Who makes the Serie A Team of the Season based on Opta Data?
The 2022-23 Serie A season is finally over, with Napoli winning the title for the first time since 1989-90 to send their hardcore fanbase in Naples delirious. In truth, most felt that they’d wrapped up the title long before they did on 4 May, with last season’s champions Milan struggling to keep pace with them and other top sides like rivals Internazionale and Lazio. Those four teams made up the UCL qualification spots, while Atalanta and Roma qualified for next season’s Europa League, helped by Juventus’ points deduction which saw them end in seventh place.
Looking back at the star performers across the top flight campaign in Italy, our esteemed data insights team at OptaPaolo have provided their data-driven team of the 2022-23 Serie A season.
Ivan Provedel – Lazio
Ivan Provedel enjoyed a brilliant first season at Lazio following his summer move from Spezia, with the goalkeeper helping the Rome-based side to a second-place finish in Serie A – their best league finish since winning the title in 1999-00. It came as no shock when he won the official Serie A goalkeeper of the year award at the end of the campaign.
The Italian shot-stopper kept 21 clean sheets overall in 2022-23, at least five more than any other goalkeeper in Serie A, while among all goalkeepers to have played at least 15 matches across the campaign, he had the best save ratio (77%).
Of first choice goalkeepers across the season, only Luigi Sepe (4.5) had a higher goals prevented total than Provedel (3.6) based on Opta’s xGOT model – another reason his strong season earns him a place in the OptaPaolo Serie A Team of the Season for 2022-23.
Carlos Augusto – Monza
Of all the players in our OptaPaolo Serie A Team of the Season for 2022-23, Carlos Augusto is probably the inclusion you would have least expected at the start of the campaign. But he enjoyed a brilliant season at Monza, who finished 2022-23 in 11th place after only winning promotion to Serie A for the first time last term.
Left-back Augusto was a serious goal threat all season, with the most goal involvements across all defenders in 2022-23 (11), thanks to his six goals and five assists at Monza. No Serie A defender scored more goals than he did in 2022-23 (level with Stefan Posch), while his tally was the most by a defender for a newly-promoted Serie A side since Maurizio Domizzi for Napoli in 2007-08 (eight).
Kim Min-jae – Napoli
One of the biggest success stories of the 2022-23 Serie A season, South Korean central defender Kim Min-jae joins teammate Di Lorenzo in our TOTS defence.
Physically imposing with his sturdy frame and 6-foot-3 height, he arrived from Turkish club Fenerbahçe in the summer without much fanfare only to become a fan favourite in Naples by the end of the title-winning season.
Strong in the air – he was one of just eight defenders to win at least 63% of aerial duels (of those to be involved in 100+) – but equally as comfortable with the ball at his feet, the 26-year-old won the official Serie A ‘Defender of the Year’ award for his performances. He was the defender with the most touches (3,173) and passes completed (2,547) in Serie A across the season, while among defenders with at least 30 appearances in Serie A this term, he had the highest successful passing rate (91%).
He was hard to beat, too. Of defenders with at least 35 appearances across the big five European Leagues in 2022-23, Kim saw opponents dribble past him least often (five times).
Chris Smalling – Roma
Roma may have had a disappointing end to the 2022-23 season, missing out on UEFA Champions League qualification spots in Serie A and losing the UEFA Europa League final to Sevilla, but Chris Smalling can certainly be happy with his performances on a personal level.
Of the 123 Serie A defenders to engage in at least 100 duels across the season, none had a duel success rate higher than Smalling’s 69%. He was also a player keen to throw his body on the line to protect the goal, with his 36 blocks only beaten by Sebastiano Luperto’s 42 (in four games more) across the Italian top-flight in 2022-23.
Just eight opponents managed to pass Smalling with a dribble in Serie A this season – the only defender to play at least 2,500 minutes of action and let fewer players pass them in this manner was TOTS partner Kim (five). Despite this, Smalling played fair – he committed just 18 fouls across the campaign, which was the lowest tally of any Serie A central defender to play at least 2,500 minutes.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo – Napoli
Right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo is the first of five Napoli players to make the OptaPaolo Serie A team of the season. No player from the club played more league minutes than he did across their Scudetto-winning campaign (3,257), while no defender played more Serie A games than he did across 2022-23 (37).
Di Lorenzo created 45 open play chances for teammates across the season, which no defender in Serie A could surpass, while only Inter duo Federico Dimarco and Denzel Dumfries (both 4.5) were the only defenders with a higher open play xG assisted total than the Napoli full back (4.3).
Always looking to play the ball into advanced areas, Di Lorenzo led the league for progressive open play passes (191), while the 29-year-old also chipped in with three non-penalty goals from 13 shots on target.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Lazio
Serbian international Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was a key player in Lazio’s second-place finish in Serie A this season. His 17 goal involvements were a joint team high alongside striker Ciro Immobile, with his nine goals and eight assists helping him surpass the 100-goal involvement tally in his Serie A career. Since his debut in Serie A, the only midfielders to be involved in more goals across the competition than Milinkovic-Savic (102) are Josip Iličić (107) and Papu Gómez (103).
No player in the Lazio squad was as heavily involved in their open play attacking sequences across 2022-23 than Milinkovic-Savic (149), with his tally being surpassed by just nine players across the entire league in the campaign.
A lot of Milinkovic-Savic’s threat comes aerially, with him winning more aerial duels (96) than any other midfielder in the Italian top-flight across 2022-23 and also having the most headed shots among these players (16). In fact, since his debut season in 2015-16, no player has scored more headed goals in Serie A than the Lazio midfielder (17).
Stanislav Lobotka – Napoli
Stanislav Lobotka is a key cog in the well-oiled midfield machine at Serie A champions Napoli. Both the midfielder to complete the most open play passes (2,116) and the one to receive the second-most (1,790), he is the heartbeat in the middle of the Napoli side.
Not a primary chance creator in open play (only 16 all season), a lot of his work goes unnoticed as it comes in deeper-lying positions on the pitch – only Inter midfielder Nicolò Barella (41) created more secondary chances than the Slovakian (34) in 2022-23, while no player in the competition won possession to start open play sequences that eventually led to a shot for their side than him (15).
He doesn’t appear high for goals or assists from midfield, but Lobotka’s best work is done in deeper areas – without him, his more creative teammates can’t shine. Of the 149 open play attacking sequence involvements he had in 2022-23, 122 of those saw his only involvement in the build-up to a shot – not the chance created or the shot – this was a league-high tally and 27 more than any other player.
Nicolò Barella – Inter Milan
Nicolò Barella enjoyed another fruitful campaign with 2023 UEFA Champions League finalists Inter, despite the Nerazzurri only finishing third in Serie A.
Overall, Barella was heavily involved in everything Inter did well. Only two players – teammate Lautaro Martínez (181) and Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (193) – were involved in more shot-ending sequences in open play across 2022-23 in Serie A than him (170), while he also totalled the most secondary chances created in the league (41).
He was one of just five midfielders to score at least six goals and deliver at least six assists in Serie A this season, while he also created 53 chances for teammates in open play – a tally only beaten by Nikola Vlašić (58) among midfielders. His six goals were as many as he scored in 2020-21 and 2021-22 combined.
Lautaro Martínez – Inter Milan
Inter forward Lautaro Martínez ended the season with 21 league goals, finishing behind only Napoli’s Victor Osimhen in the scoring charts.
That tally equalled his personal record for Serie A goals in a season (level with last season), while he also assisted six goals for teammates, level with his previous best set in 2020-21. In fact, across the top five European leagues, Martínez is only of just four players to have scored 20+ goals in both campaigns alongside Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappé.
His attacking contribution of 5.9 non-penalty shots and open play chances created was the highest in Serie A across 2022-23, just ahead of Udinese’s Gerard Deulofeu (who spent half the season out with injury).
His goals were important to Inter, too. In total, his 21 strikes were worth 15 points to the club in Serie A this season – only M’Bala Nzola (16) won more for his team in 2022-23.
Victor Osimhen – Napoli
No Serie A team of the season would be complete without a star striker. Napoli’s Victor Osimhen is just that.
In finishing the season with 26 goals, he won the top scorer award in Serie A while becoming the first African player to reach this tally in an Italian top-flight campaign. Ten of those goals were openers, helping Napoli get off to a good start in games on the way to winning their first Scudetto since 1990.
He became just one of only four Napoli players to score at least 26 goals in a Serie A season, after Edinson Cavani (26 in 2010-11 and 29 in 2012-13), Gonzalo Higuaín (36 in 2015-16) and Dries Mertens (28 in 2016-17), while no Serie A player with five or more goals in 2022-23 could better his minutes per goal ratio of 99.
With strong rumours of other top European clubs on the hunt for the Nigerian striker this summer, Napoli will have to stand firm to keep their superstar for another year.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – Napoli
The average football fan might have been forgiven for not being aware of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s talents this time last year. Having left Rubin Kazan after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he returned to his home nation Georgia to play for top-flight club Dinamo Batumi. Napoli then snapped him up in July for a reported fee of just €10m.
We had the foresight to include him in our Analyst 50 for players to watch in 2022-23, and he did us proud.
With 12 goals and 10 assists, he became the first player to reach double figures in both metrics in his first-ever top-flight season within the top five European leagues since Diego in 2006-07 at Werder Bremen.
He was an absolute menace when running at opposition defenders. Only Rafael Leão (79) completed more dribbles than Kvaratskhelia (76) in Serie A 2022-23, while he created the most chances (26) and assisted the most goals (five) from carries in the competition on the way to winning the Scudetto.
Luciano Spalletti – Napoli
It’s been a long time coming for Luciano Spalletti, but the Scudetto is finally his. After 554 games in Serie A as a manager, he finally won the title. In doing so, he gave Napoli their first Serie A crown since 1990. He became the oldest coach to lift the Serie A trophy, when on 4 May (when they finally won the league), he was aged 64 years and 58 days old. That championship came with five matchdays left to spare – which is the earliest ever, but in truth it probably should have come sooner. Come the end of 2022-23, his Napoli side won the title by a gap of 16 points – the joint fourth highest points gap between first and second place in the history of the competition.