Technically three weeks into the 2011-2012 Serie A season, just two matches have been played -- yet champions are being crowned, managers condemned, and players sainted. Perhaps it's best to ignore the words floating on the wind -- scudetto, scudetto, scudetto -- and simply focus on what makes calcio truly entertaining.
The Bull and El Matador
Wave a rossoneri shirt in front of Edinson Cavani and he'll come charging. El Matador's hat-trick against AC Milan is what all of Italy is talking about after the weekend, with Napoli's 3-1 victory putting them top of the table, having won their first two matches of Serie A for the first time since 1989/1990. Trivia masters and partenopei faithful alike will tell you that -- coincidentally of course -- that season also marks the last time Napoli captured the first division title.
If Diego Maradona marks the last age of azzurri greatness, Cavani is the unquestionable saint of the new Napoli era. Less than a minute after Alberto Aquilani headed in the opening goal for Milan, Cavani brought the San Paolo back to life again, sending a Christian Maggio header through the legs of Christian Abbiati. Before the halftime whistle, Cavani had scored his second, a gorgeous right-footed strike brought about by the work of Walter Gargano, who'd brought the ball up from the Napoli area.
It was the third goal, however, that made it clear that Cavani is no one season wonder. Milan defender Alessandro Nesta managed to block a shot in from Ezequiel Lavezzi, but the ball fell straight to El Matador, whose instinctive reflexes kicked in quicker than most people can blink. His leg pulled back and the shot was in before Abbiati knew Nesta had lost the ball. Scudetto dreams aside, Napoli's brilliant counter-attack should put them on the must-watch list for all football fans this season.
A Swampy Mess
Hey, this sounds fun: hold a calcio match inside a swamp. Never mind that football typically relies upon the need for passing and footwork -- mud and puddles should make for a fun change. A thunderstorm in Bergamo halted the Atalanta - Palermo match for nearly thirty minutes, but not before Atalanta's Stefano Lucchini and Palermo's Edgar Alvarez were both substituted due to injury. Atalanta were thrilled to see the match resume, as they were able to keep the visitors from scoring and capture a much-needed three points. Combined with a draw against Genoa last weekend, La Dea are now just two points in the negative.
Tale of One City
Oh my my, Milan, what's going on with your football? The two Milan calcio clubs have just two points between them. AC Milan shared the spoils with Lazio last weekend and lost to Napoli this time around, while Inter were defeated by Palermo last week and held to a goalless draw by AS Roma at the San Siro this week.
Most seem to be looking at the rossoneri performance as just a blip in a long season. After all, last year's title holders are having a slight injury crisis, with Zlatan Ibrahimović, Robinho, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Massimo Ambrosini, and Gennaro Gattuso all injured thus far, Philippe Mexes still not fit, and Mathieu Flamini out long-term. Yet injury doesn't explain away the fact that Max Allegri still hasn't quite figured out how to handle strong counter-attacking teams, something he should probably address if Milan want to hold on to that scudetto.
Inter Milan, meanwhile, already seem to be shopping around for a new manager, because Gian Piero Gasperini just doesn't seem to get it. The nerazzurri manager doesn't have a coherent tactical approach, and that confusion shows on the field. A 1-0 home defeat to Trabzonspor in Champions League play meant that Gasperini was greeted with boos by the Inter fans. And while it makes sense that Roma came to the San Siro hoping for a draw, there's no reason that the home side should have had so few shots on goal. It seems Gasperini's not long for Inter, but who next? Almost anyone who is anyone in Italian football had their name put forth in the summer, and almost all those responded with a firm "thanks but no thanks." Can Inter find a solution in time to appease their fans?
I Told You So
That's the entire message Francesco Guidolin has for you. I told you my Udinese were more than just Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler, Cristian Zapata. This is an assembly-line team, and as long as Guidolin has the matching parts, the rest of Serie A will continue to be wary of the zebrette.
A Sardonic Start
Cagliari could have easily seen their season disintegrate before it even began. After a rather disappointing pre-season, the rossoblu fired Roberto Donadoni, replacing him with Massimo Ficcadenti just two weeks before the season was due to start. The former Cesena coach turned out to be an inspired appointment, as Cagliari started the season with a 2-1 win over Roma at the Stadio Olympico, before beating Novara by the same scoreline at home. This weekend's match may have been a dull affair, but does it really matter when your team manages to open the Serie A season with two consecutive wins for the first time since 1970?
A Pred to the Head
This isn't so much entertaining as truly sad. Just fifteen minutes into Inter's match against Roma, defender Lucio delivered a swift kick to the side of Maarten Stekelenburg's head, causing the Roma keeper to be carried off the pitch and straight to hospital. Lucio, those flashy Predators you're wearing? They're meant to improve your defensive game, not allow you to deliver targeted blows to your opponents' bodies.