If the Serie A season starts and no one cares does it then actually begin? Well yes technically it will but I can’t think of a single solitary soul who is excited for this upcoming season in the Italian league. Recently I wrote about the decline of the striker position in the Serie A but in reality all sorts of talent are leaving the league. Carlos Tevez is gone, Arturo Vidal is gone, Andrea Pirlo is gone just to name a few.
The stars of the league (Pogba, Higuain, De Rossi) are few and far between and the majority that still remain are aging and on their final farewell tour. The likes of Francesco Totti who is 38 years old and Gianluigi Buffon, 37. Those who have decided to come to Italy are on the “back nine” of their career: Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra, Nemandja Vidic all players who were being pushed out of starting jobs in the English Premier League.
The Serie A used to be a three team race with two or three additional competitive teams. The title would be a rotation between Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan with Napoli and Roma hovering in the next level. You have to go all the way back to 2000 in order to find another team (AS Roma) who won the title outside of Juve and the Milan teams. Juventus has won the last four league titles and have an Italian record 31 of them dating back to 1905. Last season the ‘bianconeri’ (black and whites) won the title by 17 points with a positive goal differential of +48. The narrative is going to be the same this season for Juventus.
I don’t see any team challenging them because they are head and shoulders above the crowd despite losing two of their biggest pieces. The gap between Juve and second place might not be as expansive as last season but it will be comfortable. The departures of Tevez and Vidal have been replaced but at fifty cents on the dollar. Their additions thus far have been Sami Khedira from Real Madrid who is already out two months with a muscle tear in his thigh and Mario Mandzukic a striker from Atletico Madrid/Bayern Munich. Nothing that would make me jump for joy. Their biggest move was not making a move at all. Paul Pogba is remaining with the club despite massive transfer connections to Chelsea, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Manchester City. He’s staying put, for now…
If there was ever a season to break their 15 year drought from winning a league title this could be the one. Almost their entire team from last season is returning plus they’ve added two pieces for the betterment of their squad. Recently they just completed a loan transfer for Manchester City striker Eden Dzeko which should be a help up front. Last season was a down year for Dzeko with only four league goals and six in all competitions. The previous three seasons at City he averaged 15 league goals and 20 goals in total. Francesco Totti and Adem Ljajic were the leading goal scorers on the team with 8 league goals.
They’ve also added Arsenal’s former #1 goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah. Part of me really wants to pick Roma to win the league because they have the depth and diversity but to leap frog a 17 point gap with Juventus is just too large. Roma has two capable goalies, a solid midfield, a good attacking front my only hesitation is their defense. Ashley Cole and Maicon are their respective defensive fullbacks and they’re both 34 years old with a ton of mileage. We saw Roma stumble in the back half of last season so I question if they’re built for the duration.
Roberto Mancini is back in charge of Inter Milan in his first full season and there is no question that his main objective will be to return to Champions League football. Last season Inter finished 8th which means they have their work cut out for them. The biggest thing going for Inter right now is Mauro Icardi who lead the entire league in scoring as a 22 year old striker. While last season he did it all by himself Inter brought in some help with the loan signing of Stevan Jovetic from Manchester City and bringing back speed winger extraordinaire Jonathan Biabiany from Parma. Jovetic was a bust at City only scoring 8 goals in 30 games over three seasons which was far below expectations when he came over from Fiorentina.
Unlike Roma, Inter Milan’s strength should be their defense. They already had Nemandja Vidic and now they’ve brought in Miranda and Martin Montoya. Miranda is a Brazilian center back who spent the last five years at Atletico Madrid playing at a very high level. Montoya is a 24 year old Barcelona right back who is not ready to crack their starting squad just yet. Knowing Mancini’s style he’s not remotely done in the transfer market just yet. Inter Milan sold Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City this past week and are now targeting Wolfsburg winger Ivan Perisic as his replacement.
The team that might surprise us this season could be Napoli who return a steady roster but introduce a new head coach. As Rafa Benitez assumes his new role at Real Madrid, Napoli will need to take on a new identity under Maurizio Sarri. Their lineup will consist of players like Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik, Pepe Reina, Christian Maggio, Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Eduardo Vargas. The only player departure was Golhan Inler the Swiss midfielder who has made his way to Leicester City in England. Napoli having finished 5th place last season will compete in the Europa League and not the Champions League this year thanks to their poor finish to the year.
2. AS Roma
3. Inter Milan
Top Scorers 2014/2015
22 – Luca Toni, Hellas Verona
22 – Mauro Icardi, Inter Milan
20 – Carlos Tevez, Juventus
18 – Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli
Top Assists 2014/2015
10 – Marek Hamsik, Napoli
10 – Domenico Berardi, Sassuolo
10 – Franco Vazquez, Palermo
10 – Paulo Dybala, Palermo
10 – Miralem Pjanic, AS Roma
Pre Season Best XI
- GK – Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus
- D – Stefan de Vrij, Lazio
- D – Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
- D – Miranda, Inter Milan
- D – Alessandro Florenzi, Roma
- M – Sami Khedira, Juventus
- M – Daniele De Rossi, Roma
- M – Paul Pogba, Juventus
- M – Claudio Marchisio, Juventus
- F – Gonzalo Higuain. Napoli
- F – Mauro Icardi, Inter Milan