Serie A: Scudetto race blown excitingly wide open in Italy
Holly Thackeray | December 1, 2015
Is Italy Europe’s most open top league?
Napoli are the latest side to impose their Scudetto credentials by surging to the summit of Serie A, leading Coral experts to question whether this is the most open Italian title race in recent times? And, the most exciting race for top spot across Europe at the moment?
For many viewers, it must certainly be tough when casting an eye back to previous campaigns, to remember when Italy’s top-flight was so competitive. A glance through the football archives reveals that the last 10 Scudetto spoils have been split between giants Juventus and Inter Milan, claiming four and five apiece respectively, with only AC Milan (just 100/1 outsiders this term) breaking up that decade of dominance.
Adding to the feel of suffocation in Serie A, current holders the Old Lady are on a run of four titles on the trot, but unlikely to retain at 11/4 as they’re six points off pace, while the Nerazzurri (7/1 having been here before with boss Roberto Mancini) nabbed five successive trophies between 2006-2010.
In those competitions for the crown there was, more often than not, a clear front-runner and close contender, followed by a huge drop in points haul. Perhaps Roma’s last successful grab for glory in 2001 springs to mind as the most open until the end, with just a five-point finish between the Gabriel Batistuta and Francesco Totti-led Giallorossi and third-placed city rivals Lazio (rank 500/1 outsiders this time after slipping to 10th).
Quality or quantity?
It’s all change now in Italy, however, after an exciting summer of spending put Serie A back on the map. Currently, six of the country’s most celebrated sides, in AC Milan, Fiorentina, Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli and Roma are all in with a shout before the winter break, some more credibly than others.
Yet, some pundits would claim this open challenge speaks to a continued lack of quality and inconsistency, rather than are revival or return to prominence on the peninsula.
A little variety never hurt anyone, however, and the grapple for bragging rights has been enthralling so far, hearkening back to the golden days of Serie A, if not in top calibre players and powerhouses, then for drama. And, to be frank, the theatrics and passion is really what Italian football thrives on.
To be fair, the Premier League is far from being decided, though title tussles in Ligue 1, La Liga and the Bundesliga for example, could use an injection of excitement, to prevent one, two, or at a push, three horse races.
Time to rally the troops
After Christmas, when Italy puts its Panettone to one side, the real work will begin, and it would be brilliant for the game in this football giant of a country, for a surprise package to steal a slice of the Scudetto. Though the trophy has not resided in an Italian city other than Turin or Milan since 2001, making this a tough case to crack.
Regular bridesmaids Roma (7/1 for a title triumph) have been grabbing goals galore when on duty in the Eternal City, but lack a real talisman to push them all the way.
“It is a much more open Scudetto race after four years in which Juventus were champions of Italy four times in a row and beat the record for points in 2013/14,” said Giallorossi gaffer Rudi Garcia.
“This season the title battle is far more open and, we have to make sure we’re up there all the way to the end.”
In it at the end they may well be, but win it? The Italian capital club currently have far too rickety a rearguard, and such shambles do not do well at the business end of a defensively savvy Serie A.
Meanwhile, feisty underdogs Fiorentina (10/1) topped the table briefly for the first time since 1999 with this vivacious Viola outfit but, crucially, may not have the depth to win the lot, something the Tuscan team have not done since 1969.
Last but not least, we look to present leaders Napoli, who have not lifted the title since 1990 themselves, though recently leap-frogged Inter into first after sinking their rivals at the Stadio San Paolo.
Having already slain Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Lazio, the Little Donkeys may finally have found the right manager in apparent supporter Maurizio Sarri, and the perfect marksman in Gonzalo Higuain. Unbeaten for a stretch of 13 league games, the Campania club are now odds-on 8/11 favourites, but there is a long way to go before squeaky bum time.
Just one ill-timed injury to Higuain, or a tiring Europa League run, could put the Neapolitans off track, however, with more experienced Inter waiting to capitalise.
There is so much more to enjoy on Italian football in our Serie A archive.