Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 22: Unrecognizable Lukaku

In what was another exciting long weekend in Italian football, the action began with Milan’s rebound victory over Torino on Friday night, and it ended with an stalemate between Sampdoria and Inter on Monday. This result allowed Napoli to extend their lead at the top of the table to 15 points, as Luciano Spalletti’s men now have one hand placed on the Scudetto trophy. Nonetheless, other interesting events occurred during the weekend, and we’ll try to recap the action by recognizing the Tops and Flops from Serie A Round 22.

Top (Player): Daniele Verde

While this section is usually occupied by the biggest stars in the league, it’s refreshing every now and then to give the nod for someone who plies his trade at a smaller club. Therefore, Daniele Verde is our best player from Serie A Round 22 after scoring a brace for Spezia against Empoli. While his first came from the spot, the second was an absolute scorcher.

Sadly for the Ligurians, they couldn’t maintain their numerical advantage nor their lead, as the Azzurri pulled off a comeback to rescue a point. But it remains a day to remember for the Roma youth product.

Flop (Player): Romelu Lukaku

Sadly for the player and the club, Romelu Lukaku has become a shade of the terrifying bomber who led Inter towards the Scudetto title in 2020/21.

Simone Inzaghi gave him a starting berth against Sampdoria ahead of the in-form Edin Dzeko, but the Belgian looked slow, uninspired and hardly a threat for the opposition.

Admittedly, his recent injury woes didn’t help, but surely the Nerazzurri are scratching their heads wondering what ever happened to the €100m star they sold to Chelsea less than two years ago.

Top (Coach): Raffaele Palladino

While Gian Piero Gasperini would have been a worthy selection, we picked one of his pupils instead, as Raffaele Palladino continues to amaze at Monza, with his latest exploit being an away victory over the in-form Bologna.

The Biancorossi didn’t just snatch the win, but were actually the more dangerous side throughout the match. But the most fascinating aspect about the Palladino experiment is the young manager’s ability to rotate his starting formation without ever jeopardizing the rhythm of his team.

Flop (Coach): Ivan Juric

From one Gasperini student to another. Although Ivan Juric is undoubtedly one of the best tacticians in Serie A, his starting formation against Milan left much to be desired in Round 22.

From thrusting 18-year-old Gvidas Gineitis in the middle of the park, to favoring Ricardo Rodriguez ahead of Megrim Vojvoda on the left, the Croatian’s risks didn’t pay off.

While he tried to made the right adjustments in the second half, the Rossoneri had grown with the match at that point, and snatched a crucial win thanks to Olivier Giroud’s header.

Top (Team): Atalanta

For the last 18 months or so, Atalanta had been suffering from an identity crisis. But with Gasperini at the wheel, this club can always create a winning formula once the dust settles. On Saturday, the Oribici displayed their superiority over Lazio who had no answer for their rampant visitors.

From Ademola Lookman to Giorgio Scalvini and Rasmus Hojlund, we might just be witnessing the rise of another superb generation in Bergamo.

Flop (Team): Fiorentina

Sadly for Fiorentina, the team has completely lost the script, and their league position doesn’t lie. The Tuscans’ hollow display against Juventus was another confirmation to their abysmal form, as they usually approach this fixture in particular with much more anger and determination.

Top (Goalkeeper): Wladimiro Falcone

In one of the most interesting results of Round 22, Roma settled for a draw against Serie A newcomers Lecce at the Via del Mare. José Mourinho’s men join a long list of top sides who failed to beat the resilient southerners at their fortress.

Although the visitors weren’t at their best, Wladimiro Falcone deserves a large chunk of the credit for denying Tammy Abraham and company with a series of superb saves. The custodian only conceded once, and that was spot kick from Paulo Dybala.

Top (Debut): Emanuele Vignato

On Saturday, Emanuele Viganato only needed a few minutes to become the new darling of the Carlo Castellani Stadium. The young Italo-Brazilian entered the pitch in the final minutes and maintained his composure to grab a last-gasp equalizer against Spezia on his Empoli debut.

What a start!

Flop (Jersey): Napoli

Ok let’s make a couple of things clear. We absolute love football (possibly more than anything else in dear life) while we also don’t mind Valentine’s Day.

But some things aren’t meant to be mixed, otherwise we end up with unsettlingly gigantic lips slapped over a hideous jersey which end up distracting our attention from what was actually another sublime display from the runaway Serie A leaders.

But then again, when did Aurelio De Laurentiis ever miss a marketing opportunity.

Top (Super-Sub): Eljif Elmas

Speaking of the league leaders, Eljif Elmas once proved to be the ultimate super-sub by scoring another fine goal after coming off the bench.

Yes, Napoli were already leading 2-0 at that point, with Cremonese never truly threatening the result, but the effectivity and clinical touch of the North Macedonian remains impressive. It’s also worth mentioning that our man even served in two different positions (midfielder and winger) during his second-half cameo.

If this was the NBA, he would have been recognized as the Best Sixth man by the end of the season.

Best 12th Man award in Serie A, anyone?

Top (Fans): Sampdoria

Kudos for Sampdoria fans who have stuck by the squad despite the troublesome times on and off the pitch. On Monday night, the supporters displayed their solidarity by cheering their players on from the first whistle to the last, prompting Dejan Stankovic’s men to give their all, and it eventually paid off.

Top (Goal): Davide Zappacosta

Perhaps the aforementioned Verde strike deserved the nod as well, but Davide Zappacosta scored what was simply the perfect goal, as his effortless yet stunning strike landed exactly in the top corner, leaving Ivan Provedel with absolutely no chance.

Not bad for a wingback!

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