The False Nine’s Kyle Hulme casts his verdict on how the big hitters in Serie A have got on so far, as well as offering them his own current and predicted grade…
Going into the new season, fans of the Bianconeri were hoping for more of the same. Fortunately, Juventus have delivered so far this season. Despite ‘The Old Lady’ still being without a star striker, they find themselves top of Serie A as we begin 2013 and have an eight point gap over second placed Lazio – La Gazetta Dello Sport, Italy’s leading sports newspaper and a bible to all calcio fans, has already announced Juve champions with only 18 games played. Juventus’ water-tight defence has only conceded 11 goals this season, fewer than any other team in the league this season. However, despite going unbeaten in the league last season, they have already suffered two losses in this campaign (albeit one in controversial circumstances to Milan). Losing Kwadwo Asamoah to the African Cup of Nations will be a blow, but with Atalanta fullback Federico Peluso expected to join any time in the next few days, and players such as Fernando Llorente and Salvatore Bocchetti being linked, one would assume Juventus will be able to cope without him for the duration of the tournament. In terms of what I expect from them in the second half of the season, I can only see it ending in glory as they seem to be heads and shoulders above their rivals.
CURRENT GRADE: A PREDICTED GRADE: A
Lazio have enjoyed a successful mezza-stagione so far, finding themselves exceeding expectations and into 2nd place, and have done so by playing attacking football. They ended 2012 with an impressive 1-0 victory against Internazionale, Miroslav Klose with the goal which took his tally for the season up to 10 and showing he’s still got what it takes at the highest level. What holds Lazio back is their ability to score away from home; despite scoring 18 goals at home, they have only scored a measly 8 goals away from home, something that has to be improved if they want to keep their highly-contested second spot. Whilst they have impressed so far, I can’t see them keeping it up; with teams like Roma coming into form and experienced but inconsistent Inter breathing down their neck they face an uphill task to stay in second place.
CURRENT GRADE: B+ PREDICTED GRADE: B
2012 was not a great year for La Viola. Finishing in lowly 13th place, and with star playmaker Riccardo Montolivo on his way to Milan on a free transfer, it felt as though their meteoric rise and years of hard work had gone as far as it could go. Eighteen games into the new season, they’ve proved the doubters wrong. Fiorentina are currently sitting in 3rd position, thanks largely to the form of their star man Stevan Jovetic, who has scored 8 goals so far in the league. Yet the real surprise story is the form of a certain Luca Toni. The talismanic 35 year-old was signed from Al Nasr to muted acclaim yet has gone on to score 6 goals, showing there’s life in the old dog yet. Alberto Aquilani has done well to fill the Montolivo-shaped hole in their midfield, and has also signalled his ambition to guide Fiorentina into Europe – a feat that isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. Should they keep hold of Jovetic and Adem Ljajic, the Europa League appears to be the only foreseeable goal for Fiorentina. But you never know – they’ve already shown this season that they love to surprise us…
CURRENT GRADE: A PREDICTED GRADE: B+
Though they embarked on an impressive run of winning seven games in a row, Andrea Stramaccioni’s Inter find themselves in 4th position due to their inconsistency, which has seen them lose to rock-bottom Sienna and draw against relegation threatened Cagliari and Genoa, however the form of Cassano, Milito and Cambiasso still offers hope for a Champions League finish. The Nerazzurri have done this all without the aid of world-class trequartista Wesley Sneijder, who has started only five games. Sneijder finds himself frozen out of the squad due to disagreements with the manager in terms of contract renewal – it’s largely expected that he will leave in January, with Tottenham Hotspur thought to be his biggest suitor. Inter head into the second half of the campaign hoping to build on their success so far this season and, with a little consistency and additions in January, a Champions League spot looks to be an attainable goal.
CURRENT GRADE: B PREDICTED GRADE: B
Napoli find themselves in exactly the same position they were in last year, 5th, following the deduction of two points for their involvement in match fixing – those two points would see them in second place, and points to the ultra competitive nature of this season’s Serie A. Their success is once again down to the form of that man Edinson Cavani, notching an incredible 13 goals in 15 games. Yet they aren’t a one man team by any stretch of the imagination – Marek Hamsik continues to shine, continually outplaying the majority of his opposing midfielders and weighing in with 7 goals of his own, and they have coped admirably since the summer departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lorenzo Insigne has also won over the hearts and minds of those in Naples, building on his impressive season with Pescara last year and showing that the sky’s the limit for the young Italian. It’s hard to say where they’ll be come the end of the season – they have an impressive defence yet will surely suffer the loss of captain Paolo Cannavaro, suspended for six months due to his role in the match fixing scandal. Napoli must improve their scoring away from home if they want to remain in the race for Europe.
CURRENT GRADE: B PREDICTED GRADE: C
Italian football just wouldn’t be the same with Zdenek Zeman. In keeping with Zeman’s philosophy, watching Roma has been entertaining to say the least; breathtaking attacking displays, erratic defending and inconsistency all have been key features of Roma’s matches this season. The attacking trident of Lamela, Osvaldo and Totti and the performances of Marquinhos at the back have been key to Roma’s successes so far and you get the feeling that Roma could really kick on and finish in the top three if they could steady the ship at the back. Roma go into the new year on the back of an impressive run, winning six of their last seven league games and that sort of form coupled with the experience of their squad gives them the upper hand as they look to get into Europe.
CURRENT GRADE: C PREDICTED GRADE: B+
Where did it all go wrong? From finishing 2nd last season and competing right down to the wire with Juventus for lo scudetto, to selling star players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Milan now languish in 7th place, 5 points behind Roma in 6th and 17 points behind leaders Juventus. However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom for AC Milan. Stephan El Shaarawy leads the race for Capocannoniere with 14 goals and has been virtually unplayable at times this season, doing his best to take the place of Ibrahimovic, and Antonio Nocerino has impressed in the middle of the park. Yet it is scant consolation for cash-strapped Milan, who look like they’re going to have a miserable season and need to step it up dramatically to have any chance of qualifying for the cash cow that is the Champions League.
CURRENT GRADE: D PREDICTED GRADE: C-
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