With nineteen rounds of action officially in the books, the winter break is upon us and from the blogger’s point of view, that means it’s time for only one thing: midseason recaps. Our latest roundtable moves on from Inter to focus on the league as a whole, and the writing crew goes over everything from coaching changes to players to watch to end-of-season predictions.
Five of the traditional top seven teams hopped onto the coaching carousel over the summer. Which managerial move has impressed the most through the first half of the season? Who has left the most to be desired?
David: I’ve been really impressed with Spalletti at Napoli. The Partenopei left a lot to be desired last season in terms of results vs potential and Gennaro Gattuso seemed to have done all he could. Spalletti, however, has taken Napoli to the next level and they could very well go from a 5th place finish to Scudetto contenders. If not for Osimhen’s freak injury I think Napoli would be within touching distance of Inter at the top, and as their 1-0 win at Milan showed, this team is very much one to be reckoned with.
Josh: I’m simply going to just say I echo what David has to say and add this. Come February, there’s a three-week stretch where Napoli play Inter, Barcelona twice, Lazio, and Milan. There’s potential for them to wreck some havoc and so long as the havoc doesn’t occur against Inter, I’m here for it.
What team has surprised you the most so far? On the other hand, is there anyone shooting well below expectations?
David: Fiorentina’s 20/21 and 21/22 campaigns have looked a night and day apart. La Viola went from playing an ultra-defensive style as relegation contenders to being one of the most watchable teams in the league under Vicenzo Italiano (and to think they had initially hired Gattuso!). I knew Fiorentina would improve a ton with a forward-thinking manager at the helm but I doubt anyone expected them to be in the European places at the halfway point. If you haven’t watched much of Fiorentina so far, a good New Year’s resolution would be to keep an eye on La Viola when the league resumes in January. Hellas Verona also deserves a shout for how well they’ve bounced back from losing Ivan Juric. Rather than descend into the relegation battle, Igor Tudor has guided them to a comfortable midtable placing. As for an underperforming team, it’s hard not to think of Cagliari. The Sardinian side has a decent roster with the likes of Joao Pedro, Keita Balde, and Nahitan Nandez, and yet is one of the more hopeless sides in Serie A. Manager Walter Mazzarri has struggled to get anything going on the island, however, and it’s a mystery as to why he hasn’t been sacked yet.
What non-Inter players should we be keeping a special eye on in 2022? Is there anyone on the peninsula that would be a perfect fit for the Nerazzurri?
David: A lot of the focus on Udinese has shifted away once Rodrigo De Paul departed Friuli but La Zebrette still has a few names of interest. Gerard Deulofeu is in superb form and has filled the De Paul-sized hole excellently. Twenty-three-year-old striker Beto has shown his mountain of talent on occasion as he adapts to Serie A and will be a force to reckon with once he’s fully settled in. The 6 foot 5 Portuguese forward is lightning fast on the dribble and has a sharp eye for goal, currently leading Udinese’s charts with 7 tallies. Last but not least is Nahuel Molina, Udinese’s 23-year-old right-wingback. The Argentine is the most likely to find his way to the San Siro of the names I’ve mentioned. He might need another season of consistent game time but he has all of the tools to fit right into Simone Inzaghi’’s system.
With Dusan Vlahovic, Ciro Immobile, Giovanni Simeone, and more finding their scoring boots in prime condition so far, who comes out on top in the capocannoniere race?
David: Vlahovic had a rocky start to the season as he adapted to Italiano’s 4-3-3 that gave less direct service to the striker than Beppe Iachini’s 3-5-2 which relied solely on Vlahovic to make things happen. But now that the Serbian has settled in, he’s been a menace. Assuming he stays in Florence through the winter transfer window, I see him taking home capocannoniere honors with 28+ goals.
What’s your league-wide Best XI at the halfway point?
David: Maignan; Koulibaly, Bremer, Skriniar; Fabian Ruiz, Calhanoglu, Brozovic, Pasalic; Vlahovic, Zapata, Simeone (3-4-3)
What are your predictions for the Scudetto, European places, and relegation?
David: It’s hard to see anyone catching Inter at the top and despite any concerns about a ‘Winter Scudetto curse’, I’ll go with the Nerazzurri. Milan and Napoli will round out the top four while Juve will snag the fourth and final UCL spot away from Atalanta. La Dea and Roma will be Europa League-bound and Lazio will squeak into the Conference League just ahead of Fiorentina. As for relegation, Salernitana is a sure bet to go down one way or the other, whether that’s because they’re disqualified from the league in January or finish last on the pitch. Genoa and Cagliari both look pretty desolate right now but I think the former will once again find itself above the redline in May, as they always seem to do. That leaves Spezia the odd man out. Thiago Motta doesn’t seem to have what it takes as a manager to deal with a relegation crisis and the club’s transfer ban means he’s stuck with the same substandard squad for the rest of the season.
What do you think? Who’s lifting the Scudetto come May? What about the capocannoniere? Let us know in the comments below.