Tuesday April 16 2019
Italian teams ought to entertain

With Italian football starting to rebuild itself, Jay Cassano argues the next step for the league is to play more entertaining football.

Italian football’s precipitous decline has left despondent those of us who grew up on Milan derbies, jaw-dropping fantasisti, and thrilling Scudetto races.

Undoubtedly, the main reasons for this fall are the Calciopoli scandal of 2006 and Italy’s weak economy. The two combined to leave Serie A in the wake of the ascendant Premier League as well as La Liga, both of which were starting to capitalise on lucrative broadcast deals. As Serie A has rebuilt itself from those ashes, one obstacle to reclaiming its former glory has been a comparatively dull style of play.

Italian football has a somewhat unfair repetition for defensive football, often thrown around by overpaid pundits who love to use the word “catenaccio.” And yet if you watch the game today, with Spanish and English football side by side, a lack of flair and a lack of pace would be your first observations.

Is it any wonder Cristiano Ronaldo scored his spectacular overhead goal while playing for a Spanish club against an Italian club? The fact that he has yet to replicate such a feat for Juventus only drives the point home.

Fans of Italian football — this writer included — love to praise the league’s so-called “tactical” depth. But tactical rigor should not be a substitute for what makes the game so enjoyable in the first place: witnessing nearly inhuman feats of skill and athleticism. Every player who comes to Serie A admits the training regime is far tougher and more specialised, yet each time Italian clubs are crushed for pace and stamina in European matches.

Italian football is guilty of this offence at both ends of the table. Parking the bus and hitting on the counter have become a hallmark of bottom table sides across all leagues, especially as the wage bills have grown so drastically apart in the past decade. So Italian football is not particularly noteworthy in that regard. What is far worse is the teams at the top end of the table.

Inter, especially under Luciano Spalletti, have played a predictable and boring game that often devolves into pumping crosses into the box for their lone poacher to try to either fashion a goal out of nothing or get fouled. It’s been effective at getting the club back into the Champions League, but it’s hardly inspiring stuff.

Juventus have famously adopted a “just enough” style in Italy in the Antonio Conte and Max Allegri years. Despite their superior firepower, the club rarely engages in blowouts and routs, preferring to hold on to thinly secured leads while seeming to relish simply demoralizing their foes into submission.

It’s proven effective, as the Bianconeri are a mere point from securing their eighth consecutive Scudetto. But it has done significant damage to the league’s reputation and left them struggling to deal with opponents in the Champions League who refuse to give in.

Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli may have been predictable and Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta may be infuriatingly inconsistent, but you can’t say they’re not entertaining. More clubs need to play like them, regardless of the results — a commitment to a style and way of playing football.

Juventus’ domestic dominance has seen the league gain a reputation for being a one-team league, even if Milan and Napoli have pushed the Turin club close in a couple of these past eight seasons. But the other Italian clubs need to step up and do their part to make the title race more exciting.

The problem, of course, is that because of Financial Fair Play, they can only do so if they bring in more money — which they are unlikely to do so long as Serie A remains less watchable than other major European leagues.

Another league often derided as being a one-club league, the German Bundesliga, has somehow managed to garner a younger and more avid fanbase. But even a cursory comparison in the most shallow metric of “excitement” — goals scored — shows why the German league is more popular. Its rarely disputed champions, Bayern Munich, have scored 107 goals across all competitions this campaign. Juventus? Well, they’ve scored just 78.

The economic advantages secured by La Liga and the Premier League through lucrative broadcast deals are for the time being insurmountable. But there is absolutely no reason that Serie A should not firmly establish itself as the third best and most popular league in Europe. In recent years, Italy has started to edge out Germany in UEFA country coefficient ranking. But what it needs even more is to usurp it in the far more vague entertainment ranking.

A key indicator here will be what 21st Century Fox chooses to do when its global Bundesliga broadcast rights expire after the 2019-2020 season.

In the meantime, Serie A football needs to regain some of the thrill it had during the best of the Football Italia years, when clubs from Milan and Inter to Parma and Brescia and, yes, even Juventus, were all exciting to watch. The league today needs Calcio in all its colors, not just staid black and white.

Have your say...
What needs to be done is:
1. Reduce maldini heir to 100 words.
2. Limit how many blogs per page.
3. Limit how many blogs he does in a week.
These 3 reforms would take 30 seconds to introduce and can start from the next article.
on the 19th April, 2019 at 9:18pm
The main reason for lack of entertainment is that in Italy its about results. Especially for the big teams. The pressure on the big teams is insurmountable. So Juve do whatever is necessary to get 3 points. So if scrapping 1-0 victories is the only way to a title so be it. Juve lost in CL due to expectations. They are obsessed in winning CL. so that pressure made them fold. Milan never had those expectations. the approach was different. They loved playing in the CL. more freedom more titles.
on the 19th April, 2019 at 1:11pm
Juve are like a loaded gun....full of bullets but the person holding it doesn't know how r when to shoot
on the 17th April, 2019 at 2:21am

This article wouldn't have been written if Juventus had made it through, yet you made it about criticizing Inter and Spalletti. Your criticism is correct, but you failed to make mention of how Juventus has been scraping results in the CL even at the group stage with a superior squad. The only time we saw Juventus dominate was the second leg against Atletico Madrid. Allegri's awful tactics were the reason why Juventus didn't go through and this should be what you should be focusing on.
on the 17th April, 2019 at 12:52am
summer. Sure teams should own their own stadiums and each find an Arab or Russian oligarch investor but those will either take time or take the life out of the game. My reforms are basically free. And they would bring some stability and coherence to the other teams who are supposed to be playing in the same league as Juve. Next season Serie A will once again buy and sell literally thousands of players, Juve will go on and win their 9th title and get knocked out of the Champions League.
on the 17th April, 2019 at 12:51am
The other teams need to pull their fingers out. Here's the reforms I'd make:
a) reduce Serie A to 18 teams;
b) limit squad sizes to 25;
c) limit the number of summer transfers per team to 3 (to force team's to focus on their priorities);
d) limit the number of winter transfers per team to 1 (to reduce disruption mid-season);
e) limit loans to two spells (to force teams to either back players or sell them).
These reforms would take literally one minute to introduce and could be in place by next
on the 17th April, 2019 at 12:48am
are fighting for an Eredivisie title where they're neck and neck with PSV. Football is about inches not miles. There are tiny differences between each side. If Juve drop their level for a second they can lose to a SPAL or an Ajax. So they don't let happen - often. The rest of the teams barely struggle to stay awake while they're falling over each other to finish in 4th place. Every touch that the players take is delayed while they wonder what they're going to have for dinner.It's not good enough
on the 17th April, 2019 at 12:44am
I have said on here that this Juve side are not the greatest side but that has actually very little to do with Juve. Tonight also had very little to do with Juve. Juve are struggling because they are not being challenged in the league. The season has been over for them since March because of the other team's incompetence. They've turned into Bayern or PSG where they struggle in Europe because of their easy dominance at home, Ajax are not a better team than Juve but their players are fighting for
on the 17th April, 2019 at 12:41am
If you want entertainment go to the theatre and watch a show!
on the 16th April, 2019 at 10:58pm
Lost to young boys lost to atheletco, manu !!! Ajax and out! and you have to say there campaign was awful the writing was on the wall and thought they would raise there game but nothing in the tanks ! Fair play to Ajax but any three of the English clubs would finish this team off however hope they win it Ajax
on the 16th April, 2019 at 10:10pm
Italian teams are all useless! Can anyone see how Ajax outplayed Juve in their own stadium! That's the greatest Italian team of all time, on the verge of winning an 8 unprecedented scudetto= what a horrible team even with an £100m worth of a lone player! Allegri is a joke.....cant stop laughing.....Hahahahahahahah
on the 16th April, 2019 at 10:04pm
keep 20 teams as is in the league.....that makes mid-table teams like Cagliari or Bologna play youngsters like Orsolini or Barella without worrying too much about being relegated. If teams have the fear of being relegated they will be more reluctant to play youngsters and that will make the problems worse for the new generation of players.
on the 16th April, 2019 at 5:27pm
The majority of italian teams have the mindset of stopping the opposition playing rather than playing their own game. Which is why so much time in Serie A matches is wasted on throw ins and niggly fouls. In Serie A there is about 20mins of decent play each half the rest is just time wasting etc which doesnt happen nearly as much in other leagues. I always think the bigger the game in Serie A the longer it takes to really get going...
on the 16th April, 2019 at 3:49pm
The majority of italian teams have the mindset of stopping the opposition playing rather than playing their own game. Which is why so much time in Serie A matches is wasted on throw ins and niggly fouls. In Serie A there is about 20mins of decent play each half the rest is just time wasting etc which doesnt happen nearly as much in other leagues. I always think the bigger the game in Serie A the longer it takes to really get going...
on the 16th April, 2019 at 3:49pm
Although Italy still produces arguably the best coaches in the world, a bit of variety in the league wouldn't go amiss.

A few foreign coaches who play skillful, attacking football would be most welcome to shake things up a bit.

Otherwise the awful tactics of Spalletti etc will continue to be admired/accepted as long as his team stumble their way into the top 4 every season.

His fear in the CL v Spurs and PSV was there for all to see.
on the 16th April, 2019 at 3:28pm
Winning isn't important - it's the only thing that counts.

Did Chelsea or Inter have to play great football to win the UCL? What about Italy in 2006? Are we just gonna ignore that Guardiola hasn't even made a UCL final in the better part of a decade despite spending obscene sums of money?

Just win, baby.
on the 16th April, 2019 at 3:24pm
Italian teams ought to have more Italian players and even more important than that, Italian youth players! Not sure if a drastic shift is required, though it would be nice to see Italian football, particularly the Azzurri, evolve into a ruthless, attacking force. A team that takes its chances and goes for the jugular everytime!
on the 16th April, 2019 at 2:18pm
one more thing is the awful state of Italien stadiums and very few specktators and the running track. It looks so bad an tv if you compare tl the rest af europe.

fix the stadiums is a big part af the solution
on the 16th April, 2019 at 1:37pm
And for teams like Cagliari, Udinese, Genoa, Sassuolo, there isn't very much to play for in Serie A. They all know that most likely there are three teams that are even worse than them (like Frosinone, Chievo, and so on), and European football is out of their league. That will withhold these teams to really improve their roster, thus lacking the ambition to really improve their game. With 16 or 18 teams, they can't get away with that any longer.
on the 16th April, 2019 at 12:10pm
I think Serie A needs a lot more to rebuild itself, starting with removing all those ugly and empty stadiums. 18 Serie A teams instead of 20 would also be smart in my opinion, as last years the number 19 and 20 were almost already relegated before the winter break. And Serie A should give young talent a better chance, perhaps by implementing a home grown rule.

Of course Italian football is doing better than a couple of years ago, but there still is a very long way to goo.
on the 16th April, 2019 at 12:03pm

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