The Serie A is over for 2012 and Juventus are the winter champions. Here is a look at the 20 teams and how the first half of 2012/13 has gone for them.
The bianconeri are dominating the Serie A and with Antonio Conte back on the bench, they should be in more control. A lack of a prolific striker is still a problem but the scoring load has been evenly shared throughout the team. It could backfire on them in the CL but Conte’s men should get away with it in the Serie A. Looking at the new signings, Nicklas Bendtner has been a flop in attack but Paul Pogba has been useful when he has played, possibly being Andrea Pirlo’s heir in the centre and Kwadwo Asamoah has been excellent on the left side of midfield. Balancing the CL and the Serie A won’t be easy but Conte has plenty of depth at his disposal.
A pragmatic team that gets results, the aquile have players such as Miroslav Klose and Hernanes to build their team around. Their defence is experienced and solid, with Andre Dias and Giuseppe Biava being tough nuts to crack in the centre of defence. Federico Marchetti has been outstanding in goal this season and looks capable of being number two to Gianluigi Buffon in the Azzurri. Antonio Candreva has been useful on the right side of midfield, even scoring some goals from long range. Vladimir Petkovic was a surprising choice as coach but he has worked wonders and as long key players avoid injury, Lazio will be a match for anyone.
After a chaotic 2011/12, the Viola made changes to its roster and coach. Vincenzo Montella has come in as coach and players like Alberto Aquilani, David Pizarro, Emiliano Viviano and Juan Cuadrado have arrived. Italo-Argentine Facundo Roncaglia has been a rock in defence and has made a preference to play for Italy over his nation of birth. Borja Valero has been a success so far in Italy, which is rare for Spaniards playing in the Serie A. A splendid player to watch, he is also a clever passer of the ball. Luca Toni has been arguably the biggest surprise in this Fiorentina side. He has turned the clock back and has been a reliable finisher at 35 years old. Before the season started, pundits said that the Viola lacked a centre-forward but Toni has played like he never left Florence. Montella has created a team that is very confident on the ball and he is blessed to have some fine passers at his disposal. A third scudetto is unlikely but if vital players like Stevan Jovetic and co can stay on, they might be in with a chance in the next season or two.
Andrea Stramaccioni got the full-time coaching job after some impressive results in the remaining 2011/12 fixtures. He took over from Claudio Ranieri and Inter played in an offensive manner, with a 4-2 win in the Milan derby the best of the lot. He still has an ageing roster at his disposal this season and his team is more pragmatic. ‘Strama’ is building the team around its strengths, which is used to the conservative style under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho. The current team relies on Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito to create and score chances but it somehow doesn’t work when Inter play an offensive game. Inter is getting results but age is starting to tell on some of these players. Eventually Stramaccioni needs to integrate the players he coached in the primavera into the senior team and balance good football with results.
Walter Mazzarri has said that he might take a break at the end of the season. He probably should take time off because things are starting to look stale at Napoli. One of the masters of implementing the 3-man defence, he has worked wonders during his time with the napolitani but inconsistency is becoming a problem. Napoli is struggling to kill off opponents in most matches. Morgan De Sanctis is becoming a liability in goal, the defence is fragile and there is too much dependence on Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik in attack. Mazzarri’s side do not look like the scudetto dark horse most pundits expected. A different coach in 2013/14 might bring the best out of Lorenzo Insigne and other youngsters.
Inconsistency is the giallorossi’s problem under Zdenek Zeman. His team is capable of winning convincingly one week but torn apart in the next. His ultra-offensive 4-3-3 formation has not benefitted his defenders and goalkeeper bar left full-back Federico Balzaretti, who provides great runs and crosses from the left side. Young midfielders Alessandro Florenzi and Panagiotis Tachtsidis have benefitted from Zeman’s faith in young players as well as Argentine striker Erik Lamela, who has scored 10 goals so far. Mattia Destro has struggled but he is better off being Pablo Osvaldo’s deputy for now. Francesco Totti though has shown that form is temporary and class is permanent. At 36, he walks throughout matches but he still provides more flair and creativity than his teammates. A fourth scudetto looks out of reach for Roma but Zeman could be laying the foundations now.
After a plethora of veterans retiring or leaving Milan, Massimiliano Allegri has had to work with a squad in transition. Milan has struggled for results this season but the last month or so has been kinder to them. Mattia De Sciglio has been a revelation at right-back, keeping Ignazio Abate out of the starting line-up. Stephan El Shaarwary has been the clear stand-out for AC Milan, scoring 14 goals so far and carrying the team in the process. Riccardo Montolivo is one of the few positives in midfield, possibly realising his potential once and for all. Giampaolo Pazzini swapped Milanese clubs during the summer and aside from a hat-trick against Bologna, he has only started scoring in recent weeks. Alexandre Pato's sale to Corinthians and the possible sale of Robinho might result in the purchase of Mario Balotelli. The defence needs improvement. Daniele Bonera has always been a thuggish and cynical player and Philippe Mexes is too slow. Cristian Zapata and Francesco Acerbi need to play regularly.
Roberto Donadoni has an even spread of goal-scorers on their list. The start of the season wasn’t easy. Parma wasn’t getting results and in a 3-5-2 formation, Donadoni was using young Greek left-winger Sotiris Ninis as a seconda punta or trequartista. He has used the 4-3-3 formation recently and has also used wide midfielders/wingers as central midfielders. As good as Belfodil is, he is no Giovinco. ‘The Atomic Ant’ was more prolific and had more vision and flair. Donadoni is doing well with a team lacking in stars. Another team that will surprise people on their day.
Rolando Maran replaced Montella after taking Varese to the Serie B play-offs and he has adapted to top flight football pretty well. The Elephants have used either the 3-5-2 formation or 4-3-3 since returning to the Serie A in 2006-07 and Maran has preferred the latter formation in most matches. Catania lost 1-0 to Juve but the Sicilians had a goal wrongly disallowed and shifted the momentum in favour of the northerners. Maran’s team can still take pride in thrashing Lazio 4-0. Catania can also be indirectly responsible for sacking two coaches. Serse Cosmi was sacked by Siena a week after Catania beat them 3-1 and Sampdoria sacked Ciro Ferrara a day after Catania won by the same scoreline. Another mid-table finish should be likely.
The friulani have kept with their tradition by selling their key players before a campaign in Europe. They have failed once again in European competitions and despite some good results in Serie A recently, they don’t look as impressive as they have been in other seasons. Gabriele Angella has made an impact in defence, even scoring some goals. He scored both goals in a 2-2 draw with Udinese. Signings like Maicosuel and Mathias Ranegie are as obscure as you can get in terms of Udinese purchases but they haven’t blossomed yet unlike previous unknown signings. Qualifying for the CL isn’t realistic this season and they have far too much competition this time.
Stefano Coluantuono’s side seem to be going about their business in their usual manner. The Roman tactician plays youngsters and implements an attacking style of football. Consistency is lacking in order to get into the Europa League spots but Atalanta is a team that can beat anyone on any given day. Andrea Consigli has been great in goal for the bergamaschi, making great saves in open play and from penalties. He has what it takes to play in the Italian national team. Giacomo Bonaventura has scored a few goals from the wing, Luca Cigarini and Ezequiel Schelotto have made their claims for Azzurri action and German Denis is carrying on his form from last season. A mid-table finish is possible but Federico Peluso will be a loss in defence.
Domenico Di Carlo’s started off well but they went on a losing streak and he got sacked. His tactics were too pragmatic and he relied on too many veterans. His team also struggled to keep possession. Eugenio Corini has replaced Di Carlo and he has been less conservative than his predecessor. Stefano Sorrentino is a solid goalkeeper and a likely transfer target for opposing clubs in January. The same can be said about defender Marco Andreolli. Alberto Paloschi might finally be having his breakthrough season after years of injuries. Corini needs some creativity in his team and David Di Michele is probably too old to provide some magic. If Corini wants Chievo to survive, he needs a regista or trequartista.
Giampiero Ventura has brought his 4-2-4 of sorts to Torino and Alessio Cerci and Mario Santana have been threats on the wings but the central strikers could be better. Rolando Bianchi is a fine captain but Ventura would prefer someone more mobile and Bianchi is also another possible mid-season departure. The captain has been scoring but the other forwards haven't been putting their chances away. Angelo Ogbonna is a rock in defence, Jean-Francois Gillet is a top goalkeeper but Kamil Glik needs to control his thuggish play. He lacks the intelligence to read the play or tackle cleanly. Matteo Brighi can't get a game and Ventura could do with improvements in central midfield. Cairo has been Torino's president since 2006 and even though Ventura is the best coach he has had, the granata still don't like a team worthy of the Toro sides of old.
Stefano Pioli’s team has struggled this season but the bolognesi possess an attack capable of keeping them in the Serie A. Alberto Gilardino seems to be having a renaissance, scoring six goals so far. Having a creator like Alessandro Diamanti will be to Gilardino’s advantage and even young striker Manolo Gabbiadini is starting to score goals. A recent win against Napoli will do a lot for Bologna’s confidence and Greek midfielder Panagiotis Kone scored against them in both the league and cup. Pioli needs to make sure his team is good defensively as they are offensively.
This was Ciro Ferrara’s chance to redeem himself after a disastrous stint as Juve coach in 2009/10. He did well as Azzurrini coach but his days as Samp coach represented a sense of déjà vu. After a good start to the season, injuries and suspensions took their toll and the team started to play with fear. Delio Rossi has replaced Ferrara as coach and he could do with a trequartista and striker to suit his 4-3-1-2. Andrea Poli, Pedro Obiang, Mauro Icardi and Enzo Maresca have been some of the positives for the blucerchiati this season.
The newly-promoted side has one of the youngest rosters in Serie A this season. After last season’s promotion from Serie B, the Abruzzese side lost their coach Zdenek Zeman and players like Marco Sansovini, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti. Pescara doesn’t play bad football but lacks the quality or experience to finish off the job. Mattia Perin has had lots of work in goal and there is too much dependence on Vladimir Weiss to create something out of nothing. Elvis Abbruscato is a useless forward and better centre-forward could help their cause. Cristiano Bergodi replaced Giovanni Stroppa after a 6-1 thrashing by Juve and survival would be a remarkable feat for this team.
Ivo Pulga and Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Ficcadenti in round 7 and got a string of close wins. Pulga’s magic has disappeared recently but when the sardi were in-form, they were an ultra-defensive side and very tough to break down. The odd attacking displays were there and local boy Marco Sau has been their main threat in attack after a few impressive seasons in the lower divisions. Davide Astori has been a regular transfer target and Michael Agazzi has been fine in goal. His back-heel save against Palermo should go down as one of the greatest ever Serie A saves! Pulga and Lopez need to sort out the defence again and make sure they are effective on the counter-attack to ensure Serie A survival.
Is it an end of an era? Maurizio Zamperini hires and fires coaches rapidly and the lack of stability might be taking its toll. The rosanero could find itself back in Serie B after nine years in the top flight. Fabrizio Miccoli is still Palermo’s talisman, Paulo Dybala has been making some impact in attack and Josip Ilicic is back in form in midfield. They seem to benefit from Gian Piero Gasperini’s methods, who replaced Giuseppe Sannino after round 3. The former Genoa coach needs players who suit his tactics or Palermo can kiss Serie A goodbye. Santino Aronica will bolster the defence and Ciro Immobile could join the attack.
Fade-outs have been very common for the grifoni. Luigi De Canio’s team played offensively and young forward Ciro Immobile would get plenty of supply. Blowing leads was common as well as wasting chances. Marco Rossi is also not a talisman for the club anymore, with Bosko Jankovic taking over as captain. Genoa is more pragmatic under Luigi Del Neri but the story remains the same. The rossoblu aren’t picking-up points and Del Neri’s 4-4-2 isn’t getting results or entertaining people. Genoa president Enrico Preziosi might need to bring De Canio back because Del Neri’s methods look set to take the grifoni back to Serie B.
Having a six-point deficit hasn’t helped the Tuscan team and without it, Siena would be out of the relegation zone. Serse Cosmi is known to be motivator and not someone with great tactical nous but he shouldn’t have been sacked. He had been getting results in realistic situations and had one of the weakest rosters in Serie A. His replacement Giuseppe Iachini has a tough job in his hands and he would also like to improve on his poor Serie A record. Emmanuele Calaio` has signed a contract extension but he hasn’t got a player like Mattia Destro as a strike partner this season.