Who Will Win Serie A This Season?
It’s been an interesting summer over in Italy. Juventus’ fourth title in a row and near victory in the Champions League left plenty thinking that their dominance could continue for a little while longer. However with managerial changes, player departures and cash being splashed; it leaves that assertion somewhat up in the air. So, the question is who will win Serie A this season? Let’s see what some of the contenders have to offer…
Close but no cigar is how Fiorentina’s 2014/15 could be summed up in the league. A fourth place finish sees more Europa League football for the Florence side but the departure of Vincenzo Montella as manager was the biggest news this summer. New boss Paulo Sousa is fresh off an impressive stint at FC Basel in Switzerland and will be looking to stamp his authority on his new team.
He will have to do without the services of Stefan Savic and Mario Gomez, the two most high-profile departures. Savic drew 17 million euros from Atletico Madrid while the disappointing spell of Gomez ends with his loan move to Besiktas. Also leaving are experienced heads David Pizarro, Alberto Aquilani and Juan Manuel Vargas while number one Neto has joined Juventus on a free. Atletico’s Mario Suarez has been the biggest signing this summer while former Blackburn man Nikola Kalinic has been brought in to add some much needed firepower. Davide Astori and Gabriel were brought in to shore up the defence.
It’s more small changes rather than a revolution in Florence but some of the more experienced stars are gone and have been replaced with some younger talent. The big issue is goalscoring, a problem Fiorentina thought they’d sorted with Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi, but with Josip Illicic’s eight goals being their top scorer in Serie A then something has to change. Expect much the same from Fiorentina this season.
The five year hangover for Inter post-Mourinho looks set to be cured somewhat by the returning Roberto Mancini. Having steadied the ship last season, this year is Mancini’s team but how much time he’ll get if results don’t go his way is unknown.
He’s certainly not been afraid to make a splash in the transfer market. The rather shaky defence has been strengthened with the additions of Miranda and Jeison Murillo from Atletico Madrid and Granada respectively while Geoffey Knodgobia is fresh off an impressive season with Monaco and rejected Milan for Inter. Stevan Jovetic’s disappointment at Manchester City is over with a two year loan while Martin Montoya has been brought in from Barcelona to provide a natural right back.
Mancini has also done an impressive job shifting on a remarkable amount of deadwood. Out go Hugo Campagnaro, Felipe, Jonathan, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Rene Krhin, Joel Obi and Ruben Botta freeing up plenty of cash to use but the number of new signings has seen two big names depart abroad – Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City and Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid.
Mancini’s overhaul is certainly a much needed one for a big side that has really struggled in recent times. The departures of Shaqiri and Kovacic are interesting ones but there has been enough talent brought in by Mancini to at least get into some kind of European place.
Max Allegri’s first season in Turin could not have gone any better. The league and cup double and a brave Champions League final loss to Barcelona saw him better the almost unbeatable Antonio Conte. The hard work for Juve starts now though as this has been a summer of change for them.
While much of the talk has been about the departure of Paul Pogba, the Frenchman has remained but lost two of his partners in crime – Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Pirlo’s departure to the MLS has got most of the headlines but it’s the departure of Vidal to Bayern Munich that shocked many. Angelo Ogbonna was sold on to West Ham as well for a decent fee while top scorer Carlos Tevez finally got his dream move back to Argentina and Boca Juniors this summer.
In their place came some quality replacements. Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Simone Zaza all have great pedigree and will each shoulder some of the burden Tevez’s departure brought while the permanent signing of Roberto Pereyra and Sami Khedira will strengthen the midfield. Exciting talent Guido Vadala was signed as part of the Tevez deal while Neto will add some quality back-up for Gigi Buffon.
The summer upheaval in Turin might take some time to get used to for supporters but the experienced core of the successful side of the last four or five years is still there and will surely make any transition a lot easier. Expect Juve to be as imperious as ever.
A success story built on team work, Lazio are not big spending giant of Italian football they once were but have the ability and desire to mix it up at the top end. Last season’s third place finish looks to be as far as they can go right now however.
It’s been all quiet at Lazio. Recent transfer policy and finances dictate that they can’t just throw cash at a problem and hope it fixes itself. Instead, the focus is on players with potential that haven’t quite got there yet. The likes of Felipe Anderson and Balde Keita have flourished at Lazio and they will be hoping for similar success with the sigings of Ravel Morrison from West Ham, Patric from Barcelona, Wesley Hoedt from AZ Alkmaar and Ricardo Kishna from Ajax. Only Ederson, Michael Ciani and Diego Novaretti have left but doubt shrouds the future of club captain Lucas Biglia.
Lazio have a solid side with some exceptional talent yet a few key men are starting to age. It will be tough to repeat the form of last season especially with the likes of 37 year old Miroslav Klose leading the line but their team spirit carried them at times last season and might just keep them in the hunt this time around.
Just like cross-town rivals Inter, Milan have been stuck in a pretty hard malaise in the last few years. Tighter budgets and the loss of their very experienced core saw Milan crumble and go through a couple of bosses as Silvio Berlusconi tried to sell the club. It’s now sold and with Sinisa Mihajlovic in the dugout now.
Like Mancini at Inter, Mihajlovic has set about clearing out the underperforming and deadwood as he shapes his own side. That meant the likes of Adil Rami, Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien, Robinho, Riccardo Saponara, Didac Vila, Giampaolo Pazzini, Valter Birsa and Michelangelo Albertazzi amongst others were allowed to move on.
That left plenty to cover the cost of a rebuild and Mihajlovic has not held back when spending to get what he wants. 45 million euros was paid to Roma for Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci while another 30 million was paid to Sevilla for Carlos Bacca. Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano adds more firepower while former Parma man Jose Mauri is an exciting midfield talent.
After a couple of seasons of disappointment, Milan will be looking for improvement. The main hope is that new signings stop underperforming and the players stop their capitulations. If they can, then this Milan side might have a shout at the top three.
Rafael Benitez’s reign at Napoli ended poorly in fifth place and the now Real Madrid boss has been replaced by Empoli’s Maurizio Sarri. He will be looking for a much improved season as Napoli try to return to the Champions League.
Miguel Britos is the biggest name departure as Sarri has looked to make his own mark in Naples. Returning is keeper Pepe Reina from Bayern Munich while Jorginho’s loan has been made permanent. Elseid Hysaj and Mirko Valdifiori have followed Sarri from Empoli while Allan has been signed from Udinese to strengthen the midfield. Tottenham’s Vlad Chiriches has also been brought in as he looks to prove himself in a top league.
There is certainly a great deal of quality in the Napoli squad but the big questions remain about Sarri and whether he can replicate his success on a bigger stage. If he can then Napoli could be a really tough side to beat this season.
Consecutive second place finishes for Roma have been encouraging but they will be looking to go one better this season under Rudi Garcia. The question remains whether or not they have the firepower and consistency to do it.
With Bertolacci and Romagnoli sold to Milan, Roma also saw Federico Viviani depart for Verona, Jose Holebas to Watford and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to Lyon. One of the more notable departures was Seydou Doumbia’s return to CSKA Moscow after six months on loan.
Roma have reinvested well though. Victor Ibarbo’s loan deal has been extended while Radja Nainggolan is definitively a Roma player now. Iago Falque has joined from Genoa while Garcia has raided the Premier League for three players who were no longer wanted by their clubs. Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah and Wojciech Szcesny have all been brought in on loan as Roma look to go far in the league and Champions League this season.
There has been some smart business done by Roma this summer but there is still doubts about their mental toughness and whether or not they can get over the line and win Serie A. They will be looking for more consistency from their key men and a few more goals up top if they are to challenge Juventus once more.
So, who do I think will win Serie A? I think quite honestly Juventus will be just too strong for everyone else despite the personnel they lost. Roma will fall short in second once again with Inter sneaking into third ahead of Napoli on the final day. Milan will falter near the end but finish fifth with Fiorentina sixth and Lazio seventh.
What about you? Who do you think will win Serie A? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.[separator type=”thin”]