Why Serie A is the league to watch this season
Serie A has been reinvigorated by its compelling title race and riveting unpredictability.
Serie A has been the most enjoyable league of this football season so far. This can be attributed to the dip in form of Juventus at the moment. The side-effect of their fall is that that there is a genuine title race in the Italian League at the moment. This has not properly happened since the 2011-12 season, when Juventus narrowly beat Inter Milan, to lift the coveted Scudetto that year.
While Juventus have fallen off massively compared to their previous years, it is still not the main story in Serie A. Napoli, under Maurizio Sarri, are an absolute joy to watch; playing their high-tempo, fast-forward football with a carefree attitude. They might leak goals, but more often than not, they tend to outscore the opponent.
Napoli are yet to lose in Serie A and are one of only two teams to go undefeated in the Italian league this season. The combination of José Callejon, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne is unarguably the best attacking-trio in global football right now. It is quite unorthodox to think that Mertens, who was usually picked as a winger, now operates through the middle. Simultaneously, Insigne is finding his best form out-wide, courtesy his the ability to cut inside.
Just behind those three, you have Marek Hamšík and Jorginho, who are two outrageously gifted technical players. Gian Piero Ventura neglecting Jorginho throughout his tenure as Italian boss was perplexing, to say the least and in hindsight, it was a leading factor in Italy failing to qualify for next year's FIFA World Cup.
Inter Milan's revival
The other team that is undefeated is Inter Milan, which might come as a surprise to many. They finished seventh last season but then, replaced Stefano Piolo with Luciano Spalletti. The fiery Italian has reinvigorated the squad hugely and has them firing on all cylinders
Inter, similar way to how Chelsea operated last season, are benefiting from not playing European football this season. They have longer to recover and minimise the potential for any injuries to their first team players.
There is a reason why Manchester United boss, José Mourinho, pushed so hard for the wide player, Ivan Periši?, in the transfer period this season: the Croatian can create something from virtually nothing and has a great sense of unpredictability in his game. Periši? has been one of Inter’s (and Serie A’s) best wingers this season, with a direct involvement in nine goals in just 13 appearances.
Periši? works incredibly well with the Argentine, Mauro Icardi. Would you believe that this gifted athlete has played for Argentina just four times in the last four years? Icardi has 13 goals to his name in Serie A, just two behind league-leader Ciro Immobile.
Inter do not score as freely as Napoli might, but they are structured in their approach and are very diligent when defending. There are moments when they lose concentration and concede goals they shouldn’t, but the Nerazzurri are usually compact thanks to Serie A’s best defender this season, Milan Skrniar.
Bought from Sampdoria for a hefty fee of £20m, the 22-year-old has been unbelievable in protecting his area and clearing potential danger with skill and dedication. Not only that, his ball skills are phenomenal and he looks like a captain-in-waiting if he stays at Inter long enough.
Napoli and Inter fill the first two places, with Juventus in third, but just behind the Bianconeri are Roma and Lazio, who have just played out the Derby della Capitale.
It was a close game, but Roma, you felt, were always in control and had a strict game plan that they carried out efficiently. The win at the Stadio Olimpico allowed Roma to move up the table with 30 points, a total that is two ahead of Lazio.
Roma’s Diego Perotti and Radja Nainggolan have been a pure delight to watch this season. The Argentine architect really turned it on against Lazio when his team needed him to, while the Belgian has been a crucial part of Roma’s squad for some years - and has hardly ever let them down.
Lazio, too, have been spectacular going forward. While Immobile’s goal-scoring record speaks for itself, Sergej Milinkovi?-Savi?'s dominance in the midfield makes for an excellent ingredient to their attacking brilliance. The Serbian has a huge presence in the formation and cannot be pushed off the ball easily. While that is important, his standout attribute is his ability to pick out a pass in the opposition’s defence. He has an immaculate array of passing skills.
Exciting week ahead
Both Roma and Lazio have a game-in-hand on their rivals which, should they both win, Roma have a chance to jump to the second position on the league table, while Lazio can with Juventus with 31 points in their column.
Should it play out in this way, Serie A would five top teams within four points of each other. It would make it the most competitive league in Europe this season by some distance.
Every fan wants to watch competitive football and the unpredictability of Serie A had been dwindling under Juventus’ reign for long. However, with such a fascinating season playing out in front of us, Italian football is back on the rise and is a must watch this year.