Look back at last season and ask yourself this: what happens next? Juventus are 1-0 up against minnows Lecce away with 40 minutes on the clock and Inter are 2-1 down to Parma at home after 30 minutes. The conclusion you would come to is that the Bianconeri shut the game down efficiently and often turgidly, whilst the Nerazzurri draw level and then concede a late third in Pazza style. Not this season! In 2019-20, both The Old Lady and their Milanese competitors are showing off uncharacteristic traits and this means there is a title race, oh and by the way, did anyone mention Napoli?
Juventus under Maurizio Sarri look dangerous when in full flight, but defensively it feels like there is an issue. Perhaps this is the main reason that there feels like a Scudetto challenge could be mounted. Let’s be clear, Sarri is asking a lot of his team. He is asking them to change the way they defend and in turn change who they are. This is of their own making, The Agnelli’s wanted this style of attacking and free flowing football. The football that makes them look like Barcelona, the football that would be attractive in a European Super League. This comes at a price, however.
Sarri wants his team to play put from the back and use the defence as the first form of offence. It means higher lines, redefines the full back position and in a nutshell, it is almost un-Italian. If this works, then Juventus could be devastating and when it has clicked this season, they have looked incredible. The problem is, however, that they are failing to kill off opponents like Lecce, which would’ve been a given a year ago. Transition can be accommodated, but it comes at a cost.
Inter are a conundrum still. Whilst they are more resilient under Antonio Conte, they have not as yet developed a style that would let you argue they could be champions. They still make the mistakes defensively, but they are much more resolute in terms of character. It’s this factor that is key, as if we look at Juventus dropping points in order to turn on the style, then Inter’s dogged determination makes up for their lack of flair.
These hard-earned points, fighting back to hold Parma, are not something that would have been seen in recent years. The end result wasn’t good enough and Conte has bemoaned his lack of depth in the squad, but they are on the right track. If they can battle on and keep pace until January, then they may be able to furnish their team with reinforcements and potentially push the Turin giants to the end. After all, you don’t always need style to win, Juventus proved that over the years.
SPAL may not put the fear into many teams, but they are still a side to be wary of on their own turf. If Napoli can put them to bed today, then this will take them three points behind Inter and four adrift of Juventus. One shouldn’t rule Carlo Ancelotti’s men out of this race, as they have the ability to gather pace and form. Arkadiusz Milik is starting to find his feet, while Alex Meret and his defence are slowly looking like a good unit.
The start hasn’t been perfect for the Neapolitans, but take away the Cagliari result and the Juventus collapse, and you only can moan at the draws to Torino (and Genk in Europe). It is true that with Atalanta and Roma on the horizon, their path isn’t smooth, but they have the attacking capabilities to despatch them and in turn challenge for the Scudetto. Whilst it is wrong to refer to them as a dark horse, they perhaps need talking about more.
The race for the Scudetto certainly is on. The upcoming fixtures offer up room for all to slip. As mentioned, Napoli have Atalanta and Roma to disrupt them, Inter arguably have the best run as they have winnable games through November until facing Roma in December. Juventus have it tough, as the Derby Della Mole is soon, then Milan and Atalanta come back to back and could offer disruption.
One thing is for sure, Serie A has a different look and feel with some of the old characteristics of clubs feeling like they have disappeared, so this season will inevitably be entertaining.
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