Of Europe’s big five leagues, Serie A was the last to kick off over the weekend. it’s going to look vastly different from the league that Inter Milan won last season. Here we look at those aiming for the Scudetto in the 2021/22 Serie A title race.
Who are the contenders for the Serie A title race?
Before we look at the title contenders, which changes have the latest Serie A title race provided? The first of note was Andrea Pirlo leaving Juventus and being replaced by hugely successful former gaffer Massimiliano Allegri. Then, in a whirlwind development, the self proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinho rocked up at Roma just days after his bizarre pre-League Cup final exit from Tottenham.
The Portuguese’s arrival in Serie A set up the prospect of a couple of fiery clashes between Roma and Inter Milan, with Conte and Mourinho hardly the best of friends. However that potnetial clash was ended with Conte leaving his post at Inter who are proving something of a basket case. More of that to come.
After the success Inter enjoyed last season there was a real feeling that the team could go on and deliver something special in this season’s Serie A title race. Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were up there with some of the best partnerships around, while Achraf Hakimi has been a consistent performer from right wing back. You could probably argue that he’s currently the best right back in the world.
As touched on already, Conte is gone. It’s a huge blow and his replacement, Simone Inzaghi, simply doesn’t boast the same pedigree. His win percentage of 53.4% in his only managerial position to date is south of anything Conte has posted in the last decade.
As for their playing squad, it’s hard to talk up a title defence. Lukaku arriving at Stamford Bridge makes them genuine contenders for the Premier League and, in the same breath, it kills 99% of the Inter hopes. That becomes all the more clear when – at present – the replacement for the big Belgian is a 35-year-old Edin Dzeko. It’s not all bad news for Inter fans though. Denzel Dumfries coming in for the right back spot is a good signing and Hakan Calhanoglu has been one of the top performers in Italy for a while. Signing him on a free from bitter rivals AC Milan is the icing on the cake.
Title verdict: No title defence but a top four spot is theirs to lose
He’s every media outlets favourite manager so let’s not beat around the bush. What can we expect from a Jose Mourinho influenced Roma side this season?
First and foremost, one of the key things to note is that his pragmatic come counter-attacking style won’t cause the same friction in Italy as it does in England. Secondly, whilst some question his status in the modern game, that’s also not the case in Italy. He’s still lauded for what he achieved with Inter a decade or so ago.
Despite that, nobody is giving Roma a serious sniff of the title. What’s our view we hear you ask? Well, Mourinho hasn’t wasted much time with shaping his squad. A few names have been shipped out with Justin Kluivert and Pedro perhaps the most notable along with Dzeko, albeit we’re not convinced Mourinho shoved the experienced front man out the door.
On the inbound front, Mourinho has opted for steady at the back with Rui Patricio a 7/10 goalkeeper most of the time but outfield a lot of the arrivals are a tad more eyebrow raising. Tammy Abraham is the biggest arrival in terms of coverage but Matias Vina at left back and Eldor Shomurodov have flown under the radar. Both have impressed in pre-season as has the fit again Nicolo Zaniolo.
Title verdict: A Scudetto would be second only to Porto’s Champions League win and this season might be too early for Mourinho to shape the Serie A title race. Top four would be a good finish.
It says something about how crazy this summer has been when it barely registers that AC Milan, who finished second last season, lose probably the best keeper in the world in Gianluigi Donnarumma and Calhanoglu to their rivals for nothing. Neither are moves which make Milan a stronger side than they were last season though. Even so, if they can find some momentum, we wouldn’t rule out a challenge at the top.
The goalkeeper position has been addressed by Stefano Pioli and Frederic Massara, following Mike Maignan’s arrival from Lille. He’d been courted by several of Europe’s bigger clubs before penning a deal with AC whilst Fikayo Tomori, who signed permanently from Chelsea, is a centre back that should only get better with the more experience he gets.
In front of those two is AC’s real weapon though. Their midfield trio could be the difference between a Champions League spot or a Serie A title race charge. Franck Kessie proved just how good he can be last year with 19 goal involvements (13 goals, six assists) whilst Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz, a loan signing from Real Madrid, have a ceiling that is up there with the biggest wonderkids of years gone by.
The only question mark is the strike force; Oliver Giroud is 34 and has never been a prolific scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soon to be 40, makes Giroud look like a youngster and is not expected back in training for another 10 days after a serious injury and Rafeal Leao only hit six goals in 30 game last year.
Title verdict: The lack of an out and out goal scorer to let them down. Second place it is.
It’s the one you’ve all been waiting for. Despite the rumours it looks like Cristiano Ronaldo will still be with The Black and Whites come the end of the transfer window. Ronaldo staying in Turin is absolutely massive for the football club both on and off the pitch in what is going to be a really important season, with Allegri returning to the hot seat. Some suggest Ronaldo hasn’t delivered the goods for Juve. They are wrong. He has provided a goal contribution every 93 minutes.
Parking our Ronaldo love in though, we recognise Juventus are far from a one man team. Federico Chiesa was one of the most exciting players at Euro 2020 and big things will be expected of him this season. The same is also true of Paulo Dybala, who disappointed under Pirlo.
You’ve also got Alvaro Morata sho experiences his fair share of ridicule on social media for glaring misses but you can’t knock his stats, with 11 goals and 10 assists last season. You’d expect that to improve as the team improves under Allegri.
Finally, you’ve got the perfect blend of youth and experience at the back. Could you handpick a better three centre backs than Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini? We’re not convinced. As for winning the title, we think there is a famous saying about defences and doing exactly that.
Title verdict: The team to beat.
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