Hey folks, not only did Arsenal win and win handily but there was a fun weekend of Serie A football to report on as well.
Roma hosted Atalanta in the Sunday morning match. Kickoff was at 0400hrs and I’m going to be honest, I slept in a bit but luckily my DVR recorded it. It was a dire affair however. Atalanta scored first when their 18 year old center back, Georgio Scalvini, placed a perfect shot which kissed the post and went in. Atalanta would only get 4 total shots in this match and that was one of them. Roma, on the other hand, dominated possession and attacked at will.
It’s one thing to say that Roma had a 3.3 xG against Atalanta and that sort of tells the story. But what actually happened is that Roma missed 6 big chances in this match, including one by Abraham – who was clean through with the keeper – where he looked to me like he tried to push the ball around the keeper but kicked it 10 yards too far and out of play. And Roma were denied two pens both because of dives by Nicolo Zaniolo. Zaniolo kept grabbing the shirt of Okoli, who would then grab Zaniolo, and then Zaniolo would fall over theatrically looking for a penalty. The first was the most comical. It was the sort of dive that someone who hates football pretends that footballers do to dive. Literally seconds after contact has subsided, and with the ball still in front of him, Zaniolo just puts his feet straight out and falls over like a board. Then for the second, Okoli nearly rips Zaniolo’s pants off but again Zaniolo initiated the grabbing. I feel like the refs have no choice there but to not call either a foul.
The best part is that the Roma players and especially coach Jose Mourinho were livid. Mourinho got a red card after the first Zaniolo dive and was forced to watch the game from behind a concrete wall. Why he wasn’t completely removed is beyond me. After the match, Jose comically said that Zaniolo should have dived. Should have gone down. Maybe he needs to eat more carrots because Zaniolo literally couldn’t have dived more.
I also have to give a shout out to Monza who beat Juventus 1-0 for the first time in their history. Angel di Maria got a red card for elbowing a guy who was merely marking him. It was literally the definition of a red card, there can be no complaints. And Monza were good value in this game. It wasn’t a Mourinho-esque (Atalanta-esque now?) performance by Monza, they attacked Juve pretty relentlessly creating 4 big chances right in front of goal to Juventus’ two. Juventus look like a ship that’s lost at sea right now. No sails, no rudder, just spinning in the waves. Personally think Allegri deserves at least two years and that Juventus supporters should just trust the process.
But the best match of the weekend was AC Milan v. Napoli. Milan dominated the game in the first half by playing an almost English-style smashmouth football. Every defender was touch tight, they were very strong (read: fouly) in the challenges and the referee seemed to agree that this was how they wanted the game played. But critically, despite having a lot of the ball and in many ways shutting down Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (aka Kvara or Kvaradona) Milan struggled to create any real chances. This is one of my cautions about xG: because it aggregates shots a team can get a high xG with a lot of 0.1 xG shots but never really create that killer chance. That’s exactly what happened with AC Milan in the first half: 11 shots but only 0.8 xG. And not only that but their touch-tight marking was working to slow Kvara down but they drew two yellow cards to do it. AND they had to sub off Calabria at half time because he’d picked up a muscle injury from man-marking Kvara for 45 minutes.
In the second half, Napoli looked a lot better and Kvara won the penalty which turned the game. Napoli has had some problems taking penalties lately but Politano stepped up and.. well it was a horribly taken pen that luckily went under Mike Maignan’s armpit to go in. AC Milan stepped up their attack and created two great chances in the second half, one scored by Olivier Giroud, but the other fell to defender Kalulu and he is not known for his finishing. Napoli scored the winner in the 87th minute when Giovanni Simeone (yes, that Simeone’s son) scored a tough, tough header. He’d just gotten an inch on his marker there and popped the goal home. Simeone had a great season last year playing for Verona (he scored a career high 17 goals on just 10 xG) but I have to say I never saw this happening. I’ve seen him play a lot over the years and he’s never impressed me as a great goal scorer but he’s got two great goals (one in the Champions League and one in Serie A) for Napoli now in his last two appearances as a sub. It was a fun game to watch because you got to see young Kvara playing against a very tough team away and giving them fits. And you got to see Giroud doing Giroud things (he tried a scorpion kick, he had a number of his trademark one-touch crazy passes, etc.).
That’s your lot for today. Now we head into the International Break and I think I might see if I can watch some Georgian football, catch Kvara playing for his national side against some minnows. I bet he has a lot of fun.