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Serie A

The Future of Serie A

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Over the past few years, the glamour and spice of Serie A has gradually been deteriorating. The Italian top flight was the hub of European football just a few years ago, where players dreamt of playing. Teams that were flying top of the league, and competing in the Champions League have now found themselves falling to mid table. But the Italians have a strong hope of a comeback, with the youth that are coming through the ranks. These youngsters have been showing huge promise with their respective clubs and look to break through into the first team in the next few months. And with the Premier League having a history of importing talent from Italy, I have a look at which English club they would suit.

Jorginho

Brazilian born central midfielder Jorginho has represented Italy at the vast majority of youth ranks following his families migration during his childhood. Starting his career at Verona, he had two incredible seasons, playing a big part in their promotion before proving himself in Serie A. A number of the big clubs were interested at the end of this debut season in the top flight. Napoli won the chase and signed the 20-year-old at the beginning of the 2014/15 season. Since, he has broken into the first team and has impressed. Clearly, there is a huge potential in Jorginho and his excellent distribution and vision has seen him play an intricate part of the Napoli team. However, his weakness has been exploited this season, as at times he has been seen as physically weak, but we have certainly seen a glimpse of his future.

Premier League team: Manchester United. Jorginho would fit in well at Manchester United in the future, an Ander Herrera like player, he suits their style, formation and style of play. He would definitely add some spark from the central midfield areas for the Red Devils.

Alvaro Morata

Again, 22-year-old Morata has broken into the Juventus first team this season. The Spanish striker joined from Real Madrid in the summer for a hefty fee of 20 Million Euro. The Spaniard has represented his country at all youth levels and has already made two first team appearances, and he already looks to be a player with a huge future both at club and international level. Standing at 6ft 3in, he’s a big presence in the box, and is incredibly dangerous in the air. After coming through the Real Madrid academy, he made 37 appearances for them and netting 10 times, before sealing a move to the Serie A leaders last summer. In his debut season so far, he has appeared in 17 games and has scored 5 goals, whcih has showed fans in Italy that he is up to the challenge, and has shown glimpses of his goalscoring ability.

Premier League team: Any. Morata has shown that he can fit in anywhere. It is pretty certain that this trend would continue in the Premier League, and that he would be a perfect snap for any Premier League team wanting a goalscorer.

Domenico Berardi

20-year-old attacker Domenico Berardi has been spending the last two seasons on loan to his team of origin, Sassuolo, from Juventus. Berardi can play in pretty much any attacking position, and has been playing down the left, right and centre for Sassuolo. The Italian has also represented his country at U21, and has impressed when playing. He came through Sassuolo’s academy, before being bought by Juventus for 4.5 Million Euro. However, Juventus loaned him back to Sassuolo for two years, where he has impressed even further for them, scoring 21 goals in his stay. In his time he has shown that he can finish chances as well as create them and he also has built up a reputation of being a set piece specialist. However, he has been seen as quite weak on the ball, but this can be worked on. It is likely that he will join Juventus next year and play regularly for them.

Premier League team: Spurs. A Christian Eriksen like player, he would fit in well at Spurs, playing in their style. He looks like a Spurs type of player and in my opinion, would be a revelation in the Premier League.

Mateo Kovacic

20-year-old Kovacic has been a sensation at Inter, having already made 60 appearances for them. His form at club level alerted his international side, Croatia, and is also a regular in the Croatian national team, still at the tender age of 20. A central midfielder, who also plays as a holding midfielder, he has netted 4 times for Inter in his stay, after joining from Dynamo Zagreb. It was at Zagreb where his career started, and at a very early age, he was making appearances for their first team. However, in 2013 Inter Milan signed him and has really impressed. He has already been tipped for really big things in the game, and some even say that he has the potential to be the worlds next top player. Big Premier League clubs have been interested in him, including Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Premier League team: Manchester United. Having been linked with them for a move, he would also fit in to their system, much like Jorginho. A very astute dribbler and passer, he has the glamour to make the cut for Louis Van Gaal’s side.

Keita Balde Diao

19-year-old winger, Keita, has already broken into the first team at Lazio. The Spanish speedster started his career at the Barcelona academy, but after an incident in their youth ranks he was loaned to Cornella as a punishment when he was just 15 years old. Barcelona then refused to accept him back into their youth side, so Lazio pounced. In the last two seasons he has been extremely successful, playing in 35 games, and scoring 5. He has shown that already he has a lot to offer the Serie A side, so the best is yet to come with Keita. He is extremely pacey, and can get down the wing fast, but to really get to the top level he needs to improve his crossing. He usually plays as a left winger, as he can cut inside well, but at times he has been utilised as a right winger.

Premier League team: Arsenal. Rumours in the past have linked Arsene Wenger with a move for Keita, and it would make sense as his style of play fits Arsenal. His creative ability needs to be worked on but he has the potential to be a big star.

M’Baye Niang

The 20-year-old French winger is an U21 Regular for the French and same with Keita, he can play on either wing. He has even been played as an out and out striker by Genoa. His dribbling and crossing skills are both very strong, and he can finish chances very well. He came through French side Caen’s academy, before joining Milan. Since, Milan have sent him on loan back to France at Montpellier, and most recently Genoa. Where in his second game he scored a brace to help in their 5-2 win over Verona. From 2012 he has also played in 30 games for AC Milan, but looks to have a huge future ahead of him. Under all the depression of Milan’s downfall, at least Niang provides a fresh spark.

Premier League Team: Southampton. He seems like a perfect Southampton player, he is fast, quick and can finish. Southampton are known to like a fast winger, and Niang can show this.

Alessio Romagnoli

The 20-year-old centre-back has been on loan at Sampdoria from Roma and has represented Italy at U21 level. He has been at Roma for his whole youth career and played 13 games for them last season. However, this season he was shipped out on loan to Sampdoria where he has played a huge part in Sampdoria’s impressive first half of the season. His defensive work has been brilliant, and for a 20 year old, his composure has been extremely impressive. He has shown maturity in his defensive work and standing at 6ft 2 inches, he’s strong and is dangerous in the air.

Premier League Team: Manchester City. The defender would fit in well at City, as he is a centre-back made to star in their back four, which has been weak in the past few seasons.

Mauro Icardi

Finally, 21 year old striker Mauro Icardi is probably the single best youngster in Serie A. Icardi was at Barcelona from 2008-2011 as a youth player, before joining Sampdoria in 2011. Here he broke into the first team at just 19 years old. He made 33 appearances and scored 11 goals in Serie A, where he was spotted and bought by Inter for a reported fee of 12 Million Euro. However, he did not disappoint at The Old Lady scoring 22 goals in 44 games. The Argentinian striker has already made an appearance for his country following representation at all youth levels. His finishing and pace have both been huge factors in his hype this year.

Premier League Team: Chelsea. Chelsea is a clear Premier League Team for Icardi, seeing as Chelsea have made clear interest in the last few months. However, they face tough competition from Manchester United, as the big guns battle it out for the wonderkid.

A struggling QPR fan that still travels the country supporting the team, for some unknown reason.

Crystal Palace

Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
Photo: Getty Images

31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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AC Milan

Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.

They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.

These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.

Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.

The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.

Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.

Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.

Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.

The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.

It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.

When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.

If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.

There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.

Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.

It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.

It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.

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Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley

Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.

Rob Meech

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Tottenham
Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.

First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..

Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart

So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.

With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.

Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit

Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.

Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.

In-form Son strikes again for Spurs

The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.

Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.

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