5 Top Under-the-Radar Performances from Serie A's Opening Weekend
The Serie A season finally kicked off this past weekend. As usual, there were some headline-grabbing performances.
From Antonio Di Natale's brace against Empoli to Kingsley Coman's stellar Juventus debut to Stephan El Shaarawy's reemergence as a force in Filippo Inzaghi's new scheme, there were some spectacular storylines for the media to chirp about.
There were also some excellent performances that didn't get the same amount of attention from the tabloids but were equally as important to their team securing results.
Today this space will be devoted to the players who put in excellent minutes but weren't necessarily in the headlines. Here, in no particular order are the five best under-the-radar performances from Week 1.
Udinese were propelled to an opening-night victory by Toto Di Natale's brace. The Friuli outfit's captain now has five goals in his last two games, but the best player on the field overall was positioned further back.
Twenty-three-year-old midfielder Allan played so well all-around that WhoScored.com named him their man of the match over Di Natale.
It was a well-deserved accolade. The Brazilian excelled in all areas of the game as the regista in Andrea Stramaccioni's 3-5-2 scheme.
From an attacking standpoint (again from WhoScored), he hit the target with one out of two shots, completed four dribbles and drew three fouls. As an orchestrator, he completed an impressive 93 percent of his passes and eight of 10 long balls.
It was defensively that he truly shone. He tallied six tackles and an interception while clearing two balls. His work in midfield kept defensive trio Maurizio Domizzi, Thomas Heurtaux, and Danilo relatively clean and initiated Udinese's moves forward.
A truly sterling performance from a guy who has very quietly become one of the best holding midfielders in Serie A. If his passing could develop into an asset comparable to his defense and he turns into a true regista, he could become one of the most valuable players in the league. Brazilians who saw their midfield and defense get ripped apart in the World Cup should take notice of this youngster.
Federico Peluso had been used as wing-back depth for the last two years at Juventus, so it was easy to forget that he made his name at Atalanta as a pure left-back.
He reminded everyone of that on Sunday. Keeping watch over Sassuolo's left flank, he had the best day of any player at that position in the league.
WhoScored.com recorded Peluso as notching three tackles, four interceptions and a team-high 14 clearances—all of them effective—in Sunday's draw against Cagliari. He also won four of the six aerial duels he engaged in.
Sassuolo's Achilles' heel a year ago was their defense. If Peluso can continue to effectively patrol the left and Luca Antei develops further in the centre, they could entertain hopes of avoiding the relegation fight this year.
Inter had a disappointing debut to the season but top midfielder Hernanes had an impressive start.
According to WhoScored, the Brazilian international unleashed four shots—hitting the target with one—and made two key passes. He completed 85 percent of his passes overall and also made an important contribution on defense—three tackles, one interception and two blocked shots.
Positioned next to Mateo Kovacic as a two-pronged midfield line directly behind Mauro Icardi, Hernanes is likely to be asked to contribute to the attack in a major way. Judging by these numbers, he'll be able to fill that requirement rather well.
Quite possibly the best midfield performance of the weekend came from newly-promoted Cesena.
Emmanuel Cascione was owned by Parma last season but played with the Seahorses on loan. Cesena made the move permanent, and on Sunday the 30-year-old showed the Crusaders why they should've given him a better look.
His statline on WhoScored is impressive indeed. He hit the target with one of two shots and completed 86 percent of his passes. What was truly impressive, though, was his defensive contribution.
Cascione notched three interceptions, four clearances and a whopping eight tackles tracking back, adding in a blocked shot for good measure.
Parma managed to put only one of their 12 shots on target on Sunday, and Cascione's efforts were a major contribution to the nullification of Roberto Donadoni's attack.
If he can continue to help keep his defense and keeper clean, Cesena may have a chance at staying up at season's end.
Martin Caceres is one of the most overlooked players in the league. When Juventus suffered an injury crisis in their back three a year ago, the Uruguay international made it seem like there was barely a drop-off from the starters.
With Andrea Barzagli recovering from a heel injury and Giorgio Chiellini serving out the last two games of a three-game suspension, Caceres has once again been asked to keep the back three solid, and he again answered the call exquisitely.
WhoScored clocked him at four tackles—joint second on the team—one interception and three clearances. He also completed 87 percent of his passes from the back. He didn't let himself get placed into any desperate situations and did a good job linking the defense with more advanced players.
He wasn't a slouch going forward, either. His pullback header on Carlos Tevez's sixth-minute corner put the ball into a dangerous scrum, and Cristiano Biraghi ended up knocking the ball into his own net. In the 44th minute he got onto the end of a cross following a short corner and slammed it against the crossbar—one of three balls Juve hit off the woodwork in their opener.
If Caceres keeps playing like this, it could leave Massimiliano Allegri with a difficult decision to make when Andrea Barzagli returns from his injury.