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SoM Staff Roundtable: Serie A Catch-Up

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A broader look at the league from the SoM staff

SS Lazio v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

With just ten matches left to play in the league for most clubs, it is a time for reflection on what has been a very hectic but entertaining Serie A season. With that being said, here are some of the takes about the greater Serie A world outside of our black and blue lenses.

Udinese Calcio v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

What team in the league has outperformed your expectations for them this season?

Mario:

Milan. They had no business in first place for so long

InterPool:

Since the wording of this question technically refers to “performances” rather than results, I won’t waste the opportunity to shamelessly indulge my Inter bias with an overly literal interpretation — in which case, our city rivals Milan don’t even come close to earning my praise here because of how much their success this season has been inflated by being awarded an insane number of penalty shots. Instead, I’ll go with Hellas Verona, closely followed by Sassuolo!

David:

I agree with Mario, I’ve been surprised by Milan this season. I expected them to be fighting for 4th and a UCL spot, not being in first for twenty rounds. The insane unbeaten run from last season didn’t seem repeatable, and yet Milan didn’t lose until January. Stefano Pioli’s side also went deep in the Europa League, managing to balance two competitions despite a hefty amount of injuries. Despite not having as much quality as Inter and Juve, the Rossoneri never fell below 2nd so far and looks set for a return to the Champions League, their goal at the start of the season. It’s an incredible feat from Milan but the recent struggles (3 wins in the last 10 games) may be a return to the mean. How the squad is reinforced this summer will decide whether Milan can be a consistent top-four finisher and perhaps even a title winner eventually.

Michael:

While 15th place in the league may seem like a rough season, I’m going to go with Spezia. Expectations are always low when a team is promoted to Serie A for the first time in their history, but they have held their own in the top flight and are very close to guaranteeing themselves safety from relegation. They have found ways to get results against a few of the big boys this season. An early season 0-0 draw with Atalanta was respectable, and their two match saga with Roma in January which saw Spezia claim a massive 3-0 Coppa Italia giant killing victory while coming up just short days later in a 4-3 defeat brought them much attention, but it was their 2-0 victory over league leaders Milan at the time back in February that they will likely be best remembered for this season.

Hellas Verona FC v AC Milan - Serie A
“Federico Dimarco of Hellas Verona FC competes for the ball with Alexis Saelemaekers of AC Milan during their Serie A match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on March 7, 2021 in Verona, Italy”
Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

What team has underperformed?

Mario:

Juventus. They flat out stink this year

InterPool:

I expected Cagliari and Fiorentina to each be at least a few positions higher in the league table than their current places in 18th and 14th respectively

David:

Cagliari, Torino, and Fiorentina have all landed far below preseason expectations but I think Juventus has underperformed the most by far. To crash out of the UEFA Champions League in the early knockout stages yet again is surely the final nail in the coffin of the Ronaldo experiment and it doesn't help for the Old Lady to be so far behind first. Poor squad construction by sporting director Fabio Paratici (especially in midfield) has to take some of the blame but with the amount of depth and talent at Andrea Pirlo’s disposal, you’d expect more.

Michael:

The woes of Juventus this season have been pretty clear to see (and will be in 4K when their All or Nothing documentary comes out on Amazon Prime). In terms of chronic underachieving though, it is Fiorentina that comes to mind for me. A team that is always chock full of talent, they can never put it together on the pitch. Much of it is down to meddling ownership that cannot find a manager to stick with for more than a few months before rehiring Beppe Iachini, but with players like Franck Ribery, Dusan Vlahovic, Nikola Milenkovic, and Gaetano Castrovilli, La Viola should still be fighting for more than Serie A survival.

Nikola Milenkovic of Acf Fiorentina looks on during the...
“ALLIANZ STADIUM, TORINO, ITALY - 2020/12/22: Nikola Milenkovic of Acf Fiorentina looks on during the Serie A match between Juventus Fc and Acf Fiorentina. Acf Fiorentina wins 3-0 over Juventus Fc”
Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

What player stands out to you the most in the league?

Mario:

Barella.

InterPool:

Excluding our own players, maybe... Luis Muriel for his insane goals-to-minutes ratio? Rodrigo De Paul has also really exceeded my expectations by taking such a huge step in his development this season, with many key aspects of his game now at a legitimately world class level that might even be unironically comparable to some of the world’s very best creative playmakers such as Kevin De Bruyne.

David:

There are several players on lower to mid-table teams that have taken their game to the next level this season. Rodrigo De Paul is definitely one of them, but I think Joao Pedro deserves some real attention from bigger clubs this summer. Cagliari is currently mired in 17th but the situation would be much worse in Sardinia without Joao Pedro. The Brazilian has 13 goals and 2 assists this term, contributing in almost half of Cagliari’s 31 goals. If Cagliari is to survive this season, it’s going to be thanks to their captain. Either way, Joao Pedro deserves to make the jump to a big club this summer.

Michael:

At Inter, take your pick. Outside of Inter, Domenico Berardi has put together yet another quietly impressive season. The Sassuolo man has 11 goals and five assists this season, placing himself firmly in consideration for Roberto Mancini’s EURO squad this summer. He’s often overlooked in terms of Serie A standouts because of his club and the fact that this level of performance has become normal for him over the past half decade. It’s hard to believe he’s still only 26 years old. He deserves a chance to shine at a bigger club, but getting to watch him anywhere in Serie A is a treat for fans of Italian football.

Torino FC v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

What team is the most entertaining to watch outside of Inter?

Mario:

This question stumped me, but I have to go with Torino. Not because they are good, but because I find it entertaining to see how they can manage to find ways to lose no matter how good they play or how many goals they are in the lead by. If they were up 10-0 against Crotone in 9 men, I’d probably bet my house on a Crotone comeback. That's premium entertainment.

InterPool:

Roma has a really talented core of promising young players — Mancini, Ibañez, Kumbulla, Diawara, Villar, and Pellegrini... plus Borja Mayoral on loan — all in their early-to-mid twenties. At times that inexperience has definitely caused some problems, particularly when playing against the league’s other top teams. Overall though, Paulo Fonseca has done a reasonably good job of getting them to play a quality attacking style, which — despite a recent downturn in form — has produced one of the highest goal totals so far out of any team in Europe’s Big 5 leagues!

David:

Seeing the likes of Torino and Parma manage to blow multi-goal leads every other week has no doubt been entertaining and while Atalanta isn’t banging in goals at the same rate as last year, La Dea still has a hefty tally to its name. But I would actually go with newly-promoted Spezia. Vicenzo Italiano has his side playing a free-flowing possession-based style, and while results have tailed off in recent weeks, the Aquilotti look safe from relegation in their first-ever season in the top flight. Italiano is reportedly drawing interest from Napoli though, so enjoy this Spezia side while you can before we have to cheer against him.

Michael:

My football hipster side shows when these kinds of questions come up. I have really enjoyed Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo and their intricate buildup play over the past couple of years, but the team I have tuned into the most outside of Inter this season has been Ivan Juric’s Verona. I think he’s a very talented manager and has been able to get the most out of two almost entirely different squads in the past two seasons. The spine he had created for his side with Marash Kumbulla, Amir Rrahmani, and Sofyan Amrabat in defense and midfield all sold this past summer, Juric has been able to put together another squad that still plays with solidity at the back and is still dangerous going forward. All that team really needs is a striker. Center forward options Kevin Lasagna and Nikola Kalinic do not offer much help in front of goal.


What are your thoughts on this remarkable 2020/21 season? Which teams and players catch your eye across the peninsula?

Let us know in the comments below.