The 2012-2013 Serie A season is just around the corner and if the previous season is anything to go by, fans of Italy’s top-flight could be in for a real treat. Answers to many an interesting questions will be answered. Can Milan cope with their monumental losses? How many times will Pato get injured this season? Can Juventus go another season undefeated? And just how many managers will Maurizio Zamparini decide to axe this term?
Players have arrived and departed but mostly departed from the league with Calcio losing some of its bigger names this summer in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi unsurprisingly all to oil-rich French side PSG. The bigger sides in the league have mostly invested in players tried and tested in Serie A, dipping into their wallets to purchase stars from fellow Serie A outfits. Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla, Kevin Constant and Walter Gargano are just some of the players that have jumped ship and upgraded their clubs.
The Serie A Title Race
Juventus are the reigning Serie A champions and remain firm favorites to retain the Scudetto this season. This, is partly down to the inability of their nearest rivals, Milan, to strengthen their squad during the summer. The Bianconeri on the other hand, have acted swiftly and efficiently to tie up deals. Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla, Lucio, Sebastian Giovinco and Paul Pogba are some of the high-profile signings that should give Juventus that depth they need to succeed on all three fronts this coming season. Though Alessandro Del Piero’s departure may be something the Bianconeri may struggle to deal with given his impact both on and off the pitch.
A worrying factor for Juventus remains the 10 month ban imposed on the man who turned their fortunes around – Antonio Conte. The former Juventus midfielder’s supposed involvement in the recent Scommessepoli scandal that has gripped Italian Football comes as a huge loss for the Bianconeri. His stand-in Massimo Carrera has done admirably so far, bagging the SuperCoppa Italia as Juventus beat Napoli 4-2 in Beijing. The added fixtures of midweek European games will only add to the fatigue of the Juventus squad and rotation will certainly come into play. These hindrances though may not be enough as Juventus do have the best squad in the league and there isn’t a team that can match them on paper.
AC Milan have had their financial problems well documented and have been forced to release two of their most influential players of the past couple of seasons. The loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva will be a hard one to cope up with given the Rossoneri’s reliance on the irreplaceable duo in recent campaigns. Add to this the exit of veterans Pippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta, Rino Gattusso, Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommel paves the way for a transitional phase for the red half of Milan.
New buys Cristian Zapata, Francesco Acerbi, Kevin Constant, Riccardo Montolivo hardly fall in the same bracket as their predecessors. But Milan remain Milan and while they might struggle to launch any sort of threat to Juventus’ Scudetto challenge, they won’t give up by any stretch of the imagination. The environment around the Milan campaign remains a pessimistic one with Champions League qualification cited as the primary target.
Meanwhile, the blue half of Milan have certainly gone about their business in the transfer market in an excellent manner. Smart purchases in the form of proven Serie A talents Walter Garagno, Matias Silvestre, Gaby Mudingayi, Rodrigo Palacio and Samir Handanovic have propelled Inter above Milan and just behind Juve as Serie A favorites. After a disappointing 6th placed finish last season, Inter have it all to prove this season. With Andrea Stramaccioni at the helm, there is a fair bit of optimism at the Appiano Gentile. A mount for the title looks very much within Inter’s capacity but they still remain behind Juventus as far as favorites are concerned.
The most intriguing swap of the summer remains that between the two Milanese giants. Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini switched clubs but what comes as a surprise is the additional €7.5 million paid by Milan in a bid to secure their man. Pazzini, of course will be seen as a Ibrahimovic replacement but just how well he does remains questionable given he thrives most with crosses aimed towards his path and Milan don’t really play with any width. Cassano’s loss also comes as a blow to Milan who have lost possibly their most creative player in attack. And with Alexandre Pato spending more time on the sidelines than he does on the pitch (the Duck is currently injured again and is out for 28 days), the whole transfer remains baffling.
TheHardTackle Prediction: Juventus to rise head and shoulders above their rivals.
The Chase For European Spots
Over the past few seasons, the race for European positions in Serie A has seen fascinating tales of drama and excitement. While the Milan sides and Juventus have been acknowledged as front contenders for the Champions League positions, Napoli, Roma, Udinese and Lazio will surely put up a tough fight.
Roma’s project has taken another twist with chain-smoking manager Zdenek Zeman making a return to the capital city. Not afraid to voice his opinion with his often controversial claims, Zeman’s return to Serie A brings a lot of thrill. His footballing philosophy of no-holds-barred-all-out-attack too will entertain followers of the league. Roma’s recruits, especially that of Michael Bradley and Mattia Destro have given the Roma faithful hope ahead of the new Serie A season but these two signings pale in comparison to Daniele De Rossi announcing that he won’t be leaving his beloved club, thus silencing the interest from Man City.
Napoli may have been yet another victim of PSG’s Serie A transfer window raid when they lost Ezequiel Lavezzi to the Parisians but in Lorenzo Insigne, they have potentially Italy’s next great trequartista. Insigne has raised eyebrows with his extraordinary performances with Pescara in Serie B and looks ready to make the step-up to the big-time with Napoli in Serie A. Napoli’s chances of a European spot too will depend a lot on whether the other tenor Edinson Cavani heads through the exit door. Cavani has long been the centre of desire for a host of top-clubs around Europe and Napoli will definitely sell the bomber if the right offer comes along. The club have also reinforced with Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini putting pen to paper from Fiorentina.
Lazio have had to deal with the resignation of Edy Reja. The experienced manager endured a love-hate relationship with the fans and the club and finally decided to call it quits. He was replaced by Vladimir Petkovic who, is somewhat of an unknown entity to Serie A fans. A terrible pre-season has definitely not helped the fans gain any sort of encouragement ahead of the new term neither has the quiet transfer activity which the only purchase of note is that of attacking midfielder Ederson from Lyon.
Not often does a club improve upon its position after selling their best players but Udinese managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat with their display last campaign. Now in the crème-de-la-crème of Europe, Udinese have once again followed their philosophy and have parted ways with their influential players. Asamoah, Isla, Handanovic have moved on yet you cannot rule out Udinese of a top 3 finish. Despite manager Francesco Guidolin’s humble claims that his side will look to avoid the drop, the Friuli based outfit will look to upset the odds yet again and lock themselves in a European Spot.
The dark horses though for a European Spot come in the form of Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina. An encouraging transfer window has brought about renewed enthusiasm in Florence. Alberto Aquilani, Borja Valero, Matias Fernandez have all bolstered the Viola ranks. There is hope surrounding the new season but there is also fear that they may lose their prized jewel – Stevan Jovetic. Should Fiorentina manage to ignore the temptation of cashing in on the attacker, they could stand a real chance in their mission of acquiring a European spot.
The New Boys
Pescara had a stunning campaign last season where they ended the season joint on top of the table alongside Torino. A jump up to Serie A though will bring with itself a whole new adventure that surely won’t be an easy ride. The club will have to somehow deal with the fact that three of their best players from last campaign have gone on to greener pastures. Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti have all left the club in a bid to further their career at bigger clubs. They also lost couldn’t retain the services of manager Zdenek Zeman. Giovanni Stroppa has been appointed as his successor and while survival remains the goal, it won’t come easy. Though, the Delfini can be comforted by the fact that their fellow relegation contenders Sampdoria, Torino, Atalanta and Siena have been handed points deduction for their match-fixing scandals involvement.
Ciro Ferrara returns to club management with Sampdoria as the Blucerchiati make a return to Serie A after a year in Italy’s second division. With incoming players in the form of Marcelo Estigarribia, Maxi Lopez, Lorenzo De Silvestri, Eder and the return of Andrea Poli, Sampdoria have enough ammunition to guarantee themselves survival.
Torino’s return to Serie A will revive an old rivalry with neighbors, Juventus. The Derby della Mole will make for a captivating spectacle as two old foes lock horns in the city of Turin. Torino’s return to Serie A might see them struggle. They do start their campaign on ‘-1’ but have quickly shopped to help them overcome that deficit. Jean-Francois Gillet, Alessio Cerci, Mario Santana bring with them Serie A experience to the table while young prospects in Angelo Ogbonna and Simone Verdi will bring youth to Giampiero Ventura’s side