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Italian football column: Struggling Parma, improving Udinese and more

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Rhys Montanarello analyses and gives his opinion here on the talking points in Italian football.

Higuain Stram

Higuain and Hamsik ease the pressure on Benitez

Napoli battered a struggling Verona this weekend by a shocking 6-2 scoreline, and the Neapolitans will be thrilled to see star players Higuain and Hamsik back on the scoresheet domestically. Higuain had not scored a goal all season in Serie A, but earned a hat trick for his efforts against Verona, with two well taken finishes and a penalty kick. In addition, captain Marek Hamsik bagged his first two Serie A goals of the season, as well as picking up an assist.

This match could prove crucial to the confidence of both players, and manager Rafa Benitez will be hoping that this match will reignite the spark that his side have seemed to be lacking in recent weeks in order to push them back up into a more respectable position in the Serie A table, as they currently sit in 7th. Their next three matches include fixtures against Atalanta, Roma and Fiorentina, so they will have to be firing on all cylinders in order to maximize their point outcome over the coming weeks. But coming away with positive results should not be a difficult task; especially with the high-flying Jose Callejon currently leading the league in goals with seven, and stalwart defender Koulibaly impressing since his arrival, but Rafa has shown this season that he is fully capable of underperforming with a talented squad, and he needs to turn that around in order to please De Laurentis.

Stramaccioni’s eye for talent pushing Udinese forward

Udinese have been one of the surprise packages of this season, and they continued their successful start this week with a 2-0 win over Atalanta, leaving them in a comfortable third place in the table. Stramaccioni has transformed the side we were disappointed with last season, and has revamped the squad with a multitude of shrewd signings; including the likes of Cyril Thereau, Panagiotis Kone, and Guilherme. Thereau, long one of Serie A’s most underrated strikers with Chievo, was finally plucked from the depths of relegation dogfights and given a shot with a bigger side. He has proven to be a good fit alongside Toto Di Natale, and has already bagged three goals, including one vs Atalanta.

In addition to Thereau, two new South Americans have enjoyed strong starts to their time in Udine. Guilherme has formed a fantastic partnership with fellow Brazilian Allan in the heart of midfield, patrolling in front of the back line and launching attacks with the aid of his partner’s bursting movements. In addition, former Roma player Ivan Piris is building momentum on the left side of midfield.However, this season has brought about similar struggles for the injury-prone Luis Muriel, who despite having appeared in all eight matchesthis season, has only been able to record one assist during his less than stellar performances. While he is still only 23, he is going to have to find some form soon if he hopes to have a future in the side, especially with new arrival Thereau proving to be such a reliable option up top.

As the season progresses, Stramaccioni will hope to carry this run of good form and with other exciting prospects such as Bruno Fernandes, Stevan Widmer, and Simone Scuffet, the future looks bright in northern Italy.

Parma collapse yet again

To say that the start to the season has been one to forget for Parma would be an understatement. Donadoni’s men have lost every match this season except for a 2-3 win over Chievo, and it does not seem like things will be improving any time soon, as they fell to Sassuolo 1-3 at home this past weekend. Despite possessing one of the top scoring strikers in the league (Cassano with five goals), they remain nothing but a shadow of the side that went on that stunning 17-game unbeaten run last season which saw them finish in sixth place above the likes of Udinese, Lazio, and Milan.

When they were denied a UEFA license due to economic struggles and were replaced by Torino in the Europa League it seemed like a travesty, but now it seems a blessing to the league as a whole, because this Parma side in European competition would have had a detrimental effect on Italy’s coefficient, that is if they had surpassed qualifying. Donadoni’s head will surely be joining other struggling managers on the chopping block, and he has a great deal of work to do in order to restore even a minimal sense of pride in this abysmal side.

Talent Radar player of the week

While Inter did not put on a stunning goal scoring display this weekend, they racked up an important 0-1 win over newcomers Cesena, and at the heart of their midfield rested Mateo Kovacic, a player truly coming into his own element this season. He completed 90% of his passes this weekend (81/90), and made six successful dribbles, four more than any other Inter player. His penetrative runs and delicious through balls have proved a valuable asset to Walter Mazzarri, and he has been on a scintillating run of form this season that will only help him progress closer to his massive potential.

Written by Rhys Montanarello.

Rhys Montanarello

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