Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 18: Mourinho Outwits Gasperini

In the penultimate matchday of 2021, Serie A fans enjoyed another exciting weekend filled with six pointers all over the table. In the most prestigious battles of the weekend, Roma and Napoli both came away with valuable wins from their trips to the North, at the expense of their respective Lombardian hosts Atalanta and Milan. These results allowed Inter to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points and officially crown themselves as the unofficial “Winter Champions”. So let’s check out all the tops and flops from Serie A round 18.

Top (Player): Gerard Deulofeu

This weekend, several players deserve an honorable mention. From Juan Jesus and Amir Rrahmani who secured the victory for Napoli with their masterclass defending, to Davide Frattesi who provided a goal and assist for Sassuolo in Florence and even Tammy Abraham with his brace for Roma.

However, Udinese’s Gerard Deulofeu’s skills proved to be too much for Cagliari to handle. The Spaniard just oozes class, and showcased his talent once again with a spectacular brace.

The former Barcelona and Milan man should earn another crack at top level football if he continues to deliver such performances on a regular basis.

Flop (Manager): Gian Piero Gasperini

Gian Piero Gasperini is certainly one of the best managers in Italian football. He even has a claim for being the absolute best in the last decade.

However, José Mourinho outmaneuvered him on the way for a 4-1 victory in round 18 in a direct battle for a Serie A top four spot.

Even though Berat Djimsiti was struggling the back, taking out the defender in the middle of the first half in favor of Luis Muriel proved to be counter-productive.

Surely the Colombian was behind La Dea’s lone goal, but their defense was left exposed while Roma were simply happy to sit back and punish them on the counter.

Top (Manager): Luciano Spalletti

As we mentioned above, the Special One’s shrewd approach certainly deserves some recognition. However, Luciano Spalletti edges him out following an impeccable performance at the San Siro Stadium.

The Napoli tactician had to do with a completely depleted squad, fielding a barely recognizable starting XI in the absence of Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne, Fabian Ruiz and Victor Osimhen.

The veteran manager even left out Dries Mertens in favor of the physically-stronger Andrea Petagna, which paid off as well.

When the Partenopei were beginning the lose the possession battle in the second half, he introduced Stanislav Lobotka who helped in maintaining the ball.

Even though the Rossoneri had their moments, Spalletti’s grand work absolutely nullified their main sources of danger.

Top (Team): Inter

Reminiscently to last week, Inter feasted on the corpse on another doomed club. Simone Inzaghi’s men are simply running away with the Serie A lead while their main chasers were exchanging blows in round 18.

Once again, picking the star of the show would be unfair towards the rest of the crew, so we just have to give it up for the whole squad following their 5-0 demolition over Salernitana.

Flop (Team): Cagliari

Last week, we decided to turn a blind eye on Cagliari’s routing at the hands of Inter. After all, they were facing the reigning champions away from home.

But conceding four unanswered goals while hosting Udinese is just inexcusable for Walter Mazzarri and his men.

One can understand why a technically-limited Salernitana is lying at rock-bottom, or even Genoa’s current struggles with Andriy Shevchenko, but for a squad that contains talent all over the pitch and led by a vastly experience manager, the Isolani’s woeful campaign is beyond explanation.

Top (Maneuver): Near Post Corner Kicks

For the second week in a row, Hakan Calhanoglu delivered a corner kick to the near post that was neatly headed home by a teammate (it was Ivan Perisic this time).

Now it appears that this trick is catching fire and was picked up by Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski who provided the assist for Eljif Elmas’ winner in a similar manner.

Goalkeepers and defenses better start looking out for this maneuver.