The weird and wonderful first half of the 2021–22 Serie A season

By Frank Risorto

To say it’s been an eventful first half of the 2021-22 Serie A season, both on and off the field, would be an understatement.

Inter wrestling back top spot whilst saying goodbye to Antonio Conte and co, the Udinese and Salernitana COVID-19 debacle (it’s still happening!), Andrea Pirlo coming and then going, Claudio Ranieri’s farewell, Jose Mourinho’s return, ridiculously high scoring draws and late comebacks and yes, Antonio Candreva playing the house down.

In the words of the Bruce McAvaney, ‘I could keep going and going’, but I won’t.

So, with the Serie A season at its halfway point join me on a weird and wonderful run through some useless Serie A information across the first half of the season.

All stats courtesy of FBRef.com.

Long live the tackle king of Empoli.

What do Theo Hernandez, Matthijs de Ligt, and Stefan de Vrij have in common?

Nothing, however, combine their successful tackle count for the season so far and they’re still not close to the 2021’s tackle king, Empoli’s Petar Stojanovic.

We highlighted the defender, who’s a nine-time league Champion, as one to watch earlier this season, and Stojanovic who has made 65 successful tackles allowing Empoli to win back possession on 48 of those 65 occasions.

A rare sighting. Stojanovic not tackling his opposition.

Joining the Slovenian in the top 20 for winning back possession through tackles are team-mates Nicolas Haas and Samuele Ricci (24 tackles where Empoli have directly won back possession).

Having proved Empoli can match it Serie A this season perhaps the Tuscan side are quietly aiming for a top ten finish rather than just securing another season in Italy’s topflight?

The Interceptor

No, it’s not the new Marvel character, rather Torino’s highly sought-after defender (and shameless plug as another we flagged to watch) Gleison Bremer.

Now in his fourth season with Torino Turin, the Brazilian was a statistical darling prior to this season and he’s continued his fine ways topping the league with 75 interceptions, and surprise, leads the league in tackle and interceptions on 105 occasions.

Torino’s one man back-five Gleison Bremer.

The Brazilian who I’ve deemed ‘a one man back five’ has more interceptions than Inter Milan’s Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar, Matteo Darmian, Federico Dimarco and Alessandro Bastoni combined.

Whether his all action game is through his own volition or Torino’s defensive capabilities one thing’s sure, the Brazilian’s timing cannot be questioned.

Born offside

Speaking of timing.

No, it’s not Filippo Inzaghi, it’s Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Caputo who has been caught offside more than anyone this season on 25 occasions.

Francesco Caputo, the offside king.

Incredibly he’s been caught offside more times than the rest of his entire Sampdoria team-mates combined.

That’s correct, you read that right.

Caputo has been caught offside than every other player combined, not named Caputo, who’s played for Sampdoria across the first 19 matchdays.

If only arbitration existed

Don’t quote me on this one … but in the world of Major League Baseball if a player and club disagree on a salary or contractual value, and the player has at least three years of service time, both parties then duke it out in a court of salary arbitration to decide the players value.

If this existed in Italian football, just for a moment imagine the chaos that would ensue, then Genoa would already be offering Andrea Cambiaso a long-term deal to avoid arbitration.

Cambiaso with the ball at his feet, a familiar sight in Genoa.

Cambiaso has four assists this season, as many as Theo Hernandez, Paolo Dybala and Lorenzo Insigne, and the 21-year-old has more direct passes that led to a goal than a few notable names including Luis Alberto, Jeremie Boga, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo.

Cambiaso’s progressive carries forward and dribbles are pushing the 90th percentile and defensively he’s no slouch either using his speed to his advantage to top Genoa’s defensive pressure and block counts.

And all this in his first full season of Serie A.

If Cambiaso can keep up this career trajectory he could be wearing the Azzurri shirt before he dons the colours of another Serie A club.

Italy’s Ironman

No, it’s not Cal Ripken, it’s not even Robert Downey Jr, it’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

The Napoli and Italy fullback has been ever present for Napoli across the first 19 matchdays, the only outfield player to do so.

Serie A’s ironman Giovanni Di Lorenzo

Fresh from renewing his contract until 2026, Di Lorenzo has form in this area.

Since Di Lorenzo made his debut with Empoli in 2017–18, out of 190 possible league appearances he has only missed 10 games.

Cagliari’s Joao Pedro falls short of joining Di Lorenzo at the top of the ‘outfield minutes played’ table by a measly three minutes thanks to being substituted against Lazio earlier this season.

Who’s the opposite of Ironman?

Alternatively, Sassuolo defender, and two-time Scudetto winner, Federico Peluso is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

Peluso’s the only outfield player who’s taken his spot on the bench for the first 19 games of the season and is yet to see a single minute of action.

Alessio Dionisi, I plead with you to keep this streak alive purely for our entertainment purposes (my apologies Federico).

All of this is of course possible because we’re talking about the weird and wonderful world of Serie A which never fails to disappoint for both good and bad.

Here’s hoping the second half of the season is as entertaining as the first half.

Thanks for reading, all the best for the new year to you and your loved ones and enjoy your Calcio in 2022.

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