Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 18: Napoli Steamroll Juventus

So this is the time of the week when we look back at the action from latest Serie A matchday and identify the best performers, as well as the most disappointing. But when the most anticipated clash of the weekend ends with one team dismantling the other in such an empathic fashion, then we surely have our work cut our for us. Nevertheless, we’ll attempt to make our choices slightly more interesting by adding other entries rather than solely focusing on those who took part in the demolition job at the Maradona Stadium. So let’s take a look at the Tops and Flops from Serie A Round 18.

Top (Player): Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

The Calcio weekend witnessed several impressive performances. For instance, Paulo Dybala, Gianluca Caprari, Ademola Lookman and Victor Osimhen all scored personal braces. However, this went down to a toss-up between Napoli’s Nigerian bomber and his equally-formidable teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

In the end, we opted for the outrageous left winger who embarrassed Juventus by scoring one, assisting two and prompting Osimhen’s opener with a fabulous acrobatic effort.

They don’t come any better than the Georgian sensation.

Flop (Player): Pierre Kalulu

Reminiscently to the last entry, the candidates were numerous for this unceremonious mention. For instance, Gleison Bremer had a true horror show against Napoli, committing several blunders in the process.

Yet, we decided to go with Pierre Kalulu for three reasons: One, he wasn’t facing top class opposition. Two, his howlers were uncalled for while Bremer was only one member of Juve’s shell-shocked defense. Three, you don’t want the Bianconeri to exclusively dominate the Flop sections.

Back to the Frenchman, his first blunder saw him give away the ball which led to Lecce’s opener, then he got his timing all wrong when jumping to clear the cross ahead of the second. Luckily for Milan, they managed to mount a comeback and come away with a draw, albeit an unsatisfying one.

Top (Manager): Gian Piero Gasperini

Although Luciano Spalletti is equally deserving of the recognition after orchestrating Napoli’s historic win over Juventus, we opted to give a shootout for Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini who oversaw his team’s 8-2 demolition job against Salernitana.

The Oribici had been losing the plot recently, but the manager seems to have found a new winning recipe since the second half of last week’s come-from-behind win over Bologna when he introduced the resurgent Jeremie Bogo in an attacking trio alongside Lookman and 19-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund.

Flop (Manager): Massimiliano Allegri

Following an awkward eight-match winning streak, all the hopes and momentum that Juventus had gathered in previous rounds came crashing at the Maradona Stadium. While the catastrophic 1-5 defeat is too large for one man to be held as the sole culprit, Massimiliano Allegri surely deserves a large chunk of the blame.

Between starting Federico Chiesa at wingback to fielding the uninspiring Weston McKennie in the middle of the park instead of Nicolò Fagioli and also allowing Napoli to have all the ball possession they need to inflict damage, it was an abysmal tactical performance from the Livorno native.

Top (Team): Napoli

We mentioned Kvara and Osimhen above, but their teammates also deserve some praise. From Stanislav Lobotka who effortlessly orchestrated the play in the middle of the park, to André-Frank Zambo Anguissa who nullified Adrien Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli, and let’s not forget about the criminally under-appreciated fullback duo of Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Mario Rui.

Flop (Team): Juventus

Sadly for Juventus, their defeat in Round 18 will go down in the history books as one of their worst showings ever in Serie A. Aside from Angel Di Maria who grabbed a goal while looking lively in the first half, the Bianconeri were in a shambolic state both individually and collectively.

Top (Goal): Ederson

Guillermo Ochoa is truly a special individual. There are few goalkeepers in the world who can concede eight goals in one match while still managing to save face.

But while the Mexican wasn’t particularly at fault in any of the goals that Salernitana conceded in Bergamo, Ederson’s wonderful strike from long-range is probably the one which deranged the custodian more than any other.

Flop (Management): Salernitana

Last season, Salernitana were quite literally in a hopeless state before the arrival of Davide Nicola. The southerners already had one leg in Serie B in the middle of the campaign. Nonetheless, the relegation battle expert stunningly led the club out of the abyss, pulling off a miraculous escape.

This season, the Granata had their ups and downs, but remain in the 16th position with a 9-point gap separating them from the relegation zone.

So despite the agonizing 2-8 defeat to Atalanta, the directors’ hasty decision to sack Nicola remains both perplexing and dangerous, and they could live to regret it.

Top (Upset): Torino vs Spezia

Any Serie A weekend would fall flat without at least one stunning upset, so thankfully for Round 18, Spezia did the part. The Ligurians came away with all three points from their visit to Torino much to the dismay of Ivan Juric, as M’Bala Nzola’s spot kick proved to be the lone difference between the two sides.

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