Are Juve finally reachable in Serie A?

This is the classic question on the minds of ardent Serie A followers and ‘banter’ for the critics. It is worth highlighting that nothing is a given in Italian football. From Atalanta’s unprecedented run last season to Crotone’s fairy tale survival, Serie A has its fair share of surprises.

The attractive feature of the league is highlighted by some 2016/17 interesting stats;

  • Most goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues

{1123 for Serie A compared to 1,118 La Liga, 1,064 PL, 991 Ligue 1 & 877 Bundesliga}

  • Highest number of players with 20+ goals

{6 compared with 3 for Ligue1, La Liga & Premier League, and 4 for Bundesliga}

  • Highest number of teams in Europe’s top 5 teams with most shots per game

{Roma & Napoli}

  • Record points for the 2nd and 3rd placed teams

{Roma’s 87 points highest in their history, higher than their league winning campaigns and Napoli with 86 points, their most in history}

  • Least points gap between league champion and main contenders (1st to 3rd).

{5 points gap compared to 15 in PL & La Liga, 17 in Ligue1 and 18 in Bundesliga}

Juve needs no introduction. They made 2 of the last 3 UCL finals and could have made it 3 in 3. Has any of the chasing pack in Serie A grown enough to be considered true challengers? We consider the next 4 closely;

NAPOLI – No disrespect to the Milanese teams or the 2nd placed Roma, but the southerners of Naples are the true anti-Juve. Their increasingly popular coach Maurizio Sarri is one of the prime reasons for this consideration. He has built a side capable of both attractive and effective football. Appointed after the disappointment of losing out on UCL football and the eventual dismissal of Rafa Benitez, Sarri has worked wonders. Helping Higuain to his most prolific season is one and that is bettered in conversion of Mertens to a dependable goal scorer for the fluid side. The team looks compact with a style the coach can call his own, a feat typically associated with more established names like Guardiola and Bielsa.

Napoli are the most stable from last season, maintaining the same 11 that helped them stay on Juve’s tail. The gap between Napoli and Juve last season can be attributed to Juve’s impregnable home record of 18 in 19 wins, a feat unlikely to be repeated.

The fear remains the accusation that Sarri and Napoli seem to favour flair over result and the latter cannot be de-emphasized when you are fighting a Juventus.

ROMA – The capital outfit, just like Napoli, collected their most points in a Serie A campaign in history. Unfortunately, they had one of the strongest Juventus sides to contend with. The obvious downsides to the team for the current campaign include losing the coach that made this happen (Spaletti), the transfer of the speedy counter attacking channel Salah and the eventual retirement of their talismanic Totti. The team has however maintained the core of the team; the dependable defensive partnership of Manolas and Fazio, the dominant midfield trio of Strootman, Nainggolan and De Rossi, and their record goal scorer in Dzeko. They also made a considerably smart choice in bringing a coach familiar with the environment in the former Sassuolo coach, Eusebio Di Francesco (EDF). If he can help the team overcome its mental block that the former coach lamented, the Scudetto is a reachable objective for the Giallorossi.

The fear is that Roma may be too big a stage for the coach who undoubtedly performed wonders with Sassuolo.

MILAN – You can’t ignore what the sleeping European giant has done in the current transfer window, can you? Over €200 million spent, 10 new player acquisitions, culminated in breaking a key component of the Juve’s strongest unit ‘BBC’ with the acquisition of Bonucci. Milan is back, ain’t they? Not so fast but they have come so far this summer. Montella managed to raise eyebrows last season following some impressive performances that earned them the anti-Juve tag at some point in the campaign. This was achieved with a team that their starting 11 can conveniently be associated with a typical second half of the table side. Fast forward to the eventual takeover by new Chinese owners led by Yonghong Li, the roster has been transformed. The defence, on paper looks like one of the best around with the addition of the world class Leonardo Bonucci. A likely 3 man defence looks tasty for the Diavolo with a mix of ball playing, intelligent and hard tackling – Musacchio Bonucci Romagnoli. Biglia is an instant upgrade to the midfield as he provides protection to the backline and can help the team build play from deep too. Eye raising performers of last season, Suso and Donnarumma are also retained despite the challenges for the latter. The team’s potential seems enormous and their pre-season performance against Bayern particularly has fans dreaming.

The flip side is that it is seldom easy to get a brand new 11 click in an instance, particularly in Serie A.

INTER – It is already 7 seasons since the historic treble and the Nerazzurri have been nowhere near those levels in recent seasons. From unstable management on and off the pitch to questionable player acquisitions.

While all the attention has been on Milan this summer, and rightly so, the Beneamata have had a proper pre-season for the first time in a long time. A new coach was appointed early, a reliable and respected personnel in Luciano Spaletti. The player acquisition has been smarter too, satisfying specific needs of the team like ball playing centre back accustomed to the league in Skriniar and extra pace to the side with the acquisition of Dalbert.

Traditionally, Inter cannot be ignored in the conversation for Scudetto challenge. The consideration could be more than historic if the pre-season performances are anything to rely on.

2016/2017 pre-season 2017/2018 pre-season
Inter 0 – 0 Wattens Inter 2 – 1 Wattens
Inter 1 – 2 CSKA Sofia Inter 1 – 2  Numberg
Real Salt Lake 1 – 2 Inter Schalke 1 – 1 Inter
Inter 1 – 3 PSG Inter 1 – 0 Lyon
Inter 1 – 1 Estudiantes Bayern 0 – 2 Inter
Inter 1 – 4 Bayern Chelsea 1 – 2 Inter
Spurs 6 – 1 Inter Inter 3 – 1 Villareal
Inter 2 – 0 Celtic Inter  –  Betis

While the results from the above are entirely different from past season to the current, the performance is even better. The coach made it clear in his first press conference that he left the UCL to come to Inter and Inter must give it back to him. Early days but it is not illusionary to see why this Inter can grant the coaches’ wishes and even more if the opportunity presents.

The undeniable obstacle for the team is its weak mental strength. They always seem one loss away from another slumber.

OTHERS – Teams like Lazio cannot be ignored in influencing how the season unfolds. They have lost club captain Biglia and may lose Keita but the core of the team remain in De Vrij, Immobile and Felipe Anderson. Atalanta is not expected to repeat last season’s performances but have kept the star man Alejandro Gomez and added the young Italian Orsolini to their fire power. Fiorentina lost so much in the transfer window but now have a chance to use some underutilised talents like Saponara and Sportiello. Coveted forward, Andrea Belotti has remained with Torino along with the attacking talents that aided him like Ljajic and Iago Falque.

Juve’s high levels has forced the chasing pack to raise the bar and they have never been closer to stopping the Bianconeri. The endless controversies, outspoken club presidents, unique stadium announcers and adorable historic club kits adds to what makes the 2017/18 campaign unmissable.

Superman Téo Eze

@ezeteofilo

**Stats via SQUAWKA and WHOSCORED

***Pictures courtesy Super News, Goal, FC Inter 1908, Bleacher Report, ESPNFC

4 thoughts on “Are Juve finally reachable in Serie A?

  1. I think the gap is closer but the only real major challenge juve has is Napoli, but Napoli needs to play more for results than the all attractive football. The likes of Roma,inter and Milan still needs time to gel cos their has been one major addittion/subtraction from the team.

    Time will tell though…38games.

  2. Like Sacchi said “Juve have mental strength, which is linked to their individual quality and a club among the top five in the world, that’s worth an extra few points right from the get-go.”… the Scudetto is Juve’s to lose

  3. Very good piece. But the edge Juve will always have is mental. It’ll take other teams a while to attain that level. #ForzaJuve

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