Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 21: Juventus Soar, De Rossi Makes Triumphant Return

With four Italian clubs vying for the Italian Super Cup in Riyadh (congrats to Inter, by the way) the Serie A action was reduced to a depleted matchday. But what the league action lacked in terms of numbers, it certainly made up for it with its enticing goal-packed encounters, producing the good, the bad, and unfortunately, the ugly. So let’s review the most intriguing events from the six Serie A weekend matches while revealing the Tops and Flops from Round 21.

Top (Player): Szymon Zurkowski

Perhaps the fewer number of fixtures maximized Szymon Zurkowski’s chances of crowning himself as the Alpha Male of Serie A Round 21, but even with a full fixture list, his hattrick would have probably been enough to get him the nod regardless.

After spending the first portion of the season with Serie B side Spezia, the Pole’s return to Empoli (where he had first made a name for himself on Italian soil) might wind up being the decisive factor that changes their campaign for the better, or at least this is what the early signs suggest.

The midfielder put Monza to the sword by scoring all three goals in Sunday’s 3-0 win which boosted the Tuscans’ chances of avoiding relegation, while raising his own tally to four strikes in just two Serie A appearances.

Talk about glorious homecomings!

Flop (Player) Matteo Lovato

Not so long ago, Matteo Lovato was considered among the most promising young defenders in Italian football, prompting Atalanta to invest in his services following his breakthrough at Verona.

At the age of 23, the Italian remains relatively young, but seeing him fulfill his initial promise is becoming increasingly less likely at this point with every disappointing outing like the one he delivered in Round 21.

The centre-back cost Salernitana the points by giving away a penalty to Genoa which proved to be the Granata’s bane in what was deemed to be a must-win-fixture.

The Southerners’ chances of producing a great escape are shrinking with every passing week, and so are Lovato’s chances of reaching stardom.

Top (Manager): Daniele De Rossi

Well, this might be an encouraging mention, but Daniele De Rossi is our Top Serie A manager from Round 21 after making a winning debut on his glorious return to Roma.

Yes, the capital side’s display wasn’t exactly perfect, and it came at the expense of a squad that is being systemically decimated due to a severe financial crisis. However, the Giallorossi displayed promising signs under the guidance of the legendary captain who opted for a more progressive 4-3-3 formation.

While DDR still needs to refine his tactical system, the 2-1 win over Verona will serve as an important cornerstone for what could develop into a memorable spell.

Flop (Manager): Claudio Ranieri

From one proud Roman to another. Claudio Ranieri has been working wonders since taking charge of Cagliari, but the veteran coach clearly lost the tactical battle to Frosinone coach Eusebio Di Francesco this time around, with the latter avenging the famous 3-4 defeat from the reverse fixture.

While Di Francesco’s substitutions (mainly Abou Harroui and Kaio Jorge) helped turn the tide in the Canarini’s favor, Ranieri opted for defensive introductions and ended up paying the price for his cautious approach, with the Isolani squandering their lead to suffer a 1-3 defeat in a significant direct encounter.

Top (Team): Juventus

From Dusan Vlahovic’s brace to Gleison Bremer’s defensive prowess and everyone else in between, Juventus produced a marvelous second-half display to prevail at the Via del Mare and seize the top spot – albeit with an additional match over Inter.

A major test awaits Massimiliano Allegri’s men at the Giuseppe Meazza on the 4th of February, as they’ll be hosted by Inter for a nerve-racking Derby d’Italia.

But at the moment, the Bianconeri are proving to be every bit of a Scudetto challenger, whether Allegri wants to admit it or not.

Flop (Team): Monza

Monza probably took the field at the Carlo Castellani expecting to emerge victorious over their struggling hosts Empoli, but their defensive blunders allowed Zurkowski to score thrice, while the Biancorossi’s attacking unit failed to convert their chances.

With heavy back-to-back defeats, Raffaele Palladino will surely return to the drawing board and perhaps introduce some adjustments in the coming weeks.

Top (Goalkeeper): Stefano Turati

We mentioned how Frosinone managed to turn the table against Cagliari above, but their comeback would have been impossible without Stefano Turati who pulled off a series of impressive saves that secured three invaluable points for the Serie B champions.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Rui Patricio

Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio should have done better on Michel Folorunsho’s long-range shot, as he had enough time to anticipate it. While he managed to put a hand to it, he couldn’t parry it away, thus blemishing what could have been a more convincing debut for Daniele De Rossi in the dugout.

Flop: Anti-Racism Protocol

While discussing such subjects isn’t something that we relish, it’s also our duty to tackle the topics that matter, and unfortunately for Italian football as a whole, racism once again reared its ugly head, continuing to taint a country that was once deemed to be a genuine “Football Paradise”.

But what’s making the scene even more scandalous is the insertion of an anti-racism protocol that is apparently based on the notion of imposing a “time-out” to cool down the atmosphere before resuming play and pretending all is well rather than taking any severe measures, as evidenced by the fashion in which the debacle in Udine was dealt with when a section of the home supporters hurled racial slurs and noises towards Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

These procedures are unlikely to prompt any significant progress or guide Italian football towards the right path and they surely won’t help prevent further similar incidents, sadly.

Top (Match): Udinese vs Milan

Aside from the despicable acts mentioned above, the clash between Udinese and Milan was a back-and-forth glorious chaos. While the majority of the goals were scrappy, we still witnessed five strikes, two comebacks and a last-gasp winner courtesy of Noah Okafor.

It’s a shame that this encounter will forever be remembered for the infamous interruption.

Top (Goal): Michael Folorunsho

Even though Rui Patricio should have saved the shot, it shouldn’t take anything away from Folosunsho’s wonderful solo effort. The Verona midfielder skipped past two Roma players before firing an ambitious shot from downtown.

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