Serie A First Quarter Marks
- MVP: Ciro Immobile, Lazio
The Lazio frontman is well and truly in the form of his life. On track for his third 20-plus goal season in Italy’s top flight, Immobile’s attacking output is second to none in all of Europe. On the goalscoring front, he already boasts a whopping 14 goals in 11 matches, averaging 1.3 goals per game, 3.7 shots per game, and a scoring frequency of a mere 69 minutes. Like a true complete forward, Immobile has also registered six assists, bringing his direct involvement in goals to 20, 65 percent of all Lazio’s goals scored this year. The Italian’s performance in big matches this season has been essential, scoring a hat trick in their 4-1 over Milan last month and both goals in their 2-1 victory over Juventus at the J Stadium. As the league leader in goals and assists, Ciro Immobile is wholly deserving of this quarter’s MVP award.
- Breakout Player: Milan Škriniar, Internazionale
Don’t let the low-profile nature of this summer signing deter you. The newest addition to the Nerazzurri defense is the M4 Sherman tank in human form. A stabilizing figure in the Sampdoria defense last season, the Slovak has enriched the Inter back line tenfold. Currently, his new club is tied for the second best defensive record in the league, conceding only eight in 11. His hallmark performance in Inter’s 0-0 draw to Napoli, Italy’s superlative attacking side is the best indication of his quality, winning eight duels, seven tackles, making two clearances, and keeping Dries Mertens in his back pocket for the full 90 minutes. Mauro Icardi’s brilliance may grab headlines, but Milan Škriniar has been nothing short of a revelation for this previously-substandard defense.
- Best Young Talent: Lucas Torreira, Sampdoria
His brilliant swerving strike from 35 yards out on Sunday may have turned heads as it crashed into the back of the net, but Lucas Torreira has consistently been Sampdoria’s strongest performer this season. At only 21 years of age, the Uruguayan central midfielder has cemented himself as one of the league’s brightest young mids, alongside Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić, Napoli’s Amadou Diawara, and Juve’s Rodrigo Bentancur. Torreira possesses exceptional balance, positioning, dribbling, passing, defensive instincts, and a tireless workrate, attributes similar to those of Marco Verratti, but also with an absolute howitzer of a right foot. The Uruguayan is the glue that holds Marco Giampaolo’s side together, facilitating transitional play and linking the defense with the attack. Sitting currently on 20 points and in sixth place, Sampdoria have demonstrated their hunger for European play next season, and with Torreira leading the way, such a finish is well within reach.
- Best Team: Napoli
Perched two points clear at the summit of the Serie A table, Napoli find themselves in the best position to win their first Scudetto since the salad days of Maradona. Led by the attacking trident of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and José Callejón, supplemented by midfield trio Marek Hamšík , Jorginho, and Allan, and reinforced by Kalidou Koulibaly and Raúl Albiol in defense, the Partenopei have been head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. Averaging three goals scored and less than one conceded per match, Napoli possesses both a highly productive attack and stalwart defense. The biggest challenge to the Partenopei going forward will be warding off Juve’s customary charge at first place in the winter and early spring months. But these men have well and truly owned the fall.
- Best Manager: Maurizio Sarri, Napoli
The architect of Napoli’s blistering start to the season, Maurizio Sarri, has established himself as one of Italy’s most brilliant coaching minds. His distinctive brand of play not only sets him apart from other managers in its beauty, but also in efficiency and deadliness. Sarri’s trademark high press and compactness in defense helps his team win the ball back in dangerous areas and prevents opponents from building up from the back. Their possession-based attack is based on verticality and triangularity, meaning the forwards, midfielders, and fullbacks always seek vertical passing lanes upfield and create triangular passing options with movement off the ball. Napoli’s high-flying counterattacks are characterized by one-touch passing and the fluid movement of fullbacks, midfielders, and wingers to combine with one another to create space and goalscoring chances. With a Champions League exit looming, the Napoli boss will soon be able to dedicate all of his resources to the pursuit of the league title. Maurizio Sarri’s unprecedented success in this first quarter of the season has given his hometown a reason to believe that the Scudetto could return after a 28-year holiday.