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Monday December 18 2017
Wk17: In the balance

Week 17 was the clearest indication yet that this season will be on a knife edge at the top and bottom of the table, writes Susy Campanale.

After six years of absolute Juventus domination, we’d almost forgotten what it was like to have a genuine title race. Now everything is on a knife edge and needs only the tiniest nudge to go one way or the other.

It’s so tight at the top that Inter can slide from first to third in 24 hours, despite it being their first defeat of the season. Milan can go from beating Verona 3-0 in the Coppa Italia to losing against the same side by an identical scoreline in the space of four days. Roma can go from disastrous result to much-needed victory in the final 90 seconds.

When the situation is so finely-balanced, the key is keeping your head and not going over the edge at the first sign of a wobble. This is something Inter have famously failed at over the years and we have the first real test of Luciano Spalletti’s side. Udinese were not the team anyone expected to inflict the first loss on the Nerazzurri, which is also probably why they achieved what no other side had managed thus far. Complacency was already setting in during the midweek Coppa Italia stalemate with Serie C outfit Pordenone – who funnily enough are also from the Friuli region – and it took hold a few days later.

What everyone is waiting to find out now is will Inter react by rediscovering that early season determination or go on their traditional December-January slide?

Napoli have already had their wobble and seem to have recovered admirably. It was the old Partenopei tearing Torino apart and 3-1 is a very flattering scoreline in the circumstances. Even Marek Hamsik found the net and finally put paid to that Diego Maradona record weighing on him. We were almost beginning to feel nostalgia for the days of yore, when Hamsik didn’t blast everything over the bar.

Unfortunately, it was the same old Milan at the Bentegodi, proving the last couple of outings were a mere blip rather than the norm. When push comes to shove, this is a side that clearly has no plan. The movements are random, the tactics abandoned at the first sign of trouble and using right-sided striker Fabio Borini as a left-back is just taking the mickey. Anyone can spend €200m and fling players on to the field like Subbuteo pieces, but it doesn’t make them an effective team.

The great thing about Lazio is that even with top scorer Ciro Immobile suspended, they still play the same way and get similar results. Their dropped points increasingly look like freak occurrences rather than the norm and that is the sign of a side with an identity.

Roma have a very specific shape too, but shoe-horning Patrik Schick into it isn’t proving quite so simple. He’ll get there in due course, it’s just a matter of whether the Giallorossi can afford to wait for it to happen without dropping too many points. The performance against Cagliari was almost as dire as that Diego Perotti penalty and a last-gasp Federico Fazio bundle over the line won’t change that fact.

It’s not just at the top of the table where the situations are this tight, because SPAL fought back to beat doomed Benevento and catch Genoa in the standings, while Crotone earned their first victory under Walter Zenga. Even Sassuolo have been revitalised since the arrival of Beppe Iachini, inflicting another shock setback on a Sampdoria side that had a perfect home record until a couple of weeks ago, but has now lost two on the bounce at Marassi.

The neutrals were very glad to see it was the same old Atalanta-Lazio, which ended 4-3 last season and was only one goal shy of that this time around. It’s never dull between two of the most attack-minded, well-organised and impressive teams in Serie A. They both represent a marvellous advert for Italian football in the Europa League and provided another welcome showcase for Calcio.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Coaching AC milan is like waiting in line for a ride at disney land.....everyone gets a turn ! Maybe Bonera will be the next AC Milan coach :) hows it possible that last year's Milan team finished 6th & this years team after spending 200 mill in player transfers is worse off than last year ??? this is fassone's fault. Remember, he worked for the inter team that paid for players like Alvaro Pererira, Ranocchia, Silvestre, Schelotto..AC Milan's dumb for hiring him and that's it !
on the 21st December, 2017 at 8:59pm
Was gutted when Pordenone just fell short. Ecstatic when Udinese finished off the job. A couple of years a go I said I missed the day when Udinese would easily put 4 goals past the Milan clubs. And how right was Sari that Inter can't handle midweeek games. People asking writers to be fair stop sooking, your sooking is biased.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 10:45pm
Oh and #Moisekean
on the 18th December, 2017 at 6:00pm
So the FIGC lifts Agnelli's ban, but close the Curva, and double up the fine to the team. The F??. FIGC is so backwards. You lift the ban, because he's innocent, and then proceed to still punish the team monetarily??
on the 18th December, 2017 at 5:56pm
Time to say goodbye- Andrea Bocelli

Merry christmas milanisti!
Who whould have thought Gattuso not a good coach. The man can barely speak italian lol!

Forza Kalinic!!!
on the 18th December, 2017 at 4:43pm
dear susy, dont listen to those crazy juve fans. you admitted the absolute juventus domination for six yrs. that's all i need for now. thanks.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 3:07pm
Roma's goal was a clear handball. Look it up on youtube type: Moviola Premium Sport
on the 18th December, 2017 at 2:39pm
@Alexxx...spot on. Susy's insights are typically myopic. There's nothing knife edge about this season. Think this: Napoli and Inter are having superb seasons. Juve have had a stuttering start and yet are -1 from the top. As in previous years, it's Juve's to lose and I'll be surprised if this goes to the wire. The new players are starting to click and the defense is no longer leaking.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 1:48pm
I seem to remember Susy criticising the newly promoted sides earlier in the season , and something along the lines that the would add nothing to Serie A. Could this be because she is a Milan fan? 4 points for Verona and Benevento in recent weeks against them isn't bad.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 1:22pm
I totally agree with Alexxx's point of view. Strange, not a single mention on that show of force, of power, of dominance from the Bianconeri on the pich. Not a single one.
Anyway, to joke a bit: it's not news when a dog bites a man, but when a man bites a dog:)) What Juventus done at Bologna was a simple task. But not an easy one. Still, like that lyric from a song of Hurts "Susy meets the man of her dreams...", she is now demolished after Milan's Gattuso last performance;)
Keep it fair, Susy.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 12:40pm
Loving Serie A this season, any one of us can win it this season. I think Roma's season will be defined on Saturday night.

A win against Juventus will certainly make us scudetto contenders but a loss for me, will count us out and a top 4th finish is then pivotal.

We also have that 1 game in hand against Sampdoria also which makes us 1 point behind Napoli, not if but when we win it. :P

Roma Siamo Noi
on the 18th December, 2017 at 11:48am
Nonsense from anti-Juve Susy. In 2015/16 things were even more on a "knife edge" as after 17 games Juve were 4th, 3 points off the top and on 33 points and 5 teams were within 4 pts of the top (spread now 9 pts). Stop deciding how the league is going to pan out by judging teams in December. As ever Juve will hit their stride fully from March onwards. The rest of the league should be terrified by our recent results and Susy can't even bring herself to comment on us let alone giving us any credit.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 10:57am
"Serie A outfit Pordenone"? :)
on the 18th December, 2017 at 10:35am
drop in sharpness can be critical. There really isn't very much room for messing about and no room for amateur managers. If Milan stick with Gattuso we'll be lucky to finish in the top half. If Mirabelli and Fassone went to save any credibility they need to act now. Enough of this crap.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 10:06am
In the balance indeed. There's a good chance that Pirlo would have just been considered a very skilful mid-table luxury player if it wasn't for Ancelotti. Imagine that. Imagine if Pirlo had to play under the "tutelage" of the likes of Gattuso or Montella, Imagine that. Things are very finely balanced in one of the top leagues in the world. Anyone can beat anyone. Every game has to be treated like a cup final. Every player has to perform at the highest possible level. Any doubt. Any delay. Any
on the 18th December, 2017 at 10:04am
“Napoli wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for Maurizio Sarri. He makes normal players top class.” Dries Mertens. ‘When Jose came he tried to make me one of the best players in England and I think he put this in my mind, that it was possible,’ Hazard on Mourinho. "He changed my career, putting me in front of the defence. We shared some unforgettable moments. We had a magnificent past together." Pirlo on Ancelotti
on the 18th December, 2017 at 9:59am
Hey, Susy.. why didn't you write a thing about juve? I thought you like to criticize them every week? Or because they played good last night, and you couldn't find a thing to badmouth them?

Rule of thumb to become a great writer: BE FAIR. I don't see it on you.
on the 18th December, 2017 at 3:40am

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