Another Serie A season is in the books, and that means it’s time for a peninsula-wide reflection. Who better to ask for their calcio knowledge than the Midtable Experts™, who you may remember from this article back in December. A big thanks to Shango and IZCheek for their time (even though they’re both Milan fans and seemed a bit too comfortable pointing that out this season).
Q: Let’s start with a big one. What were the biggest surprises of the 21/22 season? Any major takeaways from the last 38 rounds of action?
IZCheek: The biggest surprise of the season was without a shadow of a doubt Salernitana staying up. In January after the winter market, Nicola stated they had a 7% chance of staying up and that still seemed laughably high. To then pull it off and clinch their survival makes it one of the greatest escape stories ever. On the opposite side of the surprise coin, Atalanta. Recently a perennial contender and started off the season as very popular dark horse for the Scudetto, La Dea fizzled out in spectacular fashion. Injuries and departures plagued the club from Bergamo who finished the season outside of the European spots.
The major takeaways of the last 38 rounds: the Milan clubs are without a shadow of a doubt better than the rest and Atalanta’s next season will be a make-or-break season for them being a top team.
Shango: There are many big surprises this season, Tudor turning Hellas into a real team, Atalanta’s decline, Cagliari actually getting relegated, and Salernitana doing the almighty revival. The biggest surprise is Milan actually winning the Scudetto. I fell down onto my knees in my house, it was never taken seriously, fans didn’t believe.
David: Salernitana’s revival is the obvious pick, but for good reason. It seemed like a blessing to the league when the odds of their immediate disqualification in January grew. Few teams in recent memory were as hapless and unwatchable as Salernitana in the first half of the season. Attacking seemed like a foreign word to the Granata and the talent on the squad was clearly Serie B level. And yet, football is a crazy sport. That made Salernitana’s revival all the more amazing and we won’t see anything like it anytime soon.
Q: Are there any midtable players that should make a jump to a big club this summer, or at the very least be on the radar of the top seven other than the usual suspects (Bremer, Berardi, etc)?
IZCheek: Hellas Verona is hoarding an immense amount of attacking talent. Every single one of Caprari, Lazovic, and Barak could improve practically every team in the league. A player who already jumped ship this season, Ricci, is another huge talent who can move to a club contending for European spots, it’s not a surprise that his departure coincided with a tremendously less threatening Empoli side. Other players who can make the jump include Hamed Traore, Barrow, Singo, and Udogie.
Shango: Yes, many. Udogie, Molina, Hickey, Scamacca, Makengo, Ederson (ideally would love him to stay longer to show the world he isn’t a six-month wonder signing), Ostigard, Cambiaso, Parisi, Viti, Asllani, Schouten, and Big Willy Singo.
David: Empoli has a number of talented young defenders that would be great backups at top clubs, or even starters in the right spot: Vicario (a goalkeeper), Parisi, and Viti. As for midfielders, I really like Ederson, Frattesi (though he probably should stay at Sassuolo for at least six months), and Hamed Traore. Up front, Udinese’s strike pair of Beto and Deulofeu would be upgrades over most big clubs’ backups.
Q: Who is your league MVP, best goalkeeper, best defender, best midfielder, and best attacker?
IZCheek: Best keeper: The eagle Mike Maignan. Best defender: Skriniar. Best midfielder: Brozo. Best attacker (and MVP): Rafael Leao
Shango: MVP - Rafael Alexandre da Conceição Leão. He stood tall on the mountain head high, chin engulfed in flames, heart pounding. He performed at the key moments this year. Enough said. Best goalkeeper - Marco Silvestri. Best defender - Bremer. When you see Bremer, one word. Him. But he’ll end up being a flop at Inter #talksoon
The best midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa. A midfielder must be able to pass, be press resistant, and can defend to a high volume, and Anguissa does that to an elite standard. Best attacker, unfortunately, Immobile, even though I’ve only ever seen him score two goals he’s the capocannoniere and gets his flowers.
David: Keeper - Maignan. Defender - Skriniar. Midfielder - Brozovic. Attacker - Immobile. MVP - Leao
Who should be the Coach of the Season?
IZCheek: The man on fire, Stefano Pioli.
Shango: Stefano Pioli. Firstly, he’s bald. Secondly, he respects his baldness. Thirdly, he won the Scudetto. The man literally won the league in a respectable and honorable fashion (expected points says otherwise, but who cares!)
David: It’s got to be Pioli. He got a team that started one of Alexis Saelemakers or Junior Messias almost every game to win the title, not to mention Milan’s plethora of injuries and the improvement of a number of young players under Pioli’s watch.
Q: What’s your Serie A best XI, composed entirely of players from teams 8th and below?
IZCheek: I’ll spread the players chosen so it’s not just 8-10th, but there will be a skew for obvious reason. Cragno; Molina, Bremer, Medel, Demiral, Hickey; Ricci, Koopmeiners; Caprari, Berardi, Deulofeu (5-2-3)
Shango: Provedel; Hickey, Bremer, Carboni, Molina; Lopez, Lukic; Caprari, Barak, Verde; Beto (4-2-3-1)
David: Vicario; Udogie, Bremer, Demiral, Molina; Lukic, Frattesi, Ederson; Caprari, Simeone, Berardi (4-3-3)
Q: Who were your most improved players of the season?
Shango: There are many improved players, too many in fact. But we’ll start with the obvious Bremer, who went from a clown under Giampaolo and Nicola (until the last two games) to a somewhat more composed high volume bulldozer of a defender. There’s Scamacca, a thug that didn’t get many shots into a thug with a lot more shot-taking opportunities in him. Igor at Fiorentina has stepped up too, some more work is needed though.
Ederson at Salernitana went from the ordinary DM that can tackle and nothing else at Corinthians to drastically improving in his dribbling and ball-carrying ability. Maxime Lopez - I’m not a fan of registas personally but Lopez has stepped up massively. Being short isn’t easy, but he’s made it work this season, albeit he needs more consistency as he can get bodied at times but passing quality has improved, defensive actions too. Ideal vice-Brozovic if Inzaghi is too scared to give Agoume the keys.
Lucas Torreira, Deulofeu massively, Udogie, Shouten, and Fabian Ruiz (back to his best after a certain coach held him back making him do things he’s not supposed to do!) also improved.
Q: Any random last thoughts on the past season? What to look forward to in August while we suffer through the next few calcio-less months?
IZCheek: One of the greatest seasons that I have ever watched and that’s beside the fact that I am a Milan fan. Had one of the greatest escapes, a tantalizing title race that had 3 teams competing until April. It’s been years since the last time that there was so much to fight near the final and penultimate game weeks.
I’m looking forward to the transfer market and hoping for managerial appointments that don’t rely on the archaic carousel.
David: Obviously this season didn't end the way we wanted from an Inter perspective but it sure was a (mostly) fun ride. It was the most competitive season I’ve had the luxury of watching and next season already is shaping up to be an epic encore.