Another Serie A season is upon us, it would not be a typical Calcio season without turmoil in Milan; the city rivals have continued from where they stopped last season from controversy to another, even though said controversy is supposed to steer the once great Milan clubs in the right direction.
Whilst Inter Milan have gone on with the transfer of ownership of the Nerazzurri to its new Chinese owners with consummate ease and professional precision; their cross town rivals AC Milan, just like last year have had to deal with various issues ranging from a sit tight mentality, nickle and dimming, poor or over bloated valuation and what I would term a lack of ”balls” from the so called Chinese ”government” backed investor. This has definitely affected the real business on the pitch which involves preparing the squad for the challenges ahead and adding some quality to the playing personnel. Interestingly, both Milan clubs enter the new season with new managers; Vincenzo Montella (who I greatly admire for his personal style and team philosophy) takes the reins at AC Milan, while Frank De Boer replaces Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan after a fall out with the owners on transfer targets and a string of poor pre season results.
Now as the city of Milan gets accustomed to the changes in management and ownership structure; the guys in Turin have gone in to put themselves in front of the queue as overwhelming favorites for a potential sixth straight Scudetto with the transfer business conducted so far by the Old Lady of Turin. Juventus under Max Allegri are shaping up quite nicely, consolidating on the home front by weakening their closest title rivals with the signings of Pjanic from Roma and Higuain from Napoli whilst focusing on conquering Europe for the first time since 1996. Allegri since last season has been working with surgical precision in making and molding this team in his image; even though it all seems hunky dory; a lot will depend on how the Bianconeri cope with the midfield departures World record Fee, Paul Pogba and Roberto Pereyra both lost to Premier League sides, Manchester United and Watford respectively. These two were key parts of the Juventus midfield; all be it that Pogba is the one everyone is wondering how well life without him would be for the Old Lady.
Now, if there is a manager that can cope with player departures of any kind its Max Allegri, he lost half his squad at Milan after a title winning season, has had to cope with Pirlo and Vidal leaving Juve in the same window and still ensuring that they are competitive on all fronts with their efforts crowned with a domestic double. A lot has been said about how grossly over weight Gonzalo Higuain looked on his return from his Summer holiday, I believe he would be eased in gradually as Dybala and Mandzukic would shoulder the goal scoring burden whilst expecting the midfield to potentially chip in its fair quota, noting that the Old Lady lost Alvaro Morata to his former club Real Madrid as part of his buy back deal. I cannot look beyond Juventus retaining the Scudetto, as they have covered the basics,had probably the best transfer window of all the big clubs in Europe, strengthening in key areas; Juventus would take some stopping.
Having been weaken considerably, Napoli and Roma have it all to do to wrestle the title from the hands of Juventus even without a ball been kicked yet. Roma’s transfer business has been a bit baffling to say the least, yes defensively they have major injuries; but the signings of Thomas Vermaelen, Juan Jesus and Fazio from Barcelona, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspurs respectively doesn’t really inspire any kind of confidence in me and this was showcased as Roma battled to a lucky away draw at Porto in the Champions League qualifiers. I like the fact that Spaletti has stuck to the ideals in his forward line which involves a lot of pace and off the ball running, complementing the lanky and calm presence of Edin Dzeko and Francesco Totti with the permanent signings of Mohammed Salah and Stefan El Shaarawy (does Spalletti know something about Egyptian born players that we don’t know?).
Napoli continue to hold on to Kalidou Koulibaly, but in reality for how long can they push away the advances from the likes of Chelsea. It is understood that Sarri is looking to bring in the highly rated Torino defender Maksimovic as a potential replacement, coupled with the likely departure of Raul Albiol; who is rumoured to be keen on a return to Spain, hence the San Paolo club would have to contend with departures at the back as well as the departure of 36 goals hero, Gonzalo Higuian. The signing of Arkadiusz Milik is welcomed, but translating Ere Divisie prowess to Serie A dominance is a different kettle of fish; the spot light would be firmly on him through out the season. Hence, both teams that finished second and third respectively last season have it all to do to maintain the same level of momentum that would enable them challenge Juventus; it is a tough call.
With all due respect to the others such as Lazio, Fiorentina, Udinese, Genoa and Sampdoria; their sights would firmly be on ensuring qualification for the Europa league, now its a tough call as three of the teams stated above would be vying for those same slots; Fiorentina seem like the ones that may keep their heads above water in the fight for Europe as Lazio haven’t been helped by the madness associated with the engagement of Marcelo Bielsa. The appointment was supposed to be a huge statement of intent for the Capital club, but in the end has back fired terribly; hindering their entire pre season preparations.
The newly promoted sides as always will have it all to do to stay in the top flight; Crotone, Pescara and Cagliari come into Serie A full of confidence, but the gulf in class always shows eventually. However, I expect Cagliari to just survive relegation and potentially drag either of Empoli and Palermo down to Serie B.