Date: 8th November 2018 at 10:09am
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In early September, often during the first international break of the season, fantallenatori all across the Italian peninsula attempt to assemble a respectable squad to take on their friends in the Serie A version of Fantasy Football, with bragging rights at stake. Foresight is crucial, but sometimes even the greatest psychic couldn’t predict the drastic change in performance some players enjoy (or suffer) from one season to the next.

The 2018/19 season has been no different. Paulo Dybala and Edin Dzeko will have cost an absolute fortune to those who invested in them expecting to have a reliable presence up top, but they have each only scored two Serie A goals so far. After the same number of games in last season’s edition, Dybala and Dzeko had respectively scored 11 and seven goals.

While this may be a worrying statistic for both players, their pressure is slightly alleviated by their success in the Champions League and Dzeko is currently tied with Lionel Messi as top scorer with 5 goals, while Dybala sits alone in third place in the goal scoring rankings in the competition, with four goals in just two matches. This does nothing to soothe the tempers of the fantallenatori who sacrificed their entire budget to secure their services, but it may be enough to appease their clubs’ fans for the time being.

The Serie A player that has been the biggest let-down this season, however, is undoubtedly Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. He is the shadow of his former self and has only managed to score one goal in all competitions so far.

While the 12 goals he scored last season were always going to be difficult to replicate, at the moment it seems unlikely he’ll reach even half that number.

On the other end of the spectrum come the greatest steals of the Fantacalcio. Those players who are enjoying a significant positive turnaround to last season, prompting their selectors who are fortunate enough to have them in their side to make bold claims on their scouting ability.

Gregoire Defrel has already scored five goals this campaign, which happens to be five more than he managed to score last season with Roma. His effectiveness has fizzled a little bit in recent weeks, but he’s already done enough to validate anyone who was willing to bet on him.

The player to have benefited the most from the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli is the local Lorenzo Insigne. With Carletto in charge, he is given a little more freedom in the final third. That, added to an enhanced sense of responsibility that comes with maturity, has led to Insigne scoring seven goals in 10 matches in Serie A and three goals in four Champions League matches so far this season.

While in 2017/18 Insigne undeniably had a positive season under Maurizio Sarri, he only scored eight goals in the entire Serie A campaign.

Finally, we come to the crown jewel of Fantacalcio steals for the 2018-19 Serie A season. In just a few months, Rodrigo De Paul has transformed himself from a luxury player that drove his coaches crazy due to his inconsistency, to a player that is constantly looking to be the difference maker in any match he plays. His performances caught the attention of Italian national team boss Roberto Mancini, who was considering calling him up before the Argentinean national team swept in and claimed what was rightfully theirs.

De Paul scored four goals in total last season, all of which came from the penalty spot. This season he has already scored five, with only one coming in the form of a penalty.

Only time will tell if these changes in performance represent mere periods of form for these players, or whether they will be sustained consistently, forcing us to permanently reevaluate their value as footballers.