With UEFA countries not involved in the coming weekend’s international break, Serie A takes a well-earned rest after a hectic return to action in January. Every team in the Italian top flight has played either 22 or 23 fixtures at this point in the season, and the brief hiatus provides an opportunity for us to name our Serie A team of 2021-22 so far, as well as the league’s best coach up to now.
Goalkeeper – Mike Maignan
It’s a little controversial given his lengthy injury absence, but the way Maignan has filled the sizeable gloves left by Italy No 1 Gianluigi Donnarumma at Milan this season has been remarkable. The heir-apparent to Hugo Lloris with the star-studded French national team, the 26-year-old was fresh from winning Ligue 1 with Lille when he moved to San Siro in the summer. Maignan kept his eighth clean sheet in 17 Serie A appearances so far this season against Juventus on Sunday, helping the Rossoneri stay close to league leaders Inter in the race for the Scudetto.
Right-back – Giovanni Di Lorenzo
The 28-year-old Di Lorenzo has started all 23 of Napoli’s Serie A fixtures this season, netting a solitary goal that earned the Azzurri a point against Verona in early November. Luciano Spalletti’s side have the best defensive record in the league, conceding only 16 times as they head into this mini break second in the table. Di Lorenzo was ever-present until the 76th minute of Napoli’s most recent match, when he was substituted for youngster Alessandro Zanoli with the Azzurri leading bottom club Salernitana 4-1.
Centre-back – Milan Skriniar
Inter have played a game less than Napoli, but the Nerazzurri have only shipped one more goal than the team directly below them in the Serie A table. Skriniar has played in all but two of the champions’ matches so far, with one of his three goals the winner against Lazio earlier this month. The Slovakia international has followed up last season’s superb title-winning campaign with an equally imposing set of performances this term, producing a consistently high standard of display that’s helped Inter build a four-point lead at the top of the table with a game in hand over both Napoli and Milan.
Centre-back – Matthijs de Ligt
Getting into the Juventus lineup ahead of stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci is no mean feat, despite the veteran duo’s advancing years. De Ligt has really stepped up this season though in the wake of a tough first couple of years in Turin, starting 17 of the Old Lady’s first 23 Serie A fixtures of the campaign. He was sent off late in the Bianconeri’s 4-3 victory at Roma and missed Sunday’s trip to Milan due to a stomach bug, but has been a central figure in Juve’s recent charge up the table, which has been built on much more solid defensive foundations under Max Allegri.
Left-back – Theo Hernandez
As we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to name Ivan Perisic as a left-back, in spite of the Croatian’s excellent performances at wing-back for league leaders Inter, Hernandez is the man who gets the nod here. The Frenchman has been a consistent performer throughout Milan’s campaign, with his attacking threat proving particularly impressive. Hernandez may have the Rossoneri’s worst disciplinary record at this stage of the season, but he also has four goals and five assists to his name.
Midfield – Fabian Ruiz
Named in Opta’s best Serie XI of 2021-22 so far a couple of days before Christmas, the Napoli midfielder is enjoying an impressive campaign. His stats read five goals and three assists, but his all-round performances have meant much more to the Azzurri. Spalletti’s side are on a three-match winning run as they aim to stay as close to Inter as possible, with Ruiz’s ability to keep putting in big displays through the second half of the campaign likely to be crucial to Napoli’s chances of securing their first Scudetto since 1990.
Midfield – Marcelo Brozovic
The metronomic Croatian has continued to improve under Simone Inzaghi, dictating play from the heart of the Nerazzurri side. With outlets such as Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella to hit – who both have seven assists for Inter – you’ll find Brozovic involved deeper in Inter’s moves yet also playing a crucial role in allowing them to control matches. Il Biscione have arguably looked even better under Inzaghi than they did when Antonio Conte led them to the 2020-21 Serie A title, with Brozovic a key component in both coach’s tactical plans.
Midfield – Hakan Calhanoglu
After doing the unthinkable and crossing the Milan divide in the summer – and on a free transfer to boot – there’s been plenty of pressure on Turkish playmaker Calhanoglu to perform after swapping red and black for blue and black. The 27-year-old has been superb for Inter though, scoring six goals on top of those seven assists in his debut Serie A campaign for La Dea. A player who came out and effectively said he needed to feel loved is certainly gaining the adulation of the Nerazzurri faithful as they aim to successfully defend the Scudetto over the coming months.
Forward – Ciro Immobile
They may be down in eighth place in the Serie A table right now, but Lazio have the third-best attack in the division behind the two title-challenging Milan clubs. The Biancocelesti have netted 46 times in 23 games, scoring at a rate of exactly two goals per game. Immobile has been the focal point of Maurizio Sarri’s attack, seeing the back of the net bulge on 17 occasions from just 19 appearances. His minutes-per-goal ratio of 96 is far better than any of the league’s leading marksmen.
Forward – Dusan Vlahovic
Like Immobile, Vlahovic has also bagged 17 times and contributed two assists, firing Fiorentina up to seventh in the table. On the back of his standout performances, La Viola have a tough task on their hands keeping hold of their star man in the coming weeks and months. Vincenzo Italiano will breathe a lot easier if the January transfer window slams shut with his top scorer still wearing purple, with the Fiorentina faithful hoping Vlahovic can fire their team back into Europe come the end of the campaign.
Forward – Giovanni Simeone
He may have world-class footballing DNA in his blood, but few predicted Simeone would enjoy such success at Verona this term. Son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone, the 26-year-old is spending the 2021-22 Serie A season on loan at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, where he’s netted 12 goals in 15 appearances. Verona currently occupy ninth place, with Simeone making a significant contribution to their 43 league goals, which is as many as second-placed Napoli have scored and only bettered by Inter, Milan, Atalanta and Lazio.
Coach – Simone Inzaghi
Antonio Conte worked wonders at San Siro, transforming Inter from a team who were narrowly scraping into the top four into champions within two years. His departure, along with the exit of key duo Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, looked like plunging the Nerazzurri back into the mire. However, the Inter board got Inzaghi’s appointment spot on, with the new Inter coach favouring a 3-5-2 and wing-backs just like Conte. Inzaghi has improved La Dea’s attacking play to make them more attractive going forward, while retaining the miserly defensive record that formed the basis for their Scudetto triumph last term. A successful title defence is very much on.