Wing-Backs & Midfielders
Antonio Candreva (RWB) – Antonio Candreva is no longer a wing-back, but we just had to find a way of getting him in this team. He deserves some recognition for yet another productive campaign at Sampdoria. Roberto D’Aversa has utilised the Italian veteran’s versatility effectively, and Candreva is on track to enjoy his most productive season since 2014/15 when he registered 22 Serie A goal contributions with Lazio. At the midway point this term, Candreva has 13 goal contributions (6G, 7A) and has far and away been Sampdoria’s standout performer following a successful debut season at the club.
Nicolo Barella (CM) – The majestic Azzurri hero perhaps hasn’t been as consistent compared to last season, but his productivity has been remarkable. Under Antonio Conte, Barella functioned exclusively from the right half-space but Simone Inzaghi has opted to give his tempestuous creator more freedom in his midfield three. This alteration has paid dividends with the Italian international leading the way in Serie A with seven assists this season. The 24-year-old remains a gloriously instinctive and spectacular footballer.
Marcelo Brozovic (CM) – Ugh. The ultimate controller. I thought Marcelo Brozovic had peaked under Conte but, boy, was I wrong. The Croatian metronome has gone from strength to strength since Inzaghi’s arrival and he’s arguably playing at a higher level now than he ever did with Conte at the helm – and that’s saying something! According to OptaPaolo, no player has attempted more passes than Brozovic in Serie A this season (1380) and the Inter star also tops the charts when it comes to open play sequences leading to shots (112). Brozovic is all-encompassing at the base of Inter’s midfield, and Inzaghi’s juggernaut wouldn’t quite function the same without the Croatian’s subtle efficiency.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu (CM) – Wow. What a revelation Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s been for Inter this season! The Turkish international made the forbidden switch across the Milanese divide in the summer and although the Rossoneri faithful were treated to fleeting moments of brilliance from Çalhanoğlu during his four years at AC, they never saw him produce such sustained virtuosity. In Inter’s final eight Serie A games of 2021, Çalhanoğlu was undisputedly their most influential performer. The midfielder scored five times and added five assists during this period. The playmaker has added another dimension to the all-conquering Nerazzurri, and some would argue he’s been the Serie A Player of the Season at the halfway mark.
Ivan Perisic (LWB) – Completing this Inter-dominated section is the criminally underrated Ivan Perisic. The versatile Croatian hasn’t lit up the stats sheet (4G, 1A in Serie A so far), but it’s his ability to perform his demanding function from wing-back with the utmost consistency that gets him in this side. There might not be a more reliable footballer in Calcio than Ivan Perisic. Wing-back whisperer Conte deserves a heap of praise for Perisic’s evolution, with the once spritely winger blossoming into a stern defender. Quite simply, he can do it all.