With the normal round of games plus a full midweek slate in Serie A, there was plenty happening in the Italian top flight over the last seven days. Let “10 Things” get you bang up to date with the most important news and noteworthy incidents from the peninsula.
1. Serie A Actually Makes A Stand
In the last installment of this column, we brought you two new examples of Serie A’s institutionalized racism raising its ugly head. As anyone who regularly watches Italian football would have expected, nothing at all has happened to punish those involved, the authorities content to once again bury their collective heads in the sand.
However, there was at last some positive action from those at the helm when a Sampdoria fan was caught on camera mocking Torino fans with an airplane gesture. This, of course, was a callback to the Superga disaster of 1949 when the entire “Il Grande Torino” side were wiped out in a horrific crash that led to the deaths of 31 people.
Ehi @sampdoria, capisco che la foto è sgranata e l’immagine non è delle migliori: ma con i video interni (e approfittando della visibilissima maglietta gialla accanto) non è che identifichiamo il tizio che mima l’aereo del #Torino a #Superga e lo buttiamo fuori dallo stadio? pic.twitter.com/K85kh4f00s— Gianluca Abate (@Aba_Tweet) September 23, 2019
With the help of Sampdoria, the fan was quickly identified and rightly given a two-year ban from attending football matches in Italy. Just proves they can do something when they want to…
2. But Old Habits Die Hard
Just when you thought things were getting better, along comes a traditionally stupid comment from a person of power in Italy. This week’s edition of idiocy comes from Giovanni Malago, the head of the Italian Olympic committee who decided to tell the world that he believes diving is worse than racism.
Yes, you read that right, but don’t take my word for it, here’s the man in his own words:
“The fans who jeer black players are wrong,” the CONI chief told Radio24. “However, it’s even more wrong when someone who earns €3m dives in the box and is then also happy to take the penalty.”
Words fail me.
3. Fiorentina Finally Win!
It had been almost eight months since Fiorentina had won a match in Serie A, the Tuscan side incredibly going into the midweek fixtures sitting bottom of the table. Their previous outing had seen them blow a two-goal lead away to Atalanta; Vincenzo Montella’s men eventually pegged back to yet another draw.
Just as they had against Napoli, Juventus, and the Bergamaschi, the team started brightly in Wednesday’s clash with Sampdoria, once again jumping out to 2-0 ahead thanks to an own goal and a brilliant Federico Chiesa strike.
Chiesa showing what he can do when he's on target.
Fans could’ve been forgiven for fearing the worst when Federico Bonazzoli pulled one back, but La Viola held on to end the longest winless streak in club history. Perhaps new owner Rocco Commisso summed it up best in a statement on the club's official website, saying “I thought I was going to have a heart attack tonight!”
He probably wasn’t the only one!
4. Antonio Florenzi: Unplugged
It’s happened to all of us. There you are, playing your favorite video game when, at a crucial moment, the controller disconnects and your on-screen figure simply freezes. Powerless, you look on as your team concedes a goal, or a touchdown, or you take a nasty headshot and your latest Fortnite adventure is over.
Wednesday night at the Stadio Olimpico saw AS Roma fans witness this phenomenon happen to them all at the exact same moment. Defending a free kick in a game against Atalanta, Alessandro Florenzi’s controller suddenly disconnected, the Giallorossi skipper doing absolutely nothing to prevent Marten de Roon scoring at the far post.
I mean, watch:
Capitano della roma https://t.co/4VX05FqN47— John Solano (@Solano_56) September 25, 2019
There is no other explanation.
5. New Plans For San Siro
With the old ground becoming increasingly outdated, both Inter and AC Milan have recognized the need for drastic changes at San Siro, the two clubs now seemingly intent on building a brand new arena close by.
At an event on Thursday morning, plans for this were unveiled in the city as a joint press conference saw officials from both sides explain the situation and why moving to a new home is seen as the only viable solution.
“The Stadio Meazza, as it stands, is no longer suited to two big clubs with the ambition of a main role on the European stage,” Milan President Paolo Scaroni told those in attendance. “That’s just a fact and compared to stadiums around Europe, they are a whole other issue.
“We love the Meazza, but it has run its course. The opportunity to help transform this zone of the city should also be welcomed, because except for on match days, it is an empty concrete space with nothing in it.”
The project is expected to cost €1.2 billion and would not be completed until 2026.
6. Inter Roll On
Dreams of a new home might still be far off, but the revolution on the field continues apace for Inter. The Nerazzurri made it a perfect five for five on Wednesday night, a win over Lazio seeing them remain the only Serie A side with a 100-percent record thanks to Danilo D’Ambrosio’s solitary strike, but his coach would still not discuss the title race.
“You won’t move my position,” Antonio Conte told reporters after the final whistle. “You saw the difficulties we had in the first half. At the same time, getting five wins out of five shows the hard work is paying off and the mentality is becoming consolidated. I’m sure the moment we get a bad result, the critics will come piling on, but we are ready.”
They will need to be.
7. Problems Persist For Lazio
One of Serie A’s most underrated clubs over the last few seasons, Lazio have recorded some wonderful results, narrowly missing out on Champions League football in 2018 and uncovering a raft of sensational players.
However, they seem to have started the new season in a major slump, losing three of their last four games including that defeat at the hands of Inter. Worst of all is that their own coach Simone Inzaghi is largely at fault, making excuses for their losses and routinely claiming that his team was better than the one they just lost to.
After losing to SPAL, the former striker told Sky Italia that his team “must learn the lessons” from that encounter, but then repeated them against Cluj and Inter. Inzaghi slipped immediately into his default setting of blaming everyone else, bemoaning the performances of referees and seeking scapegoats outside of his own dressing room.
Perhaps time to look at himself?
8. AC Milan’s Nightmare Continues
While Inzaghi’s reluctance to reflect on his own performances is hurting Lazio, it seems Milan boss Marco Giampaolo has decided to follow suit, laughably claiming that he saw “the best performance of the season so far” from his team as they lost 2-1 to Torino.
In truth it was an abject display from the Rossoneri who already look set to endure another difficult campaign. Already nine points behind first place, they have much work to do if they are to even be in contention for a Europa League spot, and rumors of a coaching change began on Friday morning.
9. A Shock For Napoli
A major factor in the Scudetto question being put to Conte was a surprising loss for Napoli who played at home against Cagliari. The Sardinian outfit had lost each of their last six Serie A meetings with Napoli, while their hosts had enjoyed some spectacular results this term, including a win over European champions Liverpool just a week ago.
😮 LATE DRAMA AT THE SAN PAOLO!— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) September 25, 2019
⚽ Lucas Castro scores for Cagliari, and it's completely against the run of play!
🔴 To make matters worse, Koulibaly was sent off for Napoli in the aftermath too! pic.twitter.com/dnEcWXyHfN
But Cagliari held on anyway, snatching a late winner through Lucas Castro as Napoli went into meltdown. Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for dissent, while Carlo Ancelotti and Lorenzo Insigne both reacted furiously to questions they were asked during post-match interviews.
“Seeing as you are so desperate to find something to criticize, fine, I’ll say we are sobbing when looking at the table,” the coach said live on Sky Italia. “Happy? I am not remotely worried, not at all.”
10. Injury Problems Grow For Juventus
In contrast, Juventus had a good week on the field, registering wins over Hellas Verona and Brescia to remain just two points behind Conte’s table-topping Inter. Performances have been gradually improving for Maurizio Sarri’s men, but it seems injuries are going to play a major role for the Bianconeri this term.
Giorgio Chiellini is likely out for the season, joined on the sidelines by Douglas Costa and his troublesome hamstrings. Yet the real crisis could be at fullback where, just 24 hours after ruling out both Mattia De Sciglio and Danilo for two weeks, Juve released Alex Sandro following a family bereavement back home in Brazil.
Juan Cuadrado, Emre Can, and perhaps Federico Bernardeschi will likely be called up to fill in.
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.