Italians still know the art of defending? No ratings yet.

Before the European Cups glue us to the TV let’s take a look what happen in Italy the last week with double turn for more exiting games and overall few surprises.

Beside the always perfect Juventus other teams had a successful week clinching all 6 points available. Inter, Roma and Genoa will surely look back on this week as a benchmark. Perhaps at some point it’ll seem like a distant dream but let them enjoy the moment.

Without any question the game everybody was looking for was the derby at Juventus Stadium on Saturday night. The temperature was sky high, Southern giants came with high spirits after a convincing home win against newly promoted Parma playing some entertaining football in the process, non-Juve fans hoping Napoli can finally stop Turin side perfect start to the season and thus keeping them close to the chasers. Even the beginning of the game when Napoli took control and eventually the lead; high pressing – stolen ball – fluid attacking move that left champions chasing shadows – empty net pointing. Every managers WET dream. Everybody was prepared for a great surprise. However Juve didn’t follow the script and upped the tempo, took initiative and eventually levelled with Mandžukić wonderfully teed up by Ronaldo. However good Juve’s play was I’m sure Ancelotti couldn’t believe his defence left completely alone the most dangerous header just a few steps from goal.

What would you say to your defenders in a situation like this?

And let me remind you that Napoli conceded the goal with the back line fully set high up the pitch. Super Mario even started with his back to goal helping the midfielders getting the ball in attacking zone before he charged (yes, Mandžukić is known for his explosiveness…) thru the middle to meet the cross. It’s true that Can made an intelligent run attracting defenders attention but at least 1 out of 5 could give a thought about THE ONLY OTHER PLAYER in their box!!!

Once the bianconeri get going there’s no stopping them and Napoli felt all the fury the Portuguese ace has in him as even if he didn’t score it still was his best game since coming to Italy. I wholeheartedly believe Carletto, one of my favourite coaches/managers ever, warned not to leave opponent attackers in the box unsupervised!!! I guess Mario Rui was in the bathroom when the talk was being held and duly left the Croatian striker alone AGAIN just as the teams came back from the break. The in-from attacker thanked and scored. If anybody was close enough to hear him…

I suppose the Portuguese LB has a sense of what would follow after the game and decided to end his performance in advance. So he took matters into his own hands/boots to flee before everybody else. A straight red card for the challenge would be just punishment but the referee opted for the softer solution but the end result was the same – Napoli catching up Juve in Turin with a man down. And actually managed to get them scared with Callejon. Turin giants wouldn’t let this one escaping from them and shortly after put the game to bed with Bonucci taking advantage from a Ronaldo header at the back post and slotted in easily. You guessed, he was also left completely alone…

The initial idea wasn’t to give this game that much space but I can’t get in peace that title hopefuls concede goals like Napoletani did this weekend.

If anybody than Ancelotti knows that attack wins you games and defence wins you titles. And they are a miles away from it with current defensive play…

The other big game in the Penisula this weekend was the derby della Capitale. Roma won in similar fashion as the reigning champions – exploiting opposition defensive liabilities and taking the points home. Even if Roma’s defence left a lot to be desired and eventually gifted a goal to Immobile. Very important for the seeding but also for the morale which was a bit low lately due to a string of less-then-impressive performances.

Elsewhere Inter enhanced their point collection by taking advantage of the double home fixtures with important win against Fiorentina in midweek and routine versus Cagliari at the weekend.

Important wins for Genoa, Bologna and Fiorentina on Sunday but non of them needed it more than AC Milan.

After Thursday night embarrassment at Empoli, I can’t say otherwise, the high-flying Sassuolo was the last team they wanted to meet. And in the equal first half in was clear why as the resuscitating giants didn’t play bad but the Southern’s replayed with punch for punch. Locatelli will be reviewing the situation deep in Milan’s half in the 38th minute. And if he’s taking notes he’ll underline with red the remark; don’t let anybody past you when your playing DM, even in the opponents half! A foul and yellow card is always better than a goal down at halftime. After the break neroverdi’s play slowly broke apart and the Lombards took advantage by scoring with long-range efforts twice more after the break and took home the vital 3 points.

Although Gattuso has every right to be happy with the win and build on it however there are 2 points that bother me:

1. Conceding! They have conceded at least 1 goal in every match this domestic campaign. Even if Sassuolo’s goal didn’t had an impact in the end, it’s easier to win and progress with clean sheets. Ringhio knows it very well and must find the remedy.

2. Scoring! 4 goals from out of the box is nice to see but it’s not the way to continue to climb the table. The Rossoneri had some beautiful chances, not just last night but also in previous games, and fail to materialize on them. It’s costing them and it’s another point in need of attention.

If there would be no mistakes, there would be no goals, that’s clear, but top of the table clashes solved by such poor defending is something very unusual. Bad weekend or is the notorious Italian art of defending losing its shine?

Whichever it is we’ll elaborate it in the coming weeks.

Stay alert for this week’s European clashes and look for predictions and analysis on European football review.

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