Champions League commitments meant the Serie A weekend kicked off on Friday night, and Napoli’s crushing win over Empoli was very much an omen of things to come.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side thrashed the Tuscans 5-1 thanks to Dries Mertens’ hat-trick, setting themselves up perfectly for the midweek clash with Paris Saint-Germain. The following day Inter scored five of their own against Genoa, with Lazio sticking four past Spal on Sunday morning.
Andrea Belotti’s double helped Torino to a 4-1 win over Sampdoria, leaving Juventus’ three goals against Cagliari looking somewhat tame by comparison. All in all there were 33 goals across the Serie A weekend, with Parma and Frosinone playing out the only goalless draw.
Though the stereotype of Italian football being stale and defensive become somewhat less prominent in recent years, many would not look to calcio for high-scoring affairs, which are seen as more the preserve of the Premier League and the Bundesliga.
While every football fan wants to see goals, it may be worth asking if this new high-scoring calcio is a good thing. Indeed, Serie A may be coming to resemble the La Liga of a few years ago more than the aforementioned leagues, with the big clubs regularly handing out beatings to the lesser lights.
Consider that four teams have conceded more than 20 goals in the 11 games so far this season, with Chievo yet to crack zero points and conceding 28 goals so far. Between them, the bottom three have a combined two wins from a collective 33 games. Together, Chievo, Frosinone and Empoli have a goal difference of -45.
There has been much talk in recent years of potentially reducing the number of teams in the top flight, and the standard of the smaller teams is beginning to present something of a problem. Benevento finished 17 points from safety last season, Verona 13.
In the preceding season, Pescara managed just 18 points across the whole campaign. While last season brought a thrilling title race, the fact that Juventus and Napoli could both break the 90 point barrier said something about the quality of the sides in the lower reaches of the table.
Outside observers will look at Juventus winning seven Scudetti in a row and assume that Serie A is a one-team league, but in truth it’s becoming a hugely segmented one. Already this season it looks like Juve will battle for the Scudetto with Napoli and Inter. Behind them Milan, Lazio and Roma are aiming for the top four. Beyond that, Torino, Fiorentina and others are fighting among themselves for a final Europa League spot.
The voting structure of the Lega Serie A and the FIGC means that any reduction in the number of Serie A teams is unlikely. One of Italian football’s many issues is a spate of bankruptcies in the lower leagues, and the smaller sides will never vote to reduce their chance of access to the television money the top flight brings.
However, with the top four all scoring at a rate of around two goals a game, and the bottom three conceding at much the same rate, it’s clear that high-scoring games may not be quite the spectacle they appear on paper.