As Sunday evening Serie A fixtures go, AS Roma’s encounter with AC Milan was a thoroughly entertaining 1-1 draw between two sides who have shown inconsistent form this term. The Rossoneri may have been without Gonzalo Higuain (£3.73) after the Argentina international finally secured a move to Chelsea, but Coach Gennaro Gattuso had rolled up his sleeves and got on with the job in hand in typical style.
On the surface, Milan had lost a truly big-name striker in Higuain, but in his place they have acquired a duo who could surprisingly be more effective than a man who never really looked at home in their famous red and black shirt.
Highly-rated Lucas Paquetá (£3.52) had arrived from Flamengo in his native Brazil for a fee of £30.5 million, followed by Krzysztof Piatek from Genoa for the same fee, the latter having set Serie A on fire in his opening few months in the Italian top flight.
Piatek (£4.51) was virtually unknown before the beginning of the current campaign, arriving last summer from Cracovia, but took no time at all in adjusting to life in Italy, firing in 13 goals in his first 18 starts for the Grifone. That would immediately familiarise Serie A fans with his talent, and such an explosion onto the scene meant that Milan were at the front of the queue this January.
“Piatek already had five months of Serie A football with Genoa in which he scored with practically every touch, so he was no surprise,” admitted Gattuso in his press conference before the match with Roma. “Paquetá is a surprise, because he is ready for European football straight away. He soaks up information like a sponge, is very curious about tactics and wants to be informed on everything. He’s not a typical Brazilian player.”
Indeed, it had taken just 29 total minutes of play Piatek before he opened his account at San Siro, firing in a brace to defeat Napoli in order to secure his side’s place in the Coppa Italia semi-final last week. That would earn him a start on Sunday night away to Roma, and once again it was the new man that found the back of the net.
That he was assisted by the lesser-known new man Paquetá – who had got forward from the left-hand side of midfield in order to deliver an excellent cross – is a sign of hope for Gattuso’s men as they push forward to reach the promised land of a Champions League place this season.
Statistics according to Whoscored.com highlight that the Brazilian finished the match with one cross, two accurate long balls, one shot, one key pass and one dribble, figures that will surely increase with extra experience of the league and versus lesser opposition. Of course, Piatek scored the only goal and therefore the headlines, and his Coach was ready to praise him after the final whistle.
“Piatek is a player who frightens the opponents, and when the passing channels open up he makes the defenders backtrack, which creates spaces we can work in,” the Coach told Sky Italia in his post-match press conference. “He is in great form and helping us a lot at the moment.”
In truth, it’s not just striker Piatek that is helping this Milan side, as his fellow newcomer proved on Sunday. Supporters can expect to hear a lot more from this duo of talented young players as the Serie A season progresses.