Olivier Giroud goes from goals to goalkeeper as AC Milan’s surprise hero, Romelu Lukaku has been reborn at Roma and Napoli’s collapse continues… TEN THINGS WE LEARNED from Serie A at the weekend
- Another dramatic weekend in Serie A threw up plenty of thrills and spills again
- There were crucial victories for Roma, AC Milan and Juventus in the top half
- Mail Sport’s new WhatsApp Channel: Get the breaking news and exclusives here
Is there anything Olivier Giroud cannot do? From scoring goals to keeping them out, the AC Milan striker’s heroic late save dragged his side across the line in Genoa.
That victory kept Milan at the top of Serie A, though Inter Milan, Juventus and Fiorentina remain in touching distance after the first eight matches of the season.
Romelu Lukaku looks reborn under Jose Mourinho at Roma, meanwhile, having scored twice against Cagliari and protected the Special One from further pressure.
Napoli are continuing to stutter, though, with the future of boss Rudi Garcia seemingly uncertain in the wake of their limp home defeat on Sunday night.
Here, Mail Sport‘s ALVISE CAZZAGNO breaks down what we learned…
Olivier Giroud was AC Milan’s hero after filling in in goal during their victory against Genoa
Romelu Lukaku has been reborn at Roma and scored a brace to lead them to a crucial win
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1 – MARTINEZ IS A SWISS WATCH
With 10 goals in eight matches, Lautaro Martinez is a wonderful center forward with a devastating shot. Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski was helpless to keep out the powerful strike that saw Inter Milan take the lead after just 13 minutes.
Martinez chalked up his tenth goal in Serie A, a stunning average which allows him to enter the history of his club. Indeed, only Giuseppe Meazza in 1935 and Pablo Angelillo in 1959 reached the 10-goal milestone quicker than Martinez.
His 10 goals in eight matches are the perfect snapshot of the extraordinary form he is currently enjoying. If Inter manage to overcome some defensive slip-ups, he could prove fundamental to winning the league title.
He is an immense player, perhaps the only one to embody the DNA of Antonio Conte’s Inter, the coach of the last team that won Scudetto.
At this moment, Martinez is still fifth in the provisional Golden Shoe ranking but after the Serie A break, he could even increase his tally.
Lautaro Martinez has scored 10 goals in eight Serie A matches and firmly in a purple patch
2 – FROM GOALS TO SAVES
Olivier Giroud performed yet another miracle of his career, but this time in the role of goalkeeper after saving AC Milan in the final stages of their trip to Genoa.
After Mike Maignan’s red card there were only two solutions. Milan were out of substitutions, preventing second goalkeeper Marco Sportiello from coming on.
Malick Thiaw and Giroud were the main candidates to step in but in the end it was Frenchman who pulled on the gloves.
He saved Milan with a courageous performance and handed them a crucial victory.
Stefano Pioli would have liked to give him some rest but in the 21st minute of the second half, he entered as a protagonist, first as a striker and then as a goalkeeper.
Pioli has a habit of standing in front of the bench and he celebrated every save from Giroud as if they were a goal.
3 – GARCIA’S NAPOLI COLLAPSES AGAIN
Napoli could have difficulty reaching even fourth place in Serie A.
The big match against Real Madrid opened a chasm in their belief and they have conceded six goals in four days, having lost their defensive balance.
Shipping a goal on the counterattack while playing in the final minutes at home means not being organised and not knowing the technical potential of players.
Above all, they underestimated the great tactical knowledge of Vincenzo Italiano.
The person responsible for this debacle is Rudi Garcia, who in moments of difficulty has often decided to strip the team of its charismatic leaders, insisting on seeking a type of football different from that of Luciano Spalletti.
Yet another substitution for Victor Osimhen was incomprehensible but the French coach has continued his work of levelling the hierarchies downwards, creating further havoc in relationships within his dressing room.
Today Osimhen, despite being one of the five best center forwards in Europe, is considered ‘ replaceable’ by Rudi Garcia and this behavior is beginning to create a sour atmosphere.
The feeling is that the squad is a powder keg ready to explode at any moment.
Rudi Garcia is responsible for Napoli’s debacle this season and his squad is a powder keg
4 – PULISIC PICKS UP THE SLACK
Christian Pulisic scored four goals which were worth 12 points, proving on the field that he is a top player. When Noah Okafor turns off the light, Pulisic turns it back on.
Milan’s strength this season is linked to the quality of Pulisic, a player capable of carrying the team along when the engines of Okafor’s supercar fail.
If against Genoa the former Red Bull Salzburg talent played intermittently, coming in and out to the point of irritating the AC Milan fans, Pulisic managed to capitalise on one of the few moves from Pioli’s side by scoring an extraordinary goal.
In this first part of this season he was Milan’s man of destiny. They earned hard-fought victories above all thanks to his work on the wing and movement behind the centre forward.
He is icy when taking down balls and shooting at goal and fights with aggression, running from one area of the pitch to another to unite the midfield and attack just when Okafor seems to be running out of oxygen.
Pulisic has already shown that he can become the second number 10 beside Rafael Leao in terms of goals and assists. Today, AC Milan are no longer totally dependent on Leao and this is welcome news for the club.
5 – LUKAKU HAS BEEN REBORN
Six games, five goals. Romelu Lukaku is already a protagonist at Roma and guarantees a leap in quality for the entire attack without Paulo Dybala, injured during the last match, and Tammy Abraham.
Roma’s 4-1 victory against Cagliari was predictable but the brace scored by the former Chelsea star reassured the Giallorossi fans and allowed Jose Mourinho to identify a new leader of the dressing room.
For the striker, the his two Europa League goals in as many matches are a demonstration of how the Special One has regenerated Lukaku through motivation.
With Dybala out, Lukaku has also shown that he has a good relationship with Andrea Belotti, another sign of growth in the quality of the team’s play.
In the series of problems that overwhelmed Roma at the start of the season, Lukaku became the most important player of the team, clearly surpassing even the unfortunate Lorenzo Pellegrini and Dybala in the ranking of untouchable men.
Simply, without his goals the Giallorossi team would be in the relegation zone.
Lukaku’s words to DAZN at the end of the match at the weekend demonstrated his leadership. He said: ‘We are a team and we must improve. We are in a difficult position, but we are growing. We want to do better.
‘We must do better for the fans and for the eternal city. Many people have talked about me but I don’t talk and I demonstrate on the pitch what I have to do for my team. We have to continue like this.’
Lukaku is Roma’s main man under Jose Mourinho and also emerged as a dressing room leader
6 – MILIK IS A LUXURY RESERVE
With one assist and one goal in 170 minutes on the pitch, Arek Milik is an exceptional center forward who allows Juventus to have a part-time star available to support the weight of the attack even without Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa.
The two starting forwards were excluded from the derby against Torino due to slight physical issues. Massimiliano Allegri had initially decided to play with a prudent 3-5-1-1, leaving the former Ajax and Napoli star on the bench.
However, the terrible performance of the young midfielder Fabio Miretti forced the Juventus coach to bring in the Polish central striker.
This was a solution born at the beginning of the second half which allowed Juventus to score their second goal and definitively close out the match.
With all due respect to Moise Kean, when Milik is at the center of the attack Juventus’ crosses become an extra weapon. Promisingly for him, Vlahovic’s precarious physical condition could open up new opportunities.
7 – DYBALA TOO PHYSICALLY FRAGILE
Paulo Dybala left Roma’s match against Cagliari in tears after just 37 minutes due to a blow to his left knee, which may have undergone an unnatural twist.
The Argentine player left the pitch visibly sad and the hope is that he can return to the pitch as soon as possible to help his side.
Yet another injury, albeit a traumatic one, demonstrates how physically fragile Dybala is, which is why Juventus decided not to his contract and left him free to choose his own future.
But regardless of the extent of his latest setback, Dybala all too often suffers from constant physical problems that have seemed to torment him relentlessly since 2018.
Countless muscle and bone issues have slowed down his growth, depriving him of regular action in the Champions League.
When Serie A resumes after the break, Roma will have three matches in seven days and Dybala’s absence could represent a serious handicap.
Paulo Dybala limped out of Roma’s win after just 37 minutes due to a blow to his left knee
8 – STRUGGLING ZAPATA ABSENT
Dusan Zapata suffered in one of the worst matches of his Italian career.
Caged by Gleison Bremer and tamed by Federico Gatti, Zapata lost an incredible amount of physical clashes and became a problem for his side.
He is struggling on a physical level and also emerged worse for wear after the aggression of Juventus’ defenders, who forced him away from the penalty area.
Zapata drowned in the middle of the pitch and was hounded by Manuel Locatelli, desperate for a better attacking partner to help him express himself.
He was entrusted with the keys to the attack but was not capable of engaging the stretch of Juventus’ backline. Antonio Sanabria is waiting in the wings and the inclusion of both forwards may help sharpen Torino up moving forward.
9 – ZIRKZEE MAY SURPRISE
Everyone may have been waiting for Marcus Thuram to score for Inter Milan, but instead it was Joshua Zirkzee who netted for Bologna in the 1-1 draw.
The former Bayern Munich center forward can become one of the best attackers in Serie A and his approach as a starter in Thiago Motta’s team was exemplary.
He is a center forward with the number nine on his back but has the instincts of a number 10, slipping past defenders and preventing them from containing him.
Precisely because of his ability to move throughout the attack, he scored the equaliser at the San Siro. His biggest problem has always been scoring goals but his physical strength and tactical intelligence make him an irreplaceable player.
He clashed with Inter Milan’s defenders, all of whom were giants full of muscles, but managed to escape behind them and find the space to hit the target.
Zirkzee also helped Bologna erase the curse of Inter’s home ground, where they conceded 12 goals over their previous two visits.
Joshua Zirkzee netted Bologna’s equaliser at Inter Milan and can become one of Serie A’s finest
10 – KRSTOVIC CONTINUES TO SCORE
Nikola Krstovic is continuing to score and relish his tag as a protagonist in Serie A in only his very first season in Italy.
His goal against Sassuolo handed Lecce a precious point and rewarded the bet of the club’s sporting director, Pantaleo Corvino.
After his four goals in seven games, there could have been no better debut campaign for Krstovic.
The feeling in Italy is that Krstovic could have an even better career than his sponsor Mirko Vucinic or the Uruguayan king Ernesto Chevanton, both of whom experienced glory in Lecce.
He shook off a poor first half and scored a superb goal in the second, having fought for every ball and delivered a performance of the highest quality.
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