Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 18: Lukaku Lost in Turin

With only 14 goals registered this weekend, considering the final round of action from 2023 entertaining would be a slightly misleading statement. While the matchday had its moments, they were too few and far between. Perhaps playing between Christmas and New Year’s Eve was bound to affect the quality of play. Nevertheless, some of the results still had major implications on the table, including the battle for the Scudetto. So let’s recap the action while mentioning the best and worst performers in the final act of year with our Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 18.

Top (Player): Valentin Castellanos

Since the start of the season, Taty Castellanos has been struggling to make an impact at Lazio. After all, usurping Ciro Immobile – even the aging version – was always going to be a daunting task.

But finally, the Argentine produced a landmark display, leading his side’s come-from-behind victory against Frosinone. The 25-year-old scored a brilliant equalizer, showcasing his clinical finish, before setting up Gustav Isaksen’s goal with a sublime assist.

If the Biancocelesti were to find their footing in the second half of the season, they would need a consistent goal-getter up front, and at this point, Castellanos appears to be the most likely candidate to play the role rather than Captain Ciro.

Flop (Player): Romelu Lukaku

In Round 18, Romelu Lukaku was expected to enter the Allianz Stadium with a point to prove against the supporters who protested against his suggested arrival last summer.

But whether or not the Belgian had that fire within him remains uncertain based on the hollow display he produced.

Roma turned to their bomber to guide them towards a famous victory in Turin, but Big Rom offered no response. Instead, he suffocated against the “Wall of Turin” as Jose Mourinho would later call it, failing to make any impact whatsoever on the match.

Top (Defender): Gleison Bremer

It would be unfair to mention Lukaku’s woes without giving some props to the man who inflicted the misery upon the Belgium international.

Gleison Bremer might just be the best defender in Serie A at the moment, and his display from Round 18 against the Roma striker suggests as much.

Top (Coach): Massimiliano Allegri

Bremer beating Lukaku in their personal duel certainly put Juventus on track towards victory, but Massimiliano Allegri also deserves a large chunk of the credit for outfoxing Mourinho in their touchline battle.

The two men exchanged pleasantries before the match, with each manager lauding his colleague for his winning mentality, and they replicated the drill after the final whistle.

But in the battle between natural winners, a loser must emerge, and Allegri’s on-point tactics ensured it wouldn’t be him.

The Livorno native found the right solutions in various areas despite some absentees, while also making the timely changes (like bringing in Federico Chiesa in the second half) to keep his opponents on their toes even when they were pursuing an equalizer.

In the end, Juventus were more likely to score a second than Roma drawing level, proving that Max truly had the upper hand over the Special One.

Flop (Coach): Alessio Dionisi

For one reason or another, Sassuolo have been in a free fall in recent weeks. The Emilians are now only a couple of points above the relegation zone in the Serie A table following their loss at the hands of Milan in Round 18.

While succumbing to defeat to the Rossoneri at the San Siro isn’t something to be ashamed of in itself, Alessio Dionisi earns this unceremonious mention following an accumulation of uninspiring displays despite possessing some highly sough-after talent, especially in attack (the likes of Berardi, Lauriente and Pinamonti).

So unless the young tactician manages to turn the tide in his favor in the next few weeks, he could become the next Serie A manager to face the axe.

Top (Team): Udinese

Udinese have finally registered a victory at home after coming extremely close on several occasions. The Zebrette were simply on another level against a Bologna side that suddenly lost their rhythm or perhaps were suffering a hangover following a historic run that saw them beat Roma, Inter and Atalanta in the space of seven days.

Gabriele Cioffi’s men were running riots at the Friuli Stadium while the hapless Rossoblu simply had no clue on how to halt their rampant hosts.

Udinese scored three goals courtesy of Roberto Pereyra, Martin Payero and Lorenzo Lucca, and they were undoubtedly the best side in the Italian weekend.

Flop (Team): Bologna

As we mentioned above, Bologna was surprisingly woeful in their away trip to Udine. Thiago Motta started his afternoon with a big grin on his face, but it gradually morphed into a look of bewilderment with every time his team conceded a goal.

The Emilians will certainly bounce back, sooner rather than later, but they would want to avoid these feeble showings against lowly opposition if they were to challenge the big boys for the European spots this season.

That being said, we must acknowledge the fact that the Rossoblu remain the biggest overachievers in Serie A thus far this season despite the atrocious outcome of Round 18.

Top (Goalkeeper): Michele Di Gregorio

Between Elia Caprile, Mike Maignan and Pietro Terracciano, we had several goalkeepers worthy of the mention. But in the end, Michele Di Gregorio gets the nod as he bounces back from a disappointing display last week to shut the gates against Napoli with a string of superb saves against Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and company.

The Monza goalkeeper reminded us all of his astonishing capablities between the sticks. His opposite number Alex Meret also earned his clean sheet by saving Matteo Pessina’s spot kick, but Di Gregorio certainly had the bulk of the highlights reel.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Yann Sommer

Yann Sommer collected more clean sheets that any other Serie A goalkeeper this campaign, but his display from Round 18 is one he’d want to put behind him as swiftly as possible.

Following Marko Arnautovic’s opener, Inter were supposedly heading towards a routine win over Genoa. But reminiscent to their encounter against Juventus, the Grifone drew level in front of their enchanted supporters with a powerful header from Radu Dragusin.

However, many would argue that the Swiss shot-stopper should have done better to parry the ball away. Sommer was able to get a hand on it, but his intervention was too weak to deny the Romanian defender.

Top (Assist): Dusan Vlahovic

Although he didn’t score a goal, Dusan Vlahovic may have ironically enjoyed his finest outing so far in the season against Roma,

The Serbian was lively and involved, and while Adrien Rabiot was the one who scored the solitary strike, it was the striker who provided the assist for the Frenchman with an astonishing backheel.

Juventus fans would certainly want to see this version of Vlahovic on display week in week out.

Top (Goal): Martin Payero

Slowly but surely, Martin Payero is winning over Udinese fans who weren’t too impressed by his performances at the start of the season but are now beginning to see what he can bring to the table.

The Argentine’s wonderful shot in the first half was behind Roberto Pereyra’s opener, with the latter pouncing on the rebound.

Yet, Payero was determined on leaving his mark with a goal of his own, and he eventually got his wish by smashing the volley home from the edge of the penalty box.

In a weekend that lacked goals in general, this one serves as the best strike in Serie A Round 18.

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