Italian football has always been home to some of the world’s biggest names and, while many factors have contributed to the lure of the peninsula losing some of its former sheen, there are still many top players plying their trade in the Bel Paese. Many of these – including Gigi Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andrea Pirlo – have been analysed in depth here on WhoScored.com but, over the course of this season, we have also looked at the surprising and less widely appreciated men leading a number of statistical categories in Serie A. Now the 2011-12 campaign has ended we can see who tops the various charts, be they an unknown or a famous name.
Last week’s column took time to assess the superb season enjoyed by newly crowned Champions Juventus and it is no surprise to see Andrea Pirlo – undoubtedly central to everything positive for the Bianconeri this term – lead the league in assists (13), key and average passes per game (3.4 and 86.4 respectively) accurate long balls (11.4 per game) and total passes (3196).
Looking at a number of other factors however, it becomes very clear that he was not alone in helping the Old Lady’s midfield exert the dominance that played such a key role in winning their latest Scudetto. A penchant for stealing the ball from opponents before they realise he is even there has earned Arturo Vidal the moniker ‘Captain Hook’ in Turin and, with 178 tackles at a league high rate of 5.4 per game, it is easy to see why.
Moving away from Juve and, while Ibrahimovic’s career best 28 goals led the way in Serie A the Swede trailed Antonio Di Natale – Capocannoniere in each of the last two campaigns – in terms of shots per game (4.6), percentage of team goals (44%) and offsides per game (2.5). Not only are all those numbers league highs but the latter is also top among Europe’s top five leagues, a dubious honour of which the retiring Filippo Inzaghi will be hugely jealous.
It is also interesting to note that Marco Di Vaio (1.9), Emmanuele Calaiò (1.8), Sergio Pellisier (1.7) and Roma’s Daniel Osvaldo (1.5) all join the Udinese captain among Europe’s top ten flag collectors and Italy is home to ten of the top twenty. What makes it even more surprising is that Fiorentina central defender Alessandro Gamberini, Serie A’s leader in terms of offsides won per game (1.6) sits just third on the continent and is joined by only three other players in the top twenty.
The Viola Captain joins those offering surprise names among leaders of a number of defensive categories, topped, along with Caracciolo, by Chievo attacker Cyril Théréau winning more aerial duels than any other Serie A players, with 3.6 per game narrowly edging Giulio Migliaccio of Palermo. Andrea Lisuzzo may have been playing third tier football just two seasons ago but now finds himself proudly leading Europe’s top five leagues with 1.4 blocked shots per game, which is more than can be said for Mattia Destro’s league high 2.7 turnovers per game. The same goes for the more well known Mirko Vucinic, Europe’s most dispossessed player (3.8 per game) who also only slightly trails the Siena man in turnovers, making him easily the most wasteful player across the top five leagues.
One man who has enjoyed a far better season is Milan’s Thiago Silva, a rumoured target for Barcelona as they look to reload for next term. Among other attributes of a defender now regarded among the elite in his position, a Serie A best 91% passing accuracy would mark him out as a suitable candidate, a number all the more impressive when noting he sits as high as eighth in terms of most completed passes (60.2 per game) and second only to Pirlo in terms of accurate long balls. He also sits in the same position for interceptions (3.4), a category topped by Novara defender Santiago Garcia whose five interceptions per game included four (and a goal) in last Sunday’s loss to Silva’s Milan.
At the opposite end of the table, Lecce’s Juan Cuadrado has been deployed in a remarkable eight different positions this term by the southern club but leads Serie A in completed dribbles with 3.4 per game. That figure sees him rank sixth across the continent, the only player from Italy to find a place in the top ten while Gamberini crops up here once again, beaten by dribbles just three times in his 29 games played, less than any other defender.
Among fullbacks, Udinese’s Pablo Armero ranks highest, passed just nine times (0.3 per game) whilst proving his ability at both ends with his ten assists good enough for fourth best in the league. That can largely be attributed to his accurate crossing, completing 1.6 per game which was bettered by just eight other men in Serie A in a category which saw Cagliari’s Andrea Cossu lead the way with three per game.
Finally, where else to end but with the WhoScored.com average ratings, this sites ultimate barometer of quality, which ranks Ibrahimovic’s league high of 8.16 as third best in Europe. He is joined by Andrea Pirlo (7.91) in the top five, showing that while Italian football may no longer be as popular as it once was, its players are still among the finest around.