Serie A: Anybody's League?

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I'm not the league's biggest watcher but its fascinating to me that during a time period in which most big leagues have become dominated by 1-2 sides, Serie A is currently going in the opposite direction. Nine weeks into the season, none of Juve, Milan, or Inter (collectively owners of the last 20 league titles and 28 of the last 30) are in the top four and it feels like 5-6 teams could legitimately win the title while at least 8 could make a CL place run. That's just fun.

Perennial also-ran Napoli is really worth watching. They lost two club legends this summer in Koulibaly and Insigne, plus Fabian Ruiz, and were widely written off entering this year. Yet right now they're playing amazing stuff. That thumping of Liverpool wasn't an aberration. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia is looking like one of the best signings of the summer by any club in football. CB Min-Jae Kim is also drawing rave reviews. Even Tanguy N'Dombele is looking lively. Napoli have only won Serie A twice, both times in the 80s when Maradona was king there, and it would be a great story if they could do it again.

Other good stories include Udinese (who just cranked Roma and Inter by a combined score of 7-1 in September), a potential Jose Mourinho revenge tour (with his Roma side currently in sixth place but only four points off the top), and Sarri's Lazio (who somehow have the best goal difference in the league).

We didn't have a Serie A thread but we should.
 
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Dummy Hoy

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Didn’t even mention Napoli losing their all time leading scorer and absolute club legend in Dries Mertens.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Yup another massive loss I totally forgot to mention.
Hope I didn't come off rudely, wasn't my intent.

Good call starting this thread (regardless of how much traffic it gets)- this really is the most interesting major league in Europe right now from a parity perspective. I wonder how much the shift in Italian tactics has caused this?

Napoli hasn't had the toughest schedule in the league (did beat Lazio and Milan on the road though) but they've run roughshod through their CL knockout group- 3-0 with a +11 GD. Hosting Ajax today at 12:45.
 

SocrManiac

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One of the most fascinating things going on in Serie A right now is the shift in defending free kicks. We're used to seeing teams hold a line and the attacking team swinging the ball in behind.

Here's a paywalled article: https://theathletic.com/2905083/2021/10/23/cox-italians-are-defending-free-kicks-differently-to-the-rest-of-europe-is-it-a-good-idea/

From the article, here's a picture of the traditional method (Liverpool. vs. Atletico):
56410

Here's Juventus:
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The theory here is that the defenders are better positioned to clear the ball if they aren't running at their own goal. These free kicks don't seem to be tremendously effective at generating goals, anyway, but there's been a reduction in corner kicks conceded. Goalkeepers have more traffic, but they probably aren't facing sprinting attackers bearing down on them as much, either. All in all, it's been a neat thing to watch develop over the past year or so.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Hope I didn't come off rudely, wasn't my intent.

Good call starting this thread (regardless of how much traffic it gets)- this really is the most interesting major league in Europe right now from a parity perspective. I wonder how much the shift in Italian tactics has caused this?

Napoli hasn't had the toughest schedule in the league (did beat Lazio and Milan on the road though) but they've run roughshod through their CL knockout group- 3-0 with a +11 GD. Hosting Ajax today at 12:45.
I didn't see that as rude at all. It was more of "Doh, how did I forget him moment."

I think it might be part smart tactics by a bunch of clubs outside the traditional big 3 and partly those clubs just being more limited financially and, in the case of Juve at least, being a total mess at board level.

One of the most fascinating things going on in Serie A right now is the shift in defending free kicks. We're used to seeing teams hold a line and the attacking team swinging the ball in behind.

The theory here is that the defenders are better positioned to clear the ball if they aren't running at their own goal. These free kicks don't seem to be tremendously effective at generating goals, anyway, but there's been a reduction in corner kicks conceded. Goalkeepers have more traffic, but they probably aren't facing sprinting attackers bearing down on them as much, either. All in all, it's been a neat thing to watch develop over the past year or so.
That's really interesting. From my admittedly quite vague recollections, I think this used to be pretty common in the 1990s. So maybe another example of football going in cycles.

If anybody hasn't seen Kvaratskhelia yet, watch this video (which I think is just highlights of the last couple months). Everybody looks good on highlights but this guy is really really fun to watch.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l-5E1Qmr_U
 

wonderland

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Jul 20, 2005
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Didn’t even mention Napoli losing their all time leading scorer and absolute club legend in Dries Mertens.
I thought Napoli would keep Mertens around as a super sub but moving on from him was the right decision. Their midfield and forwards play so well together and are so varied in the attack. Raspadori getting up to speed quickly has been huge as that will help manage Osihmen’s minutes. Lobotka and Anguissa have been fantastic. I think they need one more player there to keep from running them into the ground as they’ve both played a lot of minutes. Need to see if Østigård is ready to be the third center back too. But what a fantastic start to the season.
 

rguilmar

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Thanks for getting this thread started. We used to have one every season. I haven't watched nearly as much Serie A as I did in the past mostly because the condensed fixture list just means that there are too many games in too little time. I do catch Napoli and Atalanta whenever I have the time, as well as some Milan and Juve to catch the Yanks in action.

The quick turnaround in the top two teams is remarkable. Second place Atalanta was for me the most entertaining team in the world for a while and led the big five leagues in scoring a couple of times. Now they lead the league in fewest goals conceded. They're still one of the best run clubs in the world. Napoli's immediate rebuild has been well covered here, and I think @wonderland has it spot on in terms of how they play. The wild thing is that most of these players were not in Naples a year ago but they play like they've been on the same team since they were children. Kvaradona has been an absolute revelation, but all of their transfers are looking great. Napoli are pretty much must see TV at this point.

I think most people have a soft spot for both teams. Atalanta is in Bergamo, which was essentially ground zero in Europe in the early stages of the pandemic. Napoli have been so close to winning the league so many times and lost it in heartbreaking ways. Smart money is still on Milan to repeat, but it would be cool if either of these other clubs can win Serie A.
 

rguilmar

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Napoli have pulled away a bit and have the opportunity today to really put some distance between themselves and second-place Juventus with a win.

After what that club has gone through for the last 30 plus years, it’s hard not to pull for the boys from Naples.
 

Senator Donut

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One of the most entertaining halves of the season so far. Napoli lead 2-1 at the half. Ángel Di María has scored once and hit the crossbar for Juventus. Kvara continues a great week for Georgia.
 

rguilmar

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Juve had allowed 0 goals in their last eight games and just seven goals all season going into today.

Napoli have three in 55 minutes.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I’d love to hear any arguments against them being the most entertaining team in the world to watch. I regret missing so much Serie A this season.

4-1 Napoli so far and it could have been more.
Even as an Arsenal fan, with them playing great stuff week in week out this season, I've gotta hand that award to Napoli.

5-1!
 

wonderland

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That 4th goal was just awesome. Rui hustled to close down that Bremer pass to set it all up. Napoli has so many ways to score.

I have a distant cousin who goes to games often and he’s asked me to join him but I’m going to regret not being able to go this season.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Napoli have that lightning in a bottle feel that the great non-mega club teams have, like Ajax a few years ago or Monaco a few before that. Their finances are stronger than either of the above so they will not get picked clean the way those did, but the vultures will be circling so we should really enjoy this while we can.
 

rguilmar

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Napoli have that lightning in a bottle feel that the great non-mega club teams have, like Ajax a few years ago or Monaco a few before that. Their finances are stronger than either of the above so they will not get picked clean the way those did, but the vultures will be circling so we should really enjoy this while we can.
I agree with your overall point that we need to enjoy this team now because we don't know what the future holds. That being said, Napoli are in a different position than the other clubs you mentioned, and not just because they are a bigger club. They just unloaded some huge pieces (and salaries) which makes this year's run so surprising- Insigne, Koulibaly, Mertens, Fabian Ruiz, Milik to name a few.

They spent much of that money, and wisely, but they still are running a profit on the transfer side of things and have a lower wage bill than last season. Financially speaking, they likely don't need to sell anyone. Since most of the intriguing players at Napoli were just brought in, they are signed to longer terms contracts. The big name is obviously Kvaratskhelia who is signed through 2027. Not to say a team wouldn't make a run at him, but it's fair to say his transfer fee would be outrageous, possibly the largest one season gain in soccer history. Kim has a release clause I believe, but well above his recent purchase value.

The one exception is Osimhen. Most people new how talented he was but teams probably needed to see this level of consistency. He has had so many injuries that he just hadn't been able to put it together. PSG might try to nab him this summer but he still is signed through 2025. If you look at Napoli's wages, there are some players that could easily be moved to shed salary and/or bring in decent transfer fees if the club felt the need to renegotiate with players.

Napoli have been a well run club for a while now, going toe to toe with the big boys in Serie A since their return to the top flight. They've routinely done more with less than the other heavy hitters in Italy. They surely didn't budget for a run in the Champions League so anything else they get out of that tournament is financial gravy. The vultures will still be there and clubs will try to turn the heads of the stars at Napoli, especially Osimhen and Kvaradona, but it won't be easy to pry them away given their contracts and Napoli's financial position.

But, again, your overall point stands- let's just enjoy watching them while we can.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Juventus just got slapped with a 15 point deduction. This brings them down to 22 points, 12 off a place in Europe and 15 off the CL.

Better than going down to Serie B I guess.

Pertinent for Spurs' fans, Paratici got banned for 2.5 years within Italian football and they're asking UEFA to extend the ban to the continent. Agnelli banned for two years.
 

rguilmar

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After Lazio’s thrashing of second place Milan today, Napoli have a 12 point lead at the top of Serie A at the midway point with 50 points and a +32 GD. The club from Naples has shown an ability to blow league leads in the recent past in heartbreaking fashion, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s their league to lose at this point.
 

luckiestman

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I’ve been watching Roma. Not the most exciting ball but I like them. Will be exciting to see if they make top 4.
 

SocrManiac

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I’ve been watching Roma. Not the most exciting ball but I like them. Will be exciting to see if they make top 4.
I was shocked to see just how low Dybala’s release fees are. If he can stay healthy it might be difficult for Roma to keep him.
 

luckiestman

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I was shocked to see just how low Dybala’s release fees are. If he can stay healthy it might be difficult for Roma to keep him.
I don’t know how all that stuff works. Some on Reddit think he is gone if Mourinho goes and stays if he stays.
 

luckiestman

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I don’t know who else watches this shit but that was a heartbreaking draw for Roma and probably about as happy as you can get for a draw for Milan

93rd minute Roma with a great goal, 96th minute some bullshit from Milan to even it up.
 

Senator Donut

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I don’t know who else watches this shit but that was a heartbreaking draw for Roma and probably about as happy as you can get for a draw for Milan

93rd minute Roma with a great goal, 96th minute some bullshit from Milan to even it up.
I was watched about minutes 15-90 then got up and came back to 1-1 scoreline.

Milan now leads for the final Champions League spot on goals scored (h2h and gd are tied). The table was thrown into chaos a week and a half ago when Juventus had their 15-point deduction reversed. There are some wacky possibilities including Inter or Milan winning Champions League combined with Juventus winning Europa which could eliminate the 4th place spot.
 

luckiestman

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I was watched about minutes 15-90 then got up and came back to 1-1 scoreline.

Milan now leads for the final Champions League spot on goals scored (h2h and gd are tied). The table was thrown into chaos a week and a half ago when Juventus had their 15-point deduction reversed. There are some wacky possibilities including Inter or Milan winning Champions League combined with Juventus winning Europa which could eliminate the 4th place spot.
Roma going to win Europa, man. Gotta beat some German assholes first.
 

luckiestman

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I also read, but I don’t remember where, that just because Juve got their points back for Serie A it is not a given that they won’t be DQed from Champions League.
 

wonderland

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I was watched about minutes 15-90 then got up and came back to 1-1 scoreline.

Milan now leads for the final Champions League spot on goals scored (h2h and gd are tied). The table was thrown into chaos a week and a half ago when Juventus had their 15-point deduction reversed. There are some wacky possibilities including Inter or Milan winning Champions League combined with Juventus winning Europa which could eliminate the 4th place spot.
I watched from 75-90 then had to get up. Definitely didn’t expect 1-1.

Napoli can win the title tomorrow. I was really down after falling out of the Champions League but that late winner rejuvenated things. Hopefully the title can be clinched in front of the home crowd.
 

HampshireCounty

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While I was writing this I completely forgot Roma were in Europa and not Conference. Lots of chances for the 4th place team to be left out.
If Fiorentina wins the Conference League, does that add to the chaos? They're not going to qualify for Europe based on the table...
 

tmracht

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He's like 18 months younger than Ronaldinho who hadn't played top level in almost a decade. Truly a freak and one of the best personalities.
 

Jake Peavy's Demons

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Serie A will have a rare 39th game this afternoon as Hellas Verona will take on Spezia. The league had decided to go back to an old tiebreaker in the event that teams have the same number of points for champion considerations and/or relegation positions. The rest of the table positions still use goal differential.

Both Verona & Spezia are at 31 points & sit 18th & 17th, respectively, so a relegation position is at stake.

Match will be held at neutral site Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore in Reggio nell'Emilia. This will be the 1st time such a game happens since 2005, when Parma and Bologna squared off, with Parma ultimately winning by aggregate score.

This match will be just the one to determine who gets relegated.
 

rguilmar

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Serie A will have a rare 39th game this afternoon as Hellas Verona will take on Spezia. The league had decided to go back to an old tiebreaker in the event that teams have the same number of points for champion considerations and/or relegation positions. The rest of the table positions still use goal differential.

Both Verona & Spezia are at 31 points & sit 18th & 17th, respectively, so a relegation position is at stake.

Match will be held at neutral site Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore in Reggio nell'Emilia. This will be the 1st time such a game happens since 2005, when Parma and Bologna squared off, with Parma ultimately winning by aggregate score.

This match will be just the one to determine who gets relegated.
This is great. Game is today at 2 pm on Paramount for those interested.
 

Jake Peavy's Demons

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Game ended Spezia 1: Hellas Verona 3.

Craziness when Davide Faraoni scored in just the 5', only to later get a straight red at 68' and concede a PK, only for the PK to be saved by Verona GK Lorenzo Montipò from Spezia forward MBala Nzola's foot.

All goals were scored in the 1st 38', with Spezia equalising at 15', & Verona getting 2 more from Cyril Ngonge's brace.

Hellas Verona get to stay up in Serie A, whereas Spezia drop down to Serie B after a 3-year spell in the top.