Serie A 2016/17 season preview: New clubs, record transfers, Milan managerial madness
Holly Thackeray | August 16, 2016
Serie A 2016/17 season preview
Meno male! Serie A is back, returning to TV screens this Saturday and adding a generous dollop of Italian drama to the summer football schedule.
So, Coral provide punters with an indispensable overview of the season ahead for one of Europe’s greatest leagues, including which new signings to watch out for in the opening round of games, fresh managerial faces to keep tabs on and all the other movers and shakers from your favourite teams.
Dust off your classic AC Milan shirts, roll out your old Roma posters and indulge in a slice of football Italia with Coral experts by checking out our Serie A 2016/17 season preview below. Che gol!
Serie A now a one-horse race?
Last term gave neutral fans real hope that an outsider in Italy’s top tier could really upset the apple cart and disrupt Juventus’ stranglehold on the Scudetto.
Fiorentina scaled the top-flight summit for the first time since 1999, only to let down the side in Coral’s year of the underdog, falling from number one spot to an eventual fifth place finish.
While, Napoli had their destiny in their own hands but imploded spectacularly in the riveting run-in, with champions Juve having somehow clawed back what was at one point an 11-point gap to overtake and storm to the silverware after a slow start.
Now seeking a sixth successive league title, it’s tough to look past Juve at 4/9 with Coral to retain their crown, even with Paul Pogba having been flogged for a world record fee back to Manchester United.
So, is Serie A now a one-horse race? With the Old Lady having poached arguably their title rivals’ top players in Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli, for a £73.5m Serie A record fee) and Miralem Pjanic (£25.4m from Roma), many pundits believe the Scudetto is already signed, sealed and bound to be delivered to the black and white half of Turin.
But, as Leicester City showed in the Premier League last campaign, it’s never wise to put all your odds, or eggs, in one basket. And should Juve really go all out in the Champions League, Campania club Napoli look the best chance to nip in and dominate domestic duties.
As cunning coach and boyhood Napoli fan Maurizio Sarri has proven he can cut it with a big club, reinvestment from a wedge of the Higuain cash could make his side a stronger unit overall. The Little Donkeys are 5/1 with Coral to savour a first Scudetto since 1990.
Signings and scorers to keep an eye on
There are plenty of potentially profitable debutants to look out for to make an impact at their new clubs in the coming weeks.
Juventus have unsurprisingly been one of the busiest bees in the summer transfer window, splashing a big portion of the Pogba funds on hitman Higuain – a move which has not gone down well in Naples, and has been accused of killing competition in the slowly reviving league.
Last season’s top Serie A scorer Higuain is expected to start life in Piedmont on the bench behind Pablo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, which may or may not be due to any apparent weight gain, but is always an intriguing shout to sniff out a goal last.
Juventus vie with Viola first for what could be a feisty first televised fixture, with Fiorentina 3/1 to force a draw. Though, once all of Dani Alves, Mehdi Benatia, Higuain, Pjanic and Marko Pjaca all bed in, the Juve juggernaut should fire on all cylinders.
Croatia attacking schemer Pjaca is particularly one to watch out for, as the 21-year-old wideman has hit double figures in both his last two seasons for Dinamo Zagreb.
As for Napoli, Sarri has filled the Higuain-shaped hole with Poland poacher Arkadiusz Milik, who could face a perfect opening opponent in minnows Pescara. An impressive 21 Eredivisie strikes for Ajax last term hint at predatory promise, and the Pole certainly has a high ceiling.
Meanwhile, compatriot schemer and fellow bright young hope Piotr Zielinski was plucked by the Campania club from Udinese ahead of Liverpool, but might take more time to carve his path into the starting XI.
Milan clubs’ contrasting markets
There was a summer of glorious spending expected to occur in Lombardy, as both AC and Inter Milan faced the prospect of takeovers from East Asian investors.
Yet it hasn’t quite panned out like that. Suning Sports have grabbed a huge majority stake in Inter, but the Nerazzurri have adopted a rather measured money approach, capturing Antonio Candreva from Lazio and free transfer Ever Banega from Sevilla among others.
Though, that all looks rather extravagant comparatively, as AC initially suffered from having their future up in the air before the sale of 99.93 per cent of the club to Fininvest – with goal getter Gianluca Lapadula the most notable name to arrive, from Pescara.
Yet, luring Lapadula could prove shrewd, however, as the 26-year-old helped fire Pescara to promotion with 27 strikes in Serie B last term. This makes the marksman one to watch as the Rossoneri get their campaign underway against Torino.
Roma road tests pay off
As for Roma, who rallied to a respectable third after Luciano Spalletti’s return to Rome, the Giallorossi (6/1 to win Serie A) have proven masters of the loan before buying tactic.
Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy, Edin Dzeko, Diego Perotti and Antonio Rudiger making permanent moves after loans has resulted in actually quite a high spending few months for the Romans.
While, as for truly new faces, Barcelona-owned Thomas Vermaelen now gets the chance at his own road test to stabilise the rearguard if he can stay fit.
Brazilian attacking teenage talent Gerson was the most costly acquisition in the red half of the Eternal city, and is one to keep tabs on, should he feature as Roma raise the curtain on the new term against Udinese.
Elsewhere, readers may remember Hungary’s heroics from Euro 2016, with several youngsters starring for the outsiders as they reached the last 16. One of those was anchorman Adam Nagy, and the plotter has since sealed a switch to Emilia Romagna outfit Bologna – keep your eyes peeled for the midfielder!
Fresh managerial faces
The Italian top-flight revolving door of managers has not slowed this off-season either and there are plenty of coaches preparing for maiden campaigns with new clubs.
Vincenzo Montella was officially announced as the next AC Milan manager in June, and has had plenty of time to plot over summer but there have been few recruits as he prepares for his bow on the San Siro bench.
A talented tactician, Montella more than proved his merit despite his time at Fiorentina coming to a turbulent end and a middling stint at Sampdoria, but fallen giants the Rossoneri are a different ball game.
While, in the black and blue half of Milan, Inter (14/1 title Scudetto shouts) made a surprise move in pre-season by sacking Roberto Mancini, parting with the Italian for a second time. Ex-Ajax coach Frank de Boer is the boss who has been thrown into the hotseat, and there are already rumours of interest in Dutch players such as Daley Blind doing the rounds.
At the very least, De Boer should bring more aesthetic football than his predecessor, making this an interesting managerial match-up in Milan.
While, in the Italian capital, Lazio have appointed Primavera coach Simone Inzaghi (yes, brother of iconic offside merchant Filippo) as caretaker boss after a brief and contentious dalliance with mercurial Marcelo Bielsa.
Outside shouts for high finishes
Everyone’s favourite Serbian set-piece threat Sinisa Mihajlovic seems to have shrugged off AC Milan managerial disappointment after being snapped up by Torino, for whom he should do a very solid job, looking a certainty to improve on their last 12th place finish.
Crashing the top 10 and even the Europa League places is not inconceivable for The Bull, especially after fellow underdogs Genoa placed sixth and 11 across the last two seasons.
Sassuolo amazingly also achieved sixth last season, and can enjoy more success again, though surpassing that seems a tough ask, even if Domenico Berardi re-finds his form.
Finally, the Serie A new boys are Sardinian side Cagliari, promoted again after just one season away from the top-flight, Pescara who return after a three-term absence and Crotone, who compete in their first ever Serie A campaign.
Will the trio be cannon fodder or cement their statuses? Adriatic Ocean hub Pescara face the biggest baptism of fire against Napoli, while Cagliari grapple with Genoa and Calabria club Crotone battle Bologna. So, stay tuned for all your Serie A top tips with Coral!