Written by Joshua O’Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Vincenzo Montella was hired by Milan in the summer and his appointment was well received by fans and media. Montella seemed to be the smart choice for Milan after three years of chopping and changing managers without success. Many felt that Montella was finally the right man to take Milan forward and bring the Rossoneri back into European competition. However, after the first three games of the season the pressure was already on Montella with Milan only picking up three points from a possible nine. Three games and seven points later things are looking a lot different and it seems that Montella's Milan is beginning to look like a real contender for the European spots.
Montella began his Milan career with a 3-2 win at home to Torino in which Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero saving a last minute Bellotti penalty. Milan's next two matches away to Napoli and at home to Udinese both ended in defeat. The Rossoneri fans must have began to resign themselves to another season of disappointment with the defense leaking goals for fun in the opening three matches. Montella was already under pressure and fans who were already angry about a poor transfer campaign were starting to lose patience with the club. Montella however remained calm and convinced that the results would start to come and he was right.
In Milan's next three games they picked up seven points leaving them currently one point off a Champions League place. The players are starting to understand Montella's methods hence the performances and results are improving. Milan haven't had easy games either a hard fought 1-0 victory away to Sampdoria and a 2-0 victory over Lazio were both credible results as was a 0-0 draw away to Fiorentina given Milan's poor recent record away to La Viola. What's been most impressive about the recent form of Milan has been the defensive solidity with the Rossoneri being the only team in Europe to keep three consecutive clean sheets in the last three matches.
Montella seems to have put a stop to the defensive issues that Milan has been known for in recent times. Davide Calabria and Mattia De Sciglio have been brought in as the full backs and the central defensive partnership of Gabriel Paletta and Alessio Romangnoli is working wonders for Milan. Montella's 4-3-3, which changes to a 4-5-1 while defending, is also providing a more solid formation for Milan while keeping an attacking style of play. For the first time in three years Milan seem to have a clear game plan and style of play. Montella deploys Suso and M’Baye Niang on the wings and most of the attacking revolves around them with the full backs overlapping to create space so that Suso and Niang can go inside or outside. Montella has also put confidence in their ability to keep the ball and use it effectively. While Milan have usually seen less possession than their opponent this season their use of the ball has been much better and they are creating much more chances under Montella. A clear game plan has been long needed at Milan and Montella seems to have provided one.
Il Diavolo host Sassuolo at the San Siro this Sunday and three points are vital as Inter play Roma and Milan would be guaranteed to gain on a direct rival. Montella has Milan looking like a real threat going forward and looking solid defensively. A win for Montella on Sunday would be great for Milan's European ambitions and perhaps if they keep winning matches and keeping clean sheets then the Champions League may not be out of reach. For Milanisti it seems that Montella's Milan is one that is starting to take shape nicely...
Written by Javiera Silva Bravo (@javierasilvabravo95):
Juventus have found this Serie A season a tough one to break even though the champions are sitting at the top. In a very busy off season and transfer market, losing players like Pogba and Morata they, if it was ever possible, compensated those losses with the signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Dani Alves, Marko Pjaca, Miralem Pjanic, Medhi Benatia and Juan Cuadrado.
The Seire A is already six matches in and Juventus sit pretty in first position one point ahead of rivals Napoli. However, their performances have not been pretty to watch even though they have picked up 15 points from a possible 18.
In their recent victory over Palermo, Juventus were criticised heavily on a win that was very, very fortunate. New boy Dani Alves was completely caught out during the match but was lucky enough Palermo lacked the clinical edge to not capitalise from his mistakes. His shot did however finish in the back of the net from a fortunate rebound off Goldaniga.
The Brazilian international has been relatively unconvincing so far. Though, in the Champions League, Dani Alves took charge in yesterday's game against Croat heavy weights, Dinamo Zagreb.
Alves is at home in this competition and found his feet early on crossing from the right to Higuain who blasted it over the bar just three minutes.
Juventus from the get go took absolute control of possession and showed us who really are the Italian Champions.
On 23′ Bonucci’s ball straight down the middle of the park took a wicked deflection off Zagreb's center back and landed on Pjanic’s foot who 15 yards out calmly slotted the ball in the back of the net. 0-1
Dinamo Zagreb were unlucky not to capitalise after going 0-1 down at home on 25′ after Domagoj Antolic swung in a free-kick from the left from and Gordon Schildenfled hit the crossbar from the centre of the box.
Juventus doubled their lead from a calm and swift play from the back. From Buffon to Bonucci to Hernanes in the middle of the park to then Pjanic lofting a sweet and precise ball over the defence to Higuain who slotted it in goal on 31′. 0-2
Leonardo Bonucci continued to show why he is one of the best centre-backs in the world. A skill he showed continuously last season. His vision from the back to push plays forward. His long balls are nothing but precise when needed be. On 39′ he found Sami Khedira’s run, with the bounce of the ball Khedira was able to head the ball over the GK but lacked power. The ball was easily cleared from the area.
The second half began in familiar fashion. Juventus did not let the game go or at the very least were happy to leave the score line as it was. They wanted and got more.
It only took Juventus 12 minutes to triple their advantage.
Paulo Dybala finally found his opening goal of the season in magnificent fashion on 57′ from nothing other than 30 yards out. His shot flew past Zagreb’s shot-stopper, Semper, who could do nothing other than dive for the photo… 0-3
If Juventus couldn’t rub it in the faces of Zagreb fans anymore on 85′ Dani Alves’ deflected free-kick found the back of the net. 0-4
After being battered in the press for their pass performances and some player attitudes, the giant was awoken. This performance away from home has kick started their European campaign and they continue to send a strong message to Europe that this Juventus squad do mean more than business in this competition.
Winning away in a hostile stadium as Maksimir Stadium currently puts Juventus in first place in Group H ahead of Sevilla in second.
Next up is Champions League match day three, when Juventus travel to face Lyon on October 18.
Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Rolando Maran was appointed by Chievo Verona in October 2014 to steer the club, who sat in seventeenth position, to safety. Chievo finished that season in fourteenth place and avoided relegation. In Maran's first full season with Chievo he brought the Flying Donkeys to a highly credible ninth place finish. Maran believes that his Chievo team can better that position this season and so far Chievo look very promising under Maran. It's time that people begin to sit up and take notice of Maran's great work at Chievo.
Chievo appointed Maran during the 2014-15 season and the former Chievo defensive stalwart successfully guided them to safety. Maran took over a team who were struggling to win matches in Serie A and often criticized for their bland style of play. Chievo, since 2011, have seemed to favor appointing bald managers and Maran continued this unusual trend. However this time it seems that Chievo finally got the (bald) man that they were looking for. Chievo were hoping to see the Maran that brought Catania to eighth place in the 2012-2013 Serie A campaign. In that season Maran achieved a record breaking 56 points for the Sicilian side and received many plaudits for his work with Catania.
Last season however he brought the Gialloblu to ninth place, a great job considering how close to relegation Chievo were the season before. Yet this time no one seemed to notice Maran's great work and the Italian tactician almost silently went about his business, with The Flying Donkeys improving every week. Maran did an excellent job last season, getting the best out of notoriously inconsistent players such as Valter Birsa and Riccardo Meggiorini. He kept the previous solidity that Chievo had under Corini while Maran has also added a more attacking edge to Chievo while keeping the gritty and tough style of play that the Flying Donkeys are known for. Alberto Paloschi's departure in January didn't help and Chievo still haven't found a suitable replacement. Maran is missing a goal-scoring striker in his team with Sergio Pellissier coming towards the end of his career and Meggiorini being more of a provider yet the Flying Donkeys achieved a credible top half finish. It could have possibly been even better had injuries been kinder to Maran's men.
The Gialloblu crucially managed to keep a hold of Maran this season amidst interest from Atlanta. Chievo have started this year like a house on fire gaining 10 points from the first five matches. Maran's team has already claimed some notable victories beating both Inter and Sassuolo. While Maran has not publicly set the objective of reaching the Europa League places, surely that must be his aim for this season. Perhaps the only thing that might hinder Maran is the previously mentioned lack of a goal scorer. Perhaps Antonio Flores Flores might be able to step up and provide some goals this year. So far this season none of Chievo's strikers have scored, however one could argue that if the strikers start scoring then the Gialloblu will be even more dangerous than they are now. Maran must be excited about the start that his side has made to the season. Although early doors The Flying Donkeys look like they can actually challenge for a Europa League place.
Chievo's revival is largely down to Maran's excellent work. So far Maran has gone quietly about his business and no one has really taken notice of the great work he is doing. However, I'm sure that at the end of the season he will be hoping that everyone will be talking about his Chievo side and how Maran made The Flying Donkeys soar once again.
Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
On Thursday night Sassuolo made their debut in the Europa League and achieved arguably the biggest victory in their history. The Neroverdi trashed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 at the Mapei Stadium. It was a historic night for Sassuolo who have made great strides forward in the last six years. Head coach Eusebio Di Francesco couldn’t have wished for a better start to Sassuolo's European campaign but how far can the Neroverdi actually go?
Sassuolo's victory over Bilbao was a fantastic achievement for a club who were playing in Serie B five years ago and the third division eight years ago. Last season Di Francesco's men edged out Milan to reach sixth place which put them into the Europa League qualification round. In qualifying for the Europe League the Neroverdi easily beat Lugano and Red Star Belgrade. After reaching the group stage Sassuolo were dealt a relatively tough draw with Athletic Bilbao, Rapid Wien and Genk being no pushovers.
Sassuolo's first match at home to Bilbao was one that not many people would have expected them to win. Yet Di Francesco's men once again upset the odds dominating Bilbao at the Mapei Stadium with goals from Lirola, Defrel and Politano in the second half completed the famous victory for the Neroverdi. Even without star man, Domenico Berardi, Sassuolo proved they can win big matches. One of the best things about Sassuolo winning their first match in the Europa League is their use of Italian players. Eleven of the fourteen players who featured against Bilbao were Italian. On a night where Fiorentina and Inter both failed to win playing a large number of non-Italians, Sassuolo show that big money does not have to be spent on overseas players to achieve success in Europe.
So after a dream start to the group Sassuolo now have a great chance of making it to the knockout round of the Europa League. Di Francesco's men at the moment look capable of beating any potential opponent they may face in the Europa League. Some Sassuolo fans will be dreaming of lifting the title and I think there is a chance they could. I certainly expect Sassuolo to reach the quarterfinals of the competition.
One of the advantages Sassuolo have is the fact the a lot of teams in the Europa League (mainly the big ones) play second string teams in the competition and rest their star names. Sassuolo however will be taking the Europa League very seriously. Di Francesco's men also have no weight of expectation on their shoulders; it's their first time competing in Europe and should they get knocked out in the quarterfinals or even the last 16 it will be considered a successful European run.
Sassuolo are set up for a great European campaign now, which is sure to give their fans memories that will last a lifetime. Playing an entertaining style of football and focusing on Italian youth they are everyone's favorite underdog for the Europa League. Sassuolo deserves the success they are now having and hopefully they will continue to have more success and maybe just maybe they'll lift the trophy at Friends Arena in Stockholm at the end of May this season.
Blog Written by Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese)
Order is based off final standings from last season
Key Signings: Miralem Pjanic, Gonzalo Higuain, Dani Alves, Marko Pjaca, Medhi Benatia, Juan Cuadrado
Key Departures: Paul Pogba, Alvaro Morata, Roberto Pereyra
It was quite a busy summer for the Bianconeri. Beppe Marotta and company got most of their work done early with the signings of Pjanic, Dani Alves, Pjaca, Benatia and even Higuain to an extent. Of course the biggest news was the record-breaking sale of Paul Pogba to Manchester United. As I have written, I believe Juve will miss Pogba’s off the field marketing more than anything else. Their midfield is still very strong and as we saw in the first match against Fiorentina, Kwadwo Asamoah is more than able to play there as well. Most people have already crowned Juventus as Serie A champions yet again but I do believe this year will be a very tight Scudetto race and it will be decided in May. But I think everyone knows that this season will be determined by Juve’s Champions League campaign. Anything short of at least reaching the semi-finals this year would be a disappointment in my eyes. Because of a pretty large turnover in the squad it might take a little time for Max Allegri to get this side firing on all cylinders but expect Juventus to be one of the top four teams across Europe this year.
Key Signings: Arkadiusz Milik, Nikola Maksimovic, Amadou Diawara, Piotr Zielinski, Marko Rog, Emanuele Giaccherini, Lorenzo Tonelli
Key Departures: Gonzalo Higuain, Mirko Valdifiori, David Lopez
After a record-breaking 36 Serie A goals last season, Gonzalo Higuain joined Juventus as they activated his €90 million release clause. Despite this huge loss, Napoli has made quality signings this summer. They improved and added depth to their midfield with Diawara, Zielinski, Rog and Giaccherini and finally made an upgrade over Raul Albiol by singing Lorenzo Tonelli and Nikola Maksimovic. I truly believe that in the long-term this transfer window will make Napoli a better team. They have a great mix of experienced guys like Hamsik, Callejón, Mertens, Allan etc. and young talents such as Insigne, Milik, Diawara, Zielinski and others. If Maurizio Sarri can get the new signings implemented into the squad quickly, Napoli may be able to keep up with Juventus closer to May this year.
Key Signings: Bruno Peres, Thomas Vermaelen, Stephen El Shaarawy, Allison, Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Wojciech Szczesny, Mario Rui (tore ACL in pre-season)
Key Departures: Miralem Pjanic, Lucas Digne, Maicon, Seydou Keita, Adem Ljajic, Iago Falque, Antonio Sanabria, Seydou Doumbia
The Giallorossi failed to qualify for the Champions League after collapsing in the second leg against Porto, finishing the match with nine men. It looked as if the capital side were a bit hung-over from their Champions League exit after a draw with Cagliari and falling behind to Sampdoria. But their eternal captain came to the rescue yet again. Francesco Totti came on as a halftime substitute, after a weather delay, to completely change the match. An assist and a stoppage time penalty goal from the soon-to-be 40 year old gave Roma an emphatic win and possibly kick started their season. This Roma side still has a strong core and Spalletti has done a fine job since his return to the club. A Scudetto triumph may be out of grasp but a top three finish along with a respectable Europa League campaign should be on the cards for the Giallorossi.
Key Signings: Antonio Candreva, Ever Banega, Gabigol, Joao Mario, Cristian Ansaldi
Key Departures: Juan Jesus, Adem Ljajic (was on loan), Alex Telles (was on loan), Dodô
Inter had somewhat of a hectic summer. There was much speculation if captain Mauro Icardi would be leaving, Frank de Boer replaced Roberto Mancini only two weeks before the season started and then the Nerazzurri completed two huge deadline day signings in Gabigol and Joao Mario. As expected with the abrupt coaching change, Inter got off to a slow start losing to Chievo and drawing Palermo. Captain Mauro Icardi has scored three goals in three matches, leading the line as expected. Ever Banega has already proven to be the most important summer signing with the way he controls the tempo and creates going forward. Candreva, Joao Mario and Gabigol are obviously all talents players; the main question to be seen is how de Boer uses them on the field. The Nerazzurri will be aiming for a top three finish but it’s hard to judge how good their chances are so early into de Boer’s reign.
Key Signings: Cristian Tello, Sebastian De Maio, Carlos Sanchez, Sebastian Cristoforo,
Maximiliano Olivera, Kevin Diks
Key Departures: Marcos Alonso, Mati Fernandez, Mario Gomez, Giuseppe Rossi, Facundo Roncaglia, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Manuel Pasqual
It certainly was not one of the more exciting summers for the Viola faithful. No real big name signings although keeping Cristian Tello from Barcelona was a good move. Marcos Alonso signed for Chelsea on deadline day with a reported €27 million being paid to the Florentine club. Certainly a good price but it could be hard to replace Alonso’s performance at left back. Fan-favorite Pepito Rossi left to join Spanish club Celta Vigo, with no real replacement signed. This season will be a real testament to how good of a manager Paulo Sousa really is. I think the squad dropped a little bit in terms of quality so it will be interesting to see how Sousa manages the team this year. Don’t be surprised if La Viola drop a spot or two in the league standings but they should be able to represent well in the Europa League.
Key Signings: Alessandro Matri, Timo Letschert, Antonio Ragusa, Pol Lirola (on 2-year loan)
Key Departures: Nicola Sansone, Sime Vrsaljko
The Neroverdi are Italy’s charming story. Competing in the third division under a decade ago, Sassuolo qualified for the Europa League this summer. Admittedly, the club sold two of their best players in Sansone to Villarreal and Vrsaljko to Atletico Madrid. Nevertheless, Eusebio Di Francesco has worked wonders at the club since being appointed in 2012. Young star Domenico Berardi has got off to a flying start, scoring seven goals in his first six games this season. The Italian has scored 40 Serie A goals at the age of just 22, following in the footsteps of legend Gianni Rivera. As expected the main question is how will Sassuolo balance both league and continental competition. While the Neroverdi may not finish top six again they could be a dark horse to cause some upsets in Europe.
Key Signings: Gianluca Lapadula, Mati Fernandez, Gustavo Gomez, José Sosa, Mario Pasalic, Leonel Vangioni
Key Departures: Jeremy Menez, Mario Balotelli (was on loan), Alex, Phillipe Mexes, Christian Abbiati
After a dark couple of years for Milanisti, there finally might be some light ahead. The sale of the club to Chinese investors has finally taken significant steps and looks surely set to happen. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Montella has taken over on the bench. To be truthful, the Rossoneri are still in the re-building phase but Montella has some shown some bright flashes of how he wants his team to play. An attacking trident of M’Baye Niang, Suso and Carlos Bacca looks like it has the potential to be lethal. While problems in the midfield still exist, mainly with Montolivo and Poli, Sosa and Fernandez should be able to provide some quality. This Milan squad does have some talented pieces but not enough overall quality or depth to fight for a top three spot. The Rossoneri will surely be aiming for a Europa League spot, while constructing a solid foundation the future.
Key Signings: Ciro Immobile, Wallace, Bastos, Luis Alberto, Jordan Lukaku, Moritz Leitner
Key Departures: Antonio Candreva, Miroslav Klose, Stefano Mauri, Ogenyi Onazi, Santiago Gentiletti
There was quite the controversy in the capital this summer as Marcelo Bielsa joined and then quit Lazio within the space of the 48 hours. Disagreements over signing new players is believed to be the reason of the abrupt departure. And so, Simone Inzaghi returned to the bench for the Biancocelesti. Then there was the report of only 11 season tickets being sold within the first 24 hours of them being on sale. Despite the loss of Candreva, this side still has its fair share of talent. I am interested to see if Felipe Anderson is able to become a leader and carry this team on the field. Summer signing Ciro Immobile should be able to do well and score goals. Expectations aren’t very high for Lazio this year expect a solid mid-table finish.
Key Signings: Samuel Bastien, Jonathan De Guzman Stefano Sorrentino,
Key Departures: Simone Pepe, Giampiero Pinzi
The Flying Donkeys have become a solid constant in Serie A. Never really flashy, but competent and hardworking. Head coach Rolando Maran has done well in his time at the club. Valter Birsa is the main man going forward, being able to both create and score himself. The club did well to sign goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, who at the age of 37 is still kicking strong. Chievo will fight for every point and finish in the middle of the pack yet again.
Key Signings: Alberto Gilardino, Manuel Pasqual, Matheus Pereira, Josè Mauri (on loan), Andres Tello (on loan), Giuseppe Bellusci (on loan), Federico Dimarco (on loan)
Key Departures: Lorenzo Tonelli, Mario Rui, Piotr Zielinski (was on loan), Leandro Paredes (was on loan)
The four departures listed above were arguably Empoli’s best players last season. However, the Tuscan club did reasonably well in signing some decent replacements. Mauri, Tello and Dimarco are all young talents who should be able to bring some excitement to watching this side. Riccardo Saponara is the key man, who will look to lead this team now. The old violin player, Alberto Gilardino, should be able to provide an adequate amount of goals and possibly reach 200 scored in Serie A. Expect Empoli to largely remain in the same area of the table, safe from relegation.
Key Signings: Lucas Ocampos, Giovanni Simeone, Lucas Orban, Miguel Veloso, Santiago Gentiletti, Diego Laxalt
Key Departures: Sebastian De Maio, Cristian Ansaldi, Diego Capel, Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Suso (was on loan)
Genoa has a new coach in Ivan Juric, who led Crotone to Serie A last year. Goalkeeper Mattia Perin has recovered quickly from his ACL tear and should be available to play soon. Lucas Ocampos will be expected to perform well and deliver service into the box for Leonardo Pavoletti. The Italian striker will probably bag around 15 goals yet again this season, leading the line for the Rossoblu. It will be interesting to see Juric implement his high-pressing style of play. Expect a solid mid-table finish from Genoa.
Key Signings: Joe Hart, Adem Ljajic, Iago Falque, Lorenzo Di Silvestri, Luca Rossettini, Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Leandro Castan
Key Departures: Kamil Glik, Nikola Maksimovic, Bruno Peres, Alessandro Gazzi, Ciro Immobile (was on loan)
Torino lost the three best players on their backline this summer, which will be a tough loss. Man City loanee Joe Hart had a shaky debut, misreading a corner kick, which lead to a goal. An attacking trident of Ljajic, Falque and Andrea Belotti should be mouth-watering for new manager Sinisa Mihajlovic. Along with Daneile Baselli in the midfield, Torino should be able to create goals quite well. I believe Mihajlovic can do quite well and maybe move up a few spots but their defense makes me somewhat hesitant.
Key Signings: Alberto Paloschi, Ervin Zukanovic Bryan Cabezas
Key Departures: Marten De Roon, Marco Borriello, Gabriel Paletta (was on loan)
Gian Piero Gasperini takes over in Bergamo after spending the last three years at Genoa. Franck Kessie has already scored four league goals this season, tied for the most. Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez is a constant threat, with quality pace and an eye for goal. A solid mid-table finish should be expected for Atalanta.
Key Signings: Federico Viviani, Ladislav Krejci, Adam Nagy, Simone Verdi, Blerin Dzemaili, Umar Sadiq (on loan)
Key Departures: Amadou Diawara, Emanuele Giaccherini, Luca Rossettini, Matteo Brighi
Roberto Donadoni will look to build upon the work he started mid-season last year. Summer signing Adam Nagy performed well at Euro 2016 with his native Hungary and will now look to prove his worth at the Stadio dall’Ara. Striker Mattia Destro will look to find some consistency in front of the net this season. This Bologna side should finish just about exactly where they did last year.
Key Signings: Dennis Praet, Bruno Fernandes, Patrick Schick, Luca Cigarini, Filip Djuricic, Karol Linetty, Daniel Pavlovic, Ante Budimir
Key Departures: Roberto Soriano, Joaquin Correa, Fernando, Lorenzo Di Silvestri, Niklas Moisander
Marco Giampaolo took over at Sampdoria after Montella joined Milan. While Massimo Ferrero sold some top players, his club made some fine signings this summer. Most notably Dennis Praet, from Anderlecht, a very good creative midfielder who should be a joy to watch in Serie A. There seems to have been a falling out between Antonio Cassano and the club management and it remains to be seen if that will become a problem throughout the season. Sampdoria should be able to avoid a relegation scare this year.
Key Signings: Bruno Henrique, Alessandro Diamanti, Alessandro Gazzi
Key Departures: Franco Vazquez, Achraf Lazaar, Alberto Gilardino, Stefano Sorrentino
Club president Mauro Zamparini is already up to his usual antics as he made his first coaching change just two weeks into the season. Roberto De Zerbi hopped on the coaching carousel as Davide Ballardini was booted out. The four departures listed above were all vital players for this team last year. Neither Franco Vazquez nor Paulo Dybala have been properly replaced at the Sicilian club. Zamparini can change managers, as many times as he wants, but Palermo will certainly be in a relegation battle this season.
Key Signings: Seko Fofana, Rodrigo De Paul, Sven Kums, Ewandro
Key Departures: Antonio Di Natale, Piotr Zielinski, Bruno Fernandes, Valerio Verre
Toto Di Natale is irreplaceable and he will be sorely missed by the Zebrette. Duvan Zapata and Cyril Thereau should certainly be able to score goals, provided they are granted enough service from their teammates. Head coach Giuseppe Iachini is accustomed to relegation battles, and this season will be no different.
Key Singings: Marcus Rohden, Noe Dussenne, Djamel Mesbah, Aleandro Rosi (on loan), Marcello Trotta (on loan), Lorenzo Crisetig (on loan)
Key Departures: Ante Budimir, Gianmarco Ferrari, Leonardo Capezzi
The Calabrian side earned promotion to Italy’s top flight after winning Serie B last season. Davide Nicola took over after Ivan Juric left to join Genoa. Raffaele Palladino brings Serie A experience and will need to provide goals for debutants. It will definitely be a tough task to avoid relegation but Crotone will look to compete and make Calabria proud.
Key Signings: Mauricio Isla, Marco Borriello, Simone Padoin, Bruno Alves, Artur Ionita
Key Departures: Duje Cop, Victor Ibarbo, Luka Krajnc
The Sardinian club did superbly well to sign experienced Serie A talent. Guys that have been around the block and can get the job done. Diego Farias is also an exciting winger to watch, who should perform well. Personally believe Cagliari has enough talent to reach that 40 point benchmark and avoid a relegation battle.
Key Signings: Simone Pepe, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (on loan), Alberto Aquilani, Bryan Cristante, Cristiano Biraghi, Robert Muric (on loan)
Key Departures: Gianluca Lapadula, Daniele Verde (was on loan)
Massimo Oddo leads The Dolphins in what is to be a big test for the former player. The clubs leading scorer from last year, Gianluca Lapadula, joined Milan for €9 million. Gianluca Capari will be asked to step up and the youngster has looked very bright so far this season. Bahebeck played very well against Inter, notching himself a goal, and looks like a great young talent. The team from Abruzzo has some young talent but do they have enough experience to survive a relegation battle?
Blog Written by Gennaro Episcopo (@NapoliFootball_):
Earlier this week, in an interview with Mediaset, Sarri emphasized the difficulty in facing the upcoming series of matches. He pointed out that the new arrivals were young and would need time to settle in and grow as players. He also noted how several players were not yet match fit. This was interpreted by some as a criticism toward the club board and the squad made available to him. He seemed to want to respond to those accusations in comments made after the Palermo match:
"We’ve brought in talented young players who will have a bright future. I’m happy that today, and for the next few years, Napoli has talented youngsters to watch grow. I just wanted to put things in context and make a very logical point. They are young players and during this time of the year in which there is very little time to train, it is only normal that we will have to be patient with them. Therefore, I think my words were misrepresented.
I’m against this way of practicing football. It’s not just me though. I think many people who have been involved in the game are as well. In three months (September, October, November) players are away on international duty for 10 days and in the remaining 20 days have to play 7 matches. In these conditions you aren’t practicing football, you’re just feeding a money making machine. You can’t prepare players physically or tactically. I’m not complaining about my team; I’m complaining about the current state of football on behalf of those who truly love it."
Those are some strong words by Sarri against what modern day football has become. I’m sure that many professionals and fans would probably agree with him. However with so much money involved, it will take a strong effort to change things for the better.
Blog Written by Gennaro Episcopo (@NapoliFootball_):
Starting Saturday, Napoli will begin a stretch of 22 days in which they will play 7 matches. Head coach Maurizio Sarri has already proven that he's a maestro when it comes to coaching. He has coached his way up through the ranks like few other coaches have to date. He has received praise for the manner in which his teams work hard and the entertaining performances they put on the pitch. He was able to get the very best out of Gonzalo Higuain who himself praised the Napoli coach for helping him reach his potential. Past the halfway mark last season he coached a Napoli side that was making a serious run for the Scudetto. That run ended in the latter parts of the season as his team began to slow down while Juventus continued to steamroll through the competition.
If there was one criticism to lay on Sarri it was the fact that he seemed to drain the team by only rotating players out of bare necessity. Many will defend Sarri by pointing out that he had little option. The squad had very little depth last season and not much was done to remedy that fact during the January transfer window. Vasco Regini and Alberto Grassi were brought in but neither impressed their coach enough to earn his trust. Grassi never saw the pitch in an official match and Regini only came on in the final minutes of the very last match of the season against Frosinone. Neither player is on the Napoli squad for the coming season.
However, if we look at how Sarri utilized Dries Mertens, we might also be inclined to believe that the Napoli coach was hesitant to make changes to his normal starting eleven even when he probably should have. Surely the Belgium attacker deserved a bit more space; especially considering the less than impressive performances Lorenzo Insigne was putting in during the final portion of the season. The same could be said for Manolo Gabbiadini who, despite an impressive minutes played to goal ratio, only saw the field sparingly.
There will be little room for excuses come this season as Napoli have received great praise for their moves in this summer’s transfer window. This is without a doubt the deepest squad of the Aurelio De Laurentiis era. There are at least two valid options at every position for Sarri to choose from. It will be interesting to see how Sarri reacts and utilities this squad. He will no doubt have to be skilled in bringing all the new faces up to date, integrating them into his system and ultimately placing his faith in them when the time is right.
In responding to questions about the depth of the roster last year, Sarri retorted, “With 18 men you can perform a coup d’etat.” Well with a few more men at his disposal this year, nobody will be expecting him to overthrow any governments but they will certainly be wondering if it’s enough to challenge the current champions of Serie A.