,” Allegri told broadcaster DAZN shortly after the final whistle, adding that “beautiful football doesn’t pay off.”
Yes, Juve’s attacking play was slightly better, but not enough to warrant such a petty retort. With just over two weeks to go before a crucial Champions League fixture against Atletico Madrid, the Bianconeri boss needs—as this previous column explained—to find solutions rather than making such needless rebuttals.
2. Atalanta’s Attacking Variety
While Allegri might not have been prepared to admit Juve had issues this week, there was no doubting the quality of Atalanta who fully earned their place in the cup semifinals. Gian Piero Gasperini has rightly received widespread adulation of his high-octane approach in Bergamo, but the club also deserve plaudits for putting together such a strong group of attacking players. (We did just that in this previous column!)
Not only do Josip Iličić, Duván Zapata and Papu Gómez possess wonderful chemistry together, but they also are incredibly difficult to defend against. Their mix of strength, speed, skill and creativity are a nightmare for opposing teams, particularly as the three men change positions quickly, each player presenting a different challenge to those his teammates provide.
Juventus aren’t the first side to fail to deal with that headache, and they certainly won’t be the last.
3. Fiorentina’s Inconsistency
In last Wednesday’s other Coppa Italia clash, Fiorentina completely demolished A.S. Roma, running out 7-1 winners in a game which underlined the immense potential of Stefano Pioli’s team. With Federico Chiesa running riot and Luis Muriel looking like he has been wearing the Viola shirt for three years not three weeks, it seemed as if things were beginning to click for the Tuscan side.
Given their free-scoring form and the fact that Udinese are locked in a tense relegation battle, Fiorentina should have easily despatched the Zebrette on Sunday. Yet they managed only to stumble to a 1-1 draw thanks to a performance their coach rightly admitted “wasn’t dynamic enough” when he spoke to Sky Italia at full time.
The Viola are young and inexperienced, but they need to quickly learn to be more consistent if they are to achieve their ambition of a place in Europe for next term.
4. Marek Hamsik Says Goodbye
If the Viola needed an example of what it takes to be at your best game after game, they could do much worse than take a look at Napoli’s Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian midfielder has done just that ever since he arrived at the Stadio San Paolo back in 2007, eventually becoming club captain and a key figure for the Partenopei.
Hamsik leaving the pitch for the final time at the San Paolo.. pic.twitter.com/hEXLlri3dP— Marco D'Onofrio (@Kubani7) February 3, 2019
However, it seems his time there has come to an end, the 31-year-old accepting a lucrative move to Chinese Super League outfit Dalian Yifang. There has been a delay in the deal as the clubs disagree over the method of payment, but that did not stop him bidding an emotional farewell to Naples as he left the pitch for the final time during Saturday evening’s match with Sampdoria. Hamsik will be missed.
5. Siniša Mihajlović Returns to Two Old Haunts
As Hamsik bid farewell to Serie A, the league welcomed back another familiar face this week as Siniša Mihajlović was appointed Bologna’s new coach. Having previously led the club a decade ago, it was somewhat fitting that his second “debut” on their bench came in a stadium he was all too familiar with.
“I know what the crowd is like at San Siro,” he told reporters at his pre-match press conference on Saturday. “If we play the way we prepared, then we can put Inter under a lot of pressure.”
They would do just that, turning in a vastly improved performance that saw them earn a vital yet unexpected 1-0 win away against the Nerazzurri, claiming three points that could prove crucial to their bid to avoid relegation.
6. Inter Ultras… Again!
As if Inter weren’t having a bad enough week with crashing out of the Coppa Italia and losing to Bologna, the club’s Ultras decided to once again underline their stupidity. They have only just returned to San Siro following the closure of the Curva Nord for the racist abuse they showered on Kalidou Koulibaly last month, but it seems the suspension did little to teach them about being decent human beings.
“We do not care about racism, we go to the stadium to cheer on our players,” they said in a statement published over the weekend. “Koulibaly to us is just a small man who resorts to lies in order to clear his conscience. If he had been white, yellow or blue, we would have behaved the same way towards him.”
Not content with that, they then trashed the excellent initiative launched by their only club—one attempting to show that there was no place for discrimination and discussed in this previous column. “As for your BUU initiative,” the Ultra statement added, “that is just in bad taste. It is a pathetic and fake idea.”
7. Gianluigi Donnarumma Putting on a Show
Sunday’s big game between A.S. Roma and A.C. Milan was, unlike the Super Bowl later that evening, entertaining from start to finish. It also didn’t have a terrible halftime show, but it did feature a sensational performance from Rossoneri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma that saw his side earn a valuable draw.
Time after time, the teenager denied Roma, with the double save above undoubtedly the pick of the bunch as his reaction time, reflexes and desire to prevent a goal came to the fore with a pair of stunning stops.
8. Milan’s P-P-perfect Pair
They might not have found a way to earn a win thanks to Donnarumma’s heroics, but Milan duo Krzysztof Piątek and Lucas Paquetá once again proved their worth. The pair only signed for the club last month, but they are already the most influential outfield players in the side, the former grabbing his third goal in as many matches this weekend while the latter pulled the strings in midfield.
⚠️ Warning:— Luca Hodges-Ramon (@LH_Ramon25) February 3, 2019
I may have to tweet this chant everytime Piatek scores for Milan
Paquetá was once again a constant threat, laying on the opening goal on Sunday and also recording three tackles as he brings a fresh dimension to Gennaro Gattuso’s previously lacklustre midfield.
Meanwhile, as the video above shows, Milan fans have quickly fallen in love with the duo, with Piatek already having his own song as supporters celebrate the prolific Polish international’s latest effort.
9. Beppe Iachini Delivers Again
Having rescued Sassuolo from relegation last term, Beppe Iachini seems set to repeat the feat with Empoli this season. The 54-year-old coach was appointed on Nov. 6 after former boss Aurelio Andreazzoli collected just six points and won only one of the club’s opening 11 games of the campaign.
Battling back to earn a 2-2 draw with Chievo this past weekend, Empoli now sit outside the relegation zone and, having quickly taken his methods on board, are displaying the same gritty determination Iachini showed as a player with Fiorentina and Palermo.
10. Parma Looking to Take Another Big Scalp
Having suffered the ignominy of being relegated to the lower leagues following their 2015 bankruptcy, Parma returned to Serie A last summer and have quickly set about making up for lost time.
Currently sitting in 12th place and comfortably clear of the relegation zone, the Crociati earned a superb point at leaders Juventus last week. It was the latest surprising result for the newly promoted side and, having already beaten Inter once this term, you can be sure Roberto D'Aversa’s men will be looking for a repeat this weekend.
Adam Digby is an Italian football writer for FourFourTwo, The Independent, and elsewhere. Author of "Juventus: A History In Black & White." Follow Adam on Twitter.