The footballing season has finally kicked off but ……. But something is definitely missing. While many would understandably not observe, the few that do, really do. The Italian Serie A might not be as fascinating as it was in the 90s, yet, it still makes millions of people’s weekend by keeping them glued to their television.
One thing that scores the Calcio for my money, is the “absence of intimidation”. As a matter of fact, the difference in play between the best and worst teams in the league, is not as much as other top leagues in Europe. For the also-rans, the dearth of “big name” players is outwitted by a sound tactical approach, which is indeed superior to the players. In the words of current Chelsea manager, Jose Felix Mourinho, “Italy is my greatest challenge yet. How can a team who wants to win be playing against a team who doesn’t want to lose?” To cap it off, the Italian league leaves you mouth- opened with mesmerizing artistic goals that keeps you licking your lips week in week out. With these, we now take a look at the chances of favourite teams for the scudetto.
Manager: Antonio Conte
Star players: Georgio Chiellini, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo
Players to watch: Paul Pogba, Carlitos Tevez
Strength: defending champion status, better strikers, stronger defence, the all round goal scoring contribution of the team, ability to raise the game’s tempo above Pirlo’s pace/ influence.
Weaknesses: Taking the game beyond Pirlo’s influence might soon translate to loss of dominance, poor chances conversion.
Advice: To attain their first three consecutive scudetto since the 1960s, Antonio Conte needs to take heed as he aims to shift the team’s power from midfield to attack.
Manager: Rafael Benitez
Star players: Gorkhan Inler, Marek Hamsik
Players to watch: Gonzalo Higuain, Lorenzo Insigne
Strength: brilliant replacement of Edinson Cavani with Gonzalo Higuain, sustainable growth in recent years.
Weaknesses: a non-league oriented manager, challenge of balancing European commitment with the league, too frequent squad rotation policy by Rafael Benitez.
Advice: To pull a stunt as he did with Valencia in 2003/2004 season, Benitez needs to hit the ground running from the word go, if not, a déjàve of his stint at Inter Milan is very much imminent.
Manager: Massimiliano Allegri
Star players: Mario Balotelli, Ricardo Montolivo, Stephan El Sharaawy
Players to watch: Andrea Poli, Bryan Christante, M’baye Niang
Strength: starting captain (Ricardo Montolivo), good form since the turn of the year, unpredictability, good mix of youth and experience.
Weaknesses: lack of squad depth and convincing players, lack of creative spark in the midfield, low team fluidity, poor aerial defence (resulted in 15 goals last season), poor aerial threat going forward too.
Advice: get a trequartista and at least, a decent central defender and be more adventurous in play and substitution.
Manager: Vincenzo Montella
Star players: Borja Valero, Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani
Players to watch: Mario Gomez, Josip Illicic, Guiseppe Rossi
Strength: Fearlessness, total football, compact midfield
Weaknesses: no fear factor, inexperienced manager, Europa league commitment, little team belief.
Advice: It’s a very safe job for Vincenzo Montella as they obviously punched above their weight last season. So, take it a step at a time and we’ll see how things play out.
NOTE: The above analysis is subject to changes, as club activity in the transfer windows changes.