The sixth round of fixtures in Serie A saw the league table begin to take shape, as Napoli, Atalanta and AC Milan continued their unbeaten starts to the new season, proving their early intentions to win the Scudetto.
Meanwhile, Udinese are fast becoming the new Atalanta of the division as they moved up to fourth with a 3-1 victory over Sassuolo.
All of that and more in our latest 10 things we learned from Serie A with Sportsmail’s ALVISE CAGNAZZO.
Napoli sealed a 1-0 victory over Spezia to remain unbeaten and top of the Serie A league table
Olivier Giroud sealed a 2-1 win for 10-man AC Milan over Sampdoria to also remain unbeaten
1 – CONTE GOT IT RIGHT ON NDOMBELE
When Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte issues a verdict, it is very rare for him to make a mistake.
The Italian coach did not consider Tanguy Ndombele a suitable player for Tottenham and his start to Serie A in Napoli confirms Conte’s views on his poor physical and mental state.
The former France international is currently a burden for the Neapolitan club’s midfield and after 45 minutes Luciano Spalletti decided to replace Ndombele with Stanislav Lobotka, restoring tactical intelligence and quality to the midfield.
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte was right about Tanguy Ndombele, who is struggling for Napoli
In order to be a regular starter in the Napoli line-up, Ndombele will have to work on his aggressive tackling.
Ndombele seems unable to avoid picking up yellow or red cards with the amount of fouls given against him already in Serie A this season.
Eljif Elmas and Lobotka offer more stable technical and tactical guarantees and the Frenchman wearing No 91 is last in the pecking order under Luciano Spalletti, who is rather disappointed by his start in Serie A.
Lobotka is indispensable to Napoli, but will not be able to play all the games this campaign, and for this reason it is absolutely essential to recover a player who until a few years ago seemed destined to become a top player.
Ndombele, who is on loan at Napoli, has already fallen down the pecking order since joining
2 – RASPADORI IMPORTANT FOR NAPOLI
As the months go by, the comparison seems more and more to be the right one: Giacomo Raspadori resembles Paolo Rossi in a very strong way.
The Italian attacker bought by Sassuolo is proving to have talent and can be a huge success for title challengers Napoli.
After having missed an endless series of chances against Spezia, he finally managed to score thanks to an intelligent touch just a few yards out, that projected Aurelio De Laurentiis’ club to the apex of Serie A.
It will take many years for him to become a top player but Raspadori proves to be a very important cog in the team and is, from a physical standpoint, extremely capable of playing in a fast and dynamic team like Napoli’s.
Striker Giacomo Raspadori (pictured above) is developing into an important player for Napoli
With Raspadori’s goal, eight different players have now scored in Serie A for Spalletti’s side, a record in Italy’s top division.
After the champagne football in the Champions League win against Liverpool, Napoli discovered the joy of ‘Lambrusco football’, a red wine typically enjoyed in Emilia-Romagna, the region where Raspadori was born.
Finishing in summer 2019 with a score of 79/100 in his final exam, he wishes to graduate in Sports Science.
Raspadori studied at the University of Bologna and his dream is to become one of the few Italian players to also graduate, like Fabio Pecchia, now a coach, Leonardo Spinazzola, Giorgio Chiellini, and former goalkeeper Christian Puggioni.
With Luciano Spalletti he will improve quality of his football and learn the right movements in attack to be lethal while minimising the number of shots on his opponent’s goal.
3 – VLASIC IS A STAR FOR TORINO
Torino have often scoured Eastern Europe for players, with several stars from the Balkans in Turin currently.
The latest discovery is Croatian winger Nikola Vlasic, who is currently on loan from West Ham, looking to redeem himself after a poor season in the Premier League.
The winger has already scored his first Serie A goal against Lecce and against Inter he tore up the right side of Inter’s defence, forcing Denzel Dumfries to play more defensively in the first 45 minutes.
Vlasic was a thorn in Inter’s side and played with remarkable composure, proving he is the right man in the right place in the ‘left forward’ role in manager Ivan Juric’s 3-4-2-1 formation.
He can do much more for Torino but he is always at the centre of the game and he created the most dangerous chances of the match against Inter.
It feels like Vlasic has been playing in Italy for 10 years but has only just completed his first month as a Torino player.
The midfielder is not the only famous sportsperson in the family, indeed at the moment the most famous is his sister Blanka, Olympic champion in Osaka 2007 and in Berlin 2009.
Vlasic floats like a butterfly but stings like a bee, has a very strong physique and can physically hold up to every duel on the pitch.
Torino were good – albeit unlucky with the result – but found out that Vlasic, with his great technical and tactical depth, can be a key player.
The defeat against Inter must be quickly forgotten but the lack of cutting edge in attack will worry Juric, who lost striker Andrea Belotti on a free transfer this summer without getting a genuine proven international-standard alternative in his place.
Nikola Vlasic (pictured) is impressing for Torino on loan from Premier League club West Ham
4 – HANDANOVIC, BARELLA AND BROZOVIC SAVE INTER MILAN
This week we’ve learned how quickly judgments can change.
In football, one second across the 90 minutes is enough to tip things on their head and Inter’s worst players of the last few games, Marcelo Brozovic, Nicolo Barella and Samir Handanovic have probably saved Simone Inzaghi from a violent storm of controversy.
The 24th league goal of Brozovic’s career gave Inter three crucial points and now they must immediately reapply themselves in Serie A and in Europe in order not to prevent the gap from the top teams increasing further.
On the other hand, Nicolo Barella’s match was up-and-down due to the intensity of the Torino midfielders, who crushed him in a steel grip, clouding his mind and testing his muscles, especially in the first half.
Handanovic performed at least four miracle saves, keeping out Vlasic and covering the entire goal thanks to exceptional positioning that demonstrated calm and poise after being rotated in the Champions League for backup Andre Onana.
Inter won thanks to the heart and strength of the two most-criticised players in recent months but still have numerous technical and personality problems they will have to try to improve in the shortest possible time.
Simone Inzaghi continues to trust Federico Dimarco and continues to bet on Edin Dzeko up front, despite barely ever benefiting from it.
The road to a balanced side is still very long and winding but with three points in the bag and with Brozovic and Barella key parts of the win, the future is less scary.
The trio of Marcelo Brozovic (pictured), Nicolo Barella and Samir Handanovic saved Inter Milan
5 – 10-MAN AC MILAN SHOW CHARACTER
The Italian champions won against Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris stadium after going down to 10 men at the start of the second half due to Rafael Leao’s red card.
Stefano Pioli’s team has sent a very strong signal to their Serie A rivals, showing they have extraordinary strength of character.
Olivier Giroud continues to score with great regularity and the absence of Divock Origi, Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic does not seem to bother the team as they continue to rely on the strength of their French striker.
After six matches in Serie A and with three goals, Giroud confirms that he is a charismatic leader capable of being decisive despite being 36 years old.
Olivier Giroud continues to score as 10-man AC Milan sealed a 2-1 victory over Sampdoria
His greatest quality is that he is always in the right position to finish off moves and is fast becoming a penalty box poacher.
The Rossoneri coach has created a solid group, boosted by the renewal of Sandro Tonali’s contract until 2027 and by obtaining three key points in the fight for the Scudetto.
AC Milan once again proved they have the best goalkeeper in the league: thanks to Mike Maignan the team defended the advantage given by Giroud until the end thanks to two extraordinary saves by the French goalkeeper from Manolo Gabbiadini.
Leao’s sending-off creates more problems for the next match against Napoli but did not prevent the team flexing its muscles against an embarrassing Sampdoria for long stretches of the match.
Marco Giampaolo seems to have reached the end of his second stint in the dugout at Sampdoria, the club which now seriously risks remaining in the lower parts of the Serie A table until the end of the season.
6 – EMBARRASSING SAMPDORIA
If losses were the objective, Sampdoria would be first in Serie A.
A defeat against AC Milan is the fourteenth of Marco Giampaolo’s second stint: a negative result that destroys the hopes of fans and seems to herald the team’s slump towards Serie B.
The last match they won was the Coppa Italia match at home against Reggina on August 5. Sadly, with these statistics, the club seems destined to be relegated and is currently experiencing a moment of great suffering.
The team has no technical and tactical identity, they have an attack that is too old and must hope that Manolo Gabbiadini can become an important contributor and can solve the problems of the team’s attack.
Sampdoria has no tactical or technical identity under boss Marco Giampaolo (pictured)
Five victories in 23 games across Serie A and the Italian Cup are so few as to suggest a drastic situation: Giampaolo could be sacked.
Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Caputo and Fabio Quagliarella are two strikers at the end of their career and do not have the physical strength to be 100 per cent available for 90 minutes.
Sampdoria have many problems, but the blame must be equally distributed, although it’s inevitable that the coach can be considered primarily responsible for the sporting tragedy that is affecting the team.
7 – LAMECK BANDA IS A LECCE IDOL
Aside from Mirko Vucinic and Javier Chevanton, Lecce appears to have found a new jewel in this difficult Serie A season.
Lameck Banda is the new idol of the ‘Via del Mare’ stadium and represents the most interesting discovery of Lecce sporting director Pantaleo Corvino.
The Zambian star occupies the role of left winger and runs for miles without ever losing speed. Over time, Banda has become indispensable, increasingly at the center of Lecce’s game.
Winger Lameck Banda (pictured) is already becoming a new idol at Lecce for his performances
During Lecce’s 1-1 draw against Monza, all of the best plays seemed to come through the nifty footwork of Banda, and the feeling is that it’s only a matter of time before he notches his first goal in Italy.
August 4, 2022 is a historic date: The African striker was bought by Lecce. He made his debut with the Apulian team on August 13, coming on for the second half of the match in a home defeat against Inter, becoming first Zambian to play in Serie A.
The No 22, who grew up in Arsenal Tula, is the most technically gifted player at Lecce and against Monza he caused the entire defence difficulty, forcing Brazilian Marlon to make several strong challenges to stop him in his tracks.
Banda is very fast and when he runs he is very difficult to contain, being able to move both right and left.
In the 82nd minute he was booked for simulation in the penalty area, hinting at his naivety, which the club will have to try to remedy.
His stature, 5ft 3ins, makes him fast in one-on-one situationsand his sturdy legs seem to be powered by a petrol engine. If he can better manage his decision making, he can become one of the most effective players in Serie A.
8 – CUADRADO IS NEARING THE END
Juan Cuadrado seems to be playing like a player coming to the end of the elite days of his career, as he put in a poor performance against Salernitana.
Cuadrado is a wasp with no poison in his sting and has become an annoying fly for himself and for his team-mates.
Salernitana’s goal in first half was an embarrassing and clumsy gift from the former Chelsea star.
Juventus was on its knees because one of its elder statesmen made a mistake in one of the most delicate moments of this season.
Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado seems to be playing like a player coming to the end of his career
The limits of the Bianconeri side, highlighted against Salernitana are so evident that the hopes of being able to win against Benfica in the Champions League match are almost nil.
Juventus, especially in the first 45 minutes, had problems that are difficult to explain and forgot how to play football, with many of the mistakes coming from the Colombian.
Moise Kean is non-existent, nervous with every ball he touches and above all unable to be useful to the team both in defence and in attack and Cuadrado has never managed to link up well with the No 18 Kean, who is isolated on the right side of the pitch.
The full-back missed yet another opportunity to try to convince Juventus to renew his contract which will expire, probably without being renewed, in June 2023.
9 – CINDERELLA STORY FOR SALERNITANA
Davide Nicola has worked a miracle by improving a team that until a few weeks ago was in the midst of a revolution.
The Salernitana coach has given a precise identity to his team by leaving out summer arrivals such as Domagoj Bradaric, as he preferred Pasquale Mazzocchi, who played on the left side, where he drove Moises Kean, Juan Cuadrado and even Weston McKennie mad.
Juventus struggled mainly due to the speed and tactical intelligence of manager Davide Nicola, who orchestrated the game by exploiting the weak point of Massimiliano Allegri’s team.
Beyond the final result, Salernitana proved themselves to be a solid outfit built with shrewd planning and tactical discipline by sporting director Morgan De Sanctis, who provided the team with players suited to the coach’s ideas.
Davide Nicola has given Salernitana a precise identity and they drew 2-2 with Juventus
10 – ARE UDINESE THE NEW ATALANTA?
Udinese are proving to be much more than just a lucky team so far this season. The Pozzo family has built a very solid club that has very strong players, while keeping their stars away from the clutches of other clubs.
Gerard Deulofeu, Beto, Lazar Samardzic and Roberto Pereyra could play at any top club right now.
The team has won four in a row, reaching 13 points in the standings in their first season in Serie A under coach Andrea Sottil – a very good coach who has enthused to the whole city.
Udinese are the surprise package, having won four matches in a row in the Serie A this season
Udinese are hitting all the right notes at the moment and the 3-1 victory against Sassuolo also demonstrates the great personality of the players, who managed to come back to win despite Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi opening the scoring.
They could be the new surprise package of Serie A, much like Atalanta were in the early years of Gian Piero Gasperini’s tenure.
Udinese is among the few Italian clubs able to guarantee ownership of their ‘Dacia Arena’ stadium.
The Pozzo family has lots of experience in the world of football and this team is among the best ever they have set up. Udinese can start thinking about Europa League qualification if they carry on at this rate.