Top 10 features the top ten stories from the previous month from across the footballing world. The featured articles may be about a massive headline or a result from the previous month, or a culmination of a particular story that needs to definitely be noticed and discussed about. This feature is to bring a different flavor to the breaking news we see and talk to others about and aimed at constructively looking at the point in discussion. The stats used in the article below are accurate as of November 30, 2017.
Once touted as the best league in the world as early as the mid 80s and 90s, the Champions League winners from 1985 to 1996 saw Italian winners for five times in 11 years with Juventus winning twice and Milan becoming crowned thrice. This is how the Italian clubs dominated Europe and even Serie A was fought fiercely with a minimum of three to four teams fighting for the title.
But as of late Premier League in England has remained the only league in which there are a number of teams that are capable of challenging for the title. While this is rather indicative of the fact that the quality in the ‘top’ sides is not quite enough, the league always makes for the best viewing with its unpredictability and the number of teams challenging for the title.
Serie A in the recent past has been dominated by Juventus as they racked up a record sixth consecutive title in the 2016/17 season. Juventus came back brilliantly under Antonio Conte after the Calciopoli scandal and have followed it up well under his successor Allegri who has won three titles so far with Juventus having won it once with AC Milan in 2011. Allegri had taken them to greater heights as Juventus have reached two Champions League finals in the span of three years, although quite not making the cut in the finals against the Spanish giants.
They became the lone torch bearers of Serie A in Europe after poor performances from the other Italian clubs in the continental competitions. This season however Serie A has become more competitive like it has never been in the recent history. Almost five teams at the moment are fighting for the places at the top while three teams out of the five seem very genuine contenders to win the league.
Two points separate the top three as Inter are at 39, followed by Napoli, who have racked up 38 points under the management of Maurizio Sarri while defending Champions Juventus have 37 points from 15 games apiece. Next come Roma with 34 points from 14 games and Lazio who have accumulated 32 points from 14 games. Should Lazio and Roma win the game in hand, the gap would become even tighter. No other league boasts such a close gap at the top( Premier League sees runaway leaders Manchester City 8 points ahead of their closest competitor in Manchester United, so much for the toughest league in the world right?)
It would be great for a neutral fan from Serie A, after having witnessed the league monopolized by Juventus in recent years, to have such a competitive league with the quality sides beefing it up at the top. If Lazio and Roma win their respective games in hand, then the gap between the 1st placed team and the 5th placed team in the table would be just 5 points which is quite catchable considering the long run in the league.
And considering the gap between the first two teams in other leagues such as the 9 points gap between PSG and Marseille in Ligue 1 and 8 points gap between the Manchester clubs in the Premier League, it is quite staggering how the competition has become so tight this season in the Serie A. There are many factors as to why Serie A has been so competitive this season like never before in the previous years and these factors includes the rise of Icardi for Inter, Juventus’s failure to dominate, Napoli surge under Sarri etc.
Juventus’ loss in fuel
It is obvious that a single king cannot sit in the throne until the end of ages. There has to be successors and there always has to be an end for a king. Same goes with Juventus who have unarguably created a legacy in Italian football by dominating the country for the last six years. Mind you, they have won the league for six consecutive times, a record which they created in combined tenures of Allegri and Conte. In this season, though all the cards haven’t fallen yet, there have been signs as to why they could be replaced finally.
There are many reasons for this as it is tough to sustain such an extraordinary run, as the victories thus far have not been exactly close with the Old Lady almost always winning the league very comfortably and it is easy for the other teams and oppositions to read almost everything about their systems and style of play. Also it is very tough to keep the engine revving in the team and to do it six years consecutively is a huge success in itself. However this season, there are already signs that they have failed to replicate their standards from the previous seasons and this has let the other teams such as Napoli and Inter to capitalize.
The main reason has been the defensive lapse and failure to control and dominate games. In the Serie A, they have already let in 14 goals this season from 15 games and this is a pretty staggering stat as they had conceded just 27, 20 and 24 goals in the preceding years in which they had won the titles under the same coach. The move of Bonucci has really been a problem in the back and in this rate they would concede at least 35 goals at the end of the season.
Even though they have been able to outscore the number of overall goals scored so far, their defence has been a major concern and it was visible in their losses against Sampdoria and Lazio. Another point to note that they have faced only one team from the top six till this point and it really will be a major concern when they face the big games.
Not often a team would be called famously after their manager. Such cases include Sacchi’s Milan, Pep’s Barca and so on. Of late, Napoli have added themselves to that amazing list under the brilliant tutelage of Maurizio Sarri. Sarri’s Napoli have received plaudits from all over the football world particularly for their playing style. Sarri uses the positional play much similar to that of Pep Guardiola but for different purposes.
Although they lost to Juventus this gameweek, Napoli’s excellent work so far in the league should not be discounted as they have set the standards pretty high with their game play. The competitive nature of the league has been upped several notches, leading Napoli to drop to second in the table with just their first defeat of the season.
Dries Mertens has been the most important player of the team so far having scored 10 goals and provided 3 assists. His dropping movements playing as the number 9 have been crucial for the success at Naples so far. Lorenzo Insigne is another key figure for Napoli as he proved great support from the left and is a main factor in the design of Napoli’s left sided dynamics.
With an astutely innovative idea, Sarri has been able to get the most out of his players as they look to be the firm favourites to win the title.
No Europe, No pressure for Inter
Last year Chelsea won the Premier League under Antonio Conte much to the surprise of many after having seen subdued performances in Jose Mourinho’s final season at the Bridge. Conte had upped the ante in the performances and the morale was very good in the squad. Many pundits considered a particular reason that has hugely favoured Chelsea to win the league and it was nothing but their absence in Europe.
That blessing in disguise helped them win their second title in three years as they had just FA Cup to concentrate along with the league. This season it has been the same case for Spaletti and Inter as they look to push for the title having finished 7th in the previous campaign. Spaletti has done miracles so far at Inter and their major confidence booster was the 0-0 draw in the home of league leaders, Napoli.
Inter have confounded their doubters and despite all the talk about Milan, albeitnot for the right reasons as the season has progressed, it is Inter who have made everyone stand up and take notice of their fantastic run so far in the league. It is by no means a stretch to say that Inter have deservedly grabbed first place after 15 games, still unbeaten in the league.
Icardi has been leading by example for the side as he has a lion’s share in Inter goals scored this season. With a solid tactical set-up, the Inter fans can expect Inter to go all the way this season 8 years after the famous treble under Jose Mourinho, if they can keep this form up.
Inter and Napoli have created a record this season as this season becomes the first to see two teams be undefeated after 14 games in the Serie A since its inception. While these two teams have gathered all the praise one should not forget Roma and Lazio who are not very far behind. Lazio should definitely be remembered for their amazing performance in Turin against the Old Lady and if they win their game in hand, they go level on points with Juventus, two points behind Inter who find themselves at the top, for now.
It should be stated that Serie A has finally become more competitive for various reasons and the title race at the top should be as exciting as the Premier League, if not more.