Serie A was due to kick off two weeks ago, but because those poor, disenfranchised players couldn’t agree a deal for a standard contract with those mean, horrid, nasty chairmen there was a strike and they will now be kicking balls into goals starting from this Friday. The only positive to have emerged from this scenario is that it has given us time to collate our thoughts for a Serie A preview which will be judged upon when the season ends, making us look like ridiculous court jesters.
On the panel will be: -
Rocco Cammisola (@rcammisola) – Editor and writer for this fair site, you’ll also find him tweeting about Serie A-D. Searching out obscure stories from deep in the Italian leagues, trying too hard to be a hipster.
Matthew Campbell (@mattc236) – Writes for The Football Express, focusing mainly on English football – the Championship to be a little more precise.
Sean-Paul Reilly (@spreilly86) – Writes for The Football Express, and adores the Bundesliga. A man who worships Jurgen Klopp.
Jonny Mullins (@LankyGuyBlog) – Writes his own blog at http://lankyguyblog.blogspot.com where he has, among other works, a wonderful series of tactical reports on classic matches – including a personal favourite, Barcelona-Milan ’94.
1. Who will win the league?
Matthew Campbell (MC): It’s hard to look beyond reigning champions Milan for this one. Already the strongest side in the league, the additions to the squad of players including Mexes, Aquilani and Nocerino will make it difficult for anyone to surpass them this year. But down south, Napoli will be looking to provide a more sustained effort than last season. They have made shrewd acquisitions in Gokhan Inler and Goran Pandev which will compliment their exciting style and support the attacking trident of Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani. So whilst my head says Milan, my heart says Napoli.
Rocco Cammisola (RC): Last year’s champions appear to be the team that are best set up to win the title again. Milan were the benefactors of poor seasons from Juventus, Inter and Roma in the last campaign and the flood of changes at those same three clubs suggests they may be on the right end of another gifted title. Napoli have added plenty of depth in this transfer window and they now have two players for every role in Mazzari’s system; this is the strongest squad they have had for over twenty years (though it shouldn’t take a genius to work that out). But unless they can find a way to beat top sides and maintain concentration against the weak teams, they won’t be challenging – their objective will be another Champions League position.
Jonny Mullins (JM): AC Milan have to start as favourites but I think potentially Juventus and Roma could challenge with their summer additions. It will certainly be interesting to see how Enrique does as manager.
Dean Eddyshaw (DE): Milan. I don’t feel the likes of Inter and Napoli have added enough quality to their squads to overhaul i Rossoneri whereas Adriano Galliani & co have added the likes of Philippe Mexès, Taye Taiwo, Antonio Nocerino, Alberto Aquilani and Stephan El Shaarawy to what was already a fantastic squad.
Sean-Paul Reilly (SR): Milan will start this season as favourites, and rightly so. They’ve kept their best players, and supplemented the squad with quality. Their defence was by far the best in Serie A last season, conceding only 24 goals, and their attack oozes class. Allegri managed the egos very well last season, and if he does so again, then I can’t see past them.
2. Three relegated teams and why?
DE: Siena, Novara and Lecce
Goals won’t be easy to come by for newly promoted Siena and Novara. Despite bringing in Andrea Esposito and Massimo Oddo in an attempt to shore up last season’s leakiest defence, I don’t see Lecce retaining their Serie A status.
JM: Atalanta, Bologna and Novara
SR: Atalanta – With a 6 point deduction and no Doni, it’s going to be tough for the newly-promoted side.
Novara – promoted, but have just sold their 2 most prolific strikers.
Lecce- What do you do when your team has the worst defence in Serie A, conceding 66 goals?! You sell your best goalkeeper to Napoli…they will struggle.
RC: Atalanta are already doomed; a six point penalty because of the latest match fixing scandal effectively consigns them to the scrapheap. Hopefully Manolo Gabbiadini will get some Serie A playing time.
Lecce have lost the crucial part of the jigsaw that kept their head above the water last campaign; Gigi Di Canio decided to part ways with the Puglian club at the end of the season. They stayed up thanks to the astounding number of goals scored, but the massive number conceded will be what will concern fans and ultimately seal their fate.
Novara will be pinning their hopes on excellent home form (they lost only once at Silvio Piola last season)– they are also one of the few sides that use an artificial pitch.
MC: Lecce, Novara, Atalanta
Coming up is always difficult and Novara will be having a crack at Serie A without the strike force that contributed over half their league goals last season. They have tried to combat this loss with the addition of Takayuki Morimoto, amongst others; he brings top flight experience, despite being only 23, but does not have a reassuring goals record. Coming up is even more difficult when you have to start off 6 points behind as Atalanta do; I would otherwise have fancied their chances of surviving, but with this penalty in place I think Serie B beckons once more.
3. Who is the player you’re most looking forward to seeing?
RC: Much has been said about the wealth of talent that has departed from Serie A this season. But all the young stars that are still in Italy, and have just arrived are also noteworthy. It’s difficult to select just one when you have to pick from Hamsik, Ilicic, El Sharaawy, Paloschi, Fabbrini and Borini – the list doesn’t end there. The player I’m most interested to see this season has to be Bojan Krkic. The young Spaniard will be trying to reinvigorate a career that was previously filled with infinite hope and expectation, but has amounted to little more than a smattering of appearances from the Barcelona bench. Vucinic and Menez have left Roma, and Totti is ageing visibly so this is Bojan’s chance to make his mark on European football before Barcelona buy him back.
SR: Pastore leaving Palermo is a big blow, but I fancy Abel Hernandez to step up to the table and start producing. Only 21, but has the physique and talent to hurt most defences in the league. I hope this is the year he can kick on to the next level.
DE: Maarten Stekelenburg: the “project” needed a solid base and in Stekelenburg that’s what they have.
MC: So hard to choose just one when there are so many intriguing and magnificent players on show, but I’m going to go for Josip Ilicic. A large part of the reason that Pastore was allowed to leave, Palermo will be looking to the big Slovenian to fill the departed genius’ creative boots and shoulder more of the attacking burden. I think it’s a challenge he’s capable of rising to and I am eagerly anticipating watching him in action.
JM: Very much looking forward to seeing Miralem Pjanic. I think he’ll be a very good signing for Roma and I’m looking forward to see how they play as a whole this season.
4. Who will flatter to deceive, the biggest underachiever?
JM: I’m going to go for Inter. I’m not sure if Gasperini’s 3-4-3 will work there. I’m uncertain the midfield or defence has the energy or movement required for his style; I think we’ll see a lot of goals from Inter, but a great number also conceded and I agree with Arrigo Sacchi’s comments that Gasperini’s style and tactical movements may not be able to convert from Genoa to Inter. With the sale of Samuel Eto’o, a player who could well have benefited from such a system, they may struggle.
MC: Flattering to deceive? I can’t yet see Juventus, despite improvements, mounting the realistic title challenge they will expect to. But I think the biggest underachievers will be Genoa. A revolving-door transfer policy is not a good recipe for success; I think the lack of cohesion and unsettled nature of the squad, combined with an overly expectant board, will see them slip lower than last year’s 10th position. A Sampdoria style meltdown? Wouldn’t rule it out.
DE: Inter. Despite the fee Inter received from Anzhi Makhachkala for Samuel Eto’o, Massimo Moratti could pay the price for moving the Cameroonian striker on. Eto’o found the net on 21 occasions in Serie A last season (10 more than the 2nd top goalscorer Giampaolo Pazzini)- and also created 9 of Inter’s 69 league goals last term. He’ll be a tough act for Diego Forlan to follow.
SR: A toughie but I’ll plump for Inter. Though they still have a core of the side that won the CL a couple of seasons back, I’m not sure about whether they have the personnel to compliment Gasperini’s 3-4-3. They’ve lost Eto’o, their most potent attacking threat and replaced him with the older Forlan, who has been out of form for a while. Getting the best out of Sneijder may be difficult in this system. Alvarez is also a big gamble for 12m. Their summer has been one of cut backs, not one of investment.
RC: It is incredibly difficult to pick out who the biggest underachievers will be this season. Palermo post-Pastore will be incredibly reliant on Ilicic to lead the charge and to start a new cycle. No one knows when Juventus will stop turning over coaches and players. Udinese will struggle to achieve as well as they did last term, but it’s a situation that is well within their comfort zone – the fans have seen it all before. The situation at Roma already stinks of Totti vs ‘The Manager’; if that is resolved then they can prove their quality.
Inter though, under Gasperini, have plenty to lose. Diego Forlan and Ricky Alvarez are fine additions if they adjust and stay fit but they will miss the goals and assists of Samuel Eto’o. The formation Gasperini uses will be of particular interest. He doesn’t appear to have the correct sorts of players to deploy his trademark 3-4-3, but may be able to get away with a 3-5-1-1. It certainly doesn’t feel like the title will be crossing the divide in Milan, though.
5. First, err, next manager to be sacked?
SR: Whoever Zamparini appoints at Palermo, probably Delio Rossi….(again!)
MC: “Errr…” indeed. Someone’s probably going to be gone in the first 6 games: I’ll take a stab at it being one of Malesani (Genoa), whoever the Palermo manager is, or Di Francesco (Lecce). I also fear for Luis Enrique: I doubt he’ll be the first one to bite the dust, but if his Roma project is not up to speed and on course for a Champions League spot, he will see in the new year looking for a new job.
DE: Vincenzo Montella.- sadly I don’t think he’ll deliver the results expected by Antonino Pulvirenti.
RC: Genoa has added an entire squad to their ranks yet again in this window, with a whopping 24 players joining the Ligurian side. Alberto Malesani has the unenviable task of getting these players to get to know one another, play together – well – and appease the fans and chairman by getting a coveted Europa League place. Malesani did well under criminal conditions at Bologna for the first 2/3rds of last season but it all fell apart once the board room shenanigans had ended. I fear he may not be employed by Christmas.
JM: Whoever Palermo appoint next, simply because Zamparini’s absolutely crazy.
6. Number of managers in total that will get the sack this season?
MC: Well, I reckon Genoa will go through at least 3 managers and Maurizio Zamparini will not do any less out of principal, so…. I’ll go for 11 sackings. But total managerial changes has got to be more like 16.
JM: I’m going to hazard a guess at 8.
DE: I’ll take a guess at 18, with Maurizio Zamparini dismissing at least 4.
SR: Errr…How long’s a piece of string? I’ll say 10.