The Calcio Consultant’s ‘Too Early’ Serie A 2017/18 Predictions

The Calcio Consultant’s ‘Too Early’ Serie A 2017/18 Predictions

I wanted to write something this week, but some of the more hot button topics just aren’t getting the needle moved for me.

The Gianluigi Donnarumma contract saga has been over-covered (including from yours truly on World Football Index’s Globe podcast).

 

The mercato is still in the early stages and while AC Milan have gotten off to a flier, the rest of it is still developing.

And the internationals have been a big load of ordinary.

So I thought I would use this piece to get a very early outlook on the upcoming Serie A season.

The format is simple. Each team has a ceiling and a floor as far as table position.  In addition, I’ll offer up why to be excited if you’re a fan of a team, and also what should make you a little edgy.

Obviously the teams will change immensely over the next couple months, before the first ball is kicked on the peninsula.  Let’s have at it anyway:


I’m doing this by current predicted order of finish, which of course I’ll change once or twice this summer.

  1. Juventus

    • Ceiling: 1st
    • Floor: 2nd
    • Be happy because: It’s Juventus. Serie A is their world with everyone else paying rent.  6 straight Scudetti returning a veteran team, and possibly the Gianluigi Buffon farewell tour.  They have the brand name to reload in the summer transfer market too.
    • Be edgy because: Did the Champions League defeat take something out of them, or provide a blueprint for the title challengers? Dani Alves is moving on, and it’s possible Alex Sandro will leave as well, each will be tough to replace.  Also, the Milan teams have money, and one of them so far is spending it.

     

  2. Napoli

    • Ceiling: 1st
    • Floor: 4th
    • Be happy because: The attractive and devastating attack returns intact for next season, as Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens both extended their contracts. Marek Hamsik is a mainstay in the team, and they have found a defensive rock in Kalidou Koulibaly.
    • Be edgy because: This is still a team that leaks goals, and unless they get a better goalkeeper than Pepe Reina and a better complement to Koulibaly in the center of that defence, not much will change. For all the attacking prowess Napoli offer, the issues at the back need fixing to really give Juve a challenge.
  3. Milan

    • Ceiling: 2nd
    • Floor: 7th
    • Be happy because: The team is already better than last season’s without a ball being kicked. The arrivals of Mateo Musacchio, Frank Kessie, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Andre Silva give manager Vicenzo Montella a team that can challenge for a Champions League place.  And they’re not done strengthening this side yet.  If Montella can get Milan to the Europa League with last season’s roster, imagine what he can do with this one.
    • Be edgy because: Yes, the Gianluigi Donnarumma problem is exactly that, a problem. He’ll renew his contract in all likelihood, but it’s been enough to make Milanisti sweat.  How long will it take for this new collection of talent to gel?  The team will look like a contender on paper, but could end up a pretender on the pitch.
  4. Roma

    • Ceiling: 3rd
    • Floor: 6th
    • Be happy because: Eusebio di Francesco was terrific through the years with a Sassuolo squad on a limited budget, and now he gets a much more talented team to work with. Monchi as the director of football has built squads that have gone deep into Europe.  The Francesco Totti distraction is over with, too (don’t kid yourselves Roma fans, that was a distraction last season).
    • Be edgy because: Roma had a record points season and still didn’t win Serie a. The combination of that and a new manager means you have to expect some regression.  Who will be around from last year’s team?  Mohammed Salah is now a Liverpool player, while Kostas Manolas and Leandro Paredes appear to be on their way out. Oh, and there’s that whole mentality thing the Giallorossi faithful like to point to.

     

  5. Inter

    • Ceiling: 2nd
    • Floor: 8th
    • Be happy because: In Luciano Spalletti, Inter have a manager that may finally bring some stability, along with an attractive brand of football. Mauro Icardi will be back to build on an excellent scoring campaign, and it’s likely that Ivan Perisic stays too.
    • Be edgy because: The defence still needs work. The aforementioned Rudiger has been linked to the San Siro and would greatly improve an Inter defence that was at times porous last season.  And is Samir Handanovic really the answer at goalkeeper?
  6. Lazio

    • Ceiling: 3rd
    • Floor: 8th
    • Be happy because: Simone Inzaghi worked wonders in guiding Lazio to a fifth place finish last season along with Europa League football. Ciro Immobile resurrected his career in his first season with the Biancacelesti.
    • Be edgy because: How many of these players will be around for year two of Inzaghi’s project? Keita Balde and Lucas Biglia are rumoured to be on their way out, and it may only be a matter of time before someone comes calling for Felipe Anderson.  This is a pivotal summer for Lazio to see if they can sustain this success.
  7. Fiorentina

    • Ceiling: 4th
    • Floor: 10th
    • Be happy because: Stefano Pioli is an ideal manager for this club, and he’ll bring an aggressive pressing style that will demand results. La Viola could be a big surprise this season.  Federico Chiesa is a promising young talent and one to watch on this team.
    • Be edgy because: Who’ll score the goals if Nikola Kalinic leaves? Like Lazio, a few players are rumoured to be on the way out, including Borja Valero and Federico Bernardeschi.  Pioli will be effective, but may end up having his work cut out for him early on.

     

  8. Atalanta

    • Ceiling: 6th
    • Floor: 12th
    • Be happy because: Gianmario Gasperini is the perfect manager for this job. He guided this Atalanta side to an unthinkable 4th place finish with automatic Europa League qualification.  The thrill of European football should have Atalanta supporters excited.
    • Be edgy because: Who from the previous season’s team is going to be around for this? Frank Kessie is already gone, as is Roberto Gagliardini.  Andrea Conti is linked to Milan and Papu Gomez is also the subject of transfer rumours.  Atalanta really could be the upcoming season’s Sassuolo.
  9. Torino

    • Ceiling: 6th
    • Floor: 14th
    • Be happy because: In Sinisa Mihailjovic, Torino have a manager that is implementing an attractive brand of soccer. The Granata boast young players like Daniele Baselli and Antonio Barreca to go with playmakers like Adem Ljajic and Juan Iturbe.
    • Be edgy because: Andrea Belotti and his 26 goals last season really were the difference between a top half finish and a bottom half finish, but he might have played his last Torino match.  Kamil Glik and Nikola Maksimovic moved on last season, and the defence suffered.  Getting Salvatore Sirigu for goalkeeper is a help, but this team still needs centre backs.
  10. Sampdoria

    • Ceiling: 7th
    • Floor: 14th
    • Be happy because: Marco Giampaolo had his contract extended and the club went on an impressive unbeaten run at the beginning of 2017 including wins over both Milan and Inter at the San Siro. Doing the double in the Derby Della Lanterna over Genoa was nice too.
    • Be edgy because: Bruno Fernandes was a creative piece to this team, and he looks to be heading to Sporting Lisbon. Patrick Schick was a revelation but he may move permanently this summer, and Milan Skriniar looks to be heading to Inter.  Luis Muriel is attracting interest as well a couple of Sampdoria’s midfielders in Lucas Torreira and Karol Linetty.  This could be a much different Samp that lines up compared to the team from last season.

     

  11. Udinese

    • Ceiling: 8th
    • Floor: 16th
    • Be happy because: Luigi Del Neri rescued a Udinese team that was really struggling early in the season. Seko Fofana, Jakub Jankto, and Rodrigo De Paul form a nice young nucleus, and there are decent goalkeeping options.
    • Be edgy because: Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu is on record saying he’ll listen to offers to leave the Friuli, and Silvan Widmer could be off to Napoli. Another team where the squad could potentially look a lot different at the start of the season.
  12. Chievo

    • Ceiling: 10th
    • Floor: 17th
    • Be happy because: The Flying Donkeys got off to a surprising start in 2016/17 before tapering off, but as the season wound down got good production from Lucas Castro and Roberto Inglese, to compliment veteran Sergio Pellissier. All are likely to be back in 2017-18.
    • Be edgy because: Part of the reason for the fall off is that they got exposed defensively, and without the lavish budget some other teams have, this is an issue they may have a hard time addressing.
  13. Genoa

    • Ceiling: 11th
    • Floor: 18th
    • Be happy because: Il Grifone managed to avert a horrible collapse by surviving relegation last season, especially when they were firmly in the top half for much of the season. The Marassi has proven to be a tough place to win for the big clubs.
    • Be edgy because: Mattia Perin has been a critical part of this team as their goalkeeper. He was injured during the team’s collapse and it’s possible he is sold in the summer.  Enrico Preziosi, as president, has proven this is a selling club as some key players moved on in January.  More may be expected to go in the summer, compromising Ivan Juric’s position as manager to keep this team up.  On current talent though, they are good enough to be comfortably safe.

     

  14. Bologna

    • Ceiling: 11th
    • Floor: 17th
    • Be happy because: Roberto Donadoni is improving as a manager, and has some decent young players to work with. Simone Verdi and Mattia Destro give the Rossoblu a young 1-2 scoring punch.
    • Be edgy because: Bologna made a habit this past season of dropping points late in games, and it makes you wonder about the mentality of this team when things go wrong for longer periods of time. The current squad is firmly a bottom half side that will survive relegation.
  15. Cagliari

    • Ceiling: 11th
    • Floor: 19th
    • Be happy because: Cagliari were a promoted side last season and did enough to survive. Marco Borriello gives them a consistent goalscorer.  Marco Sau, Diego Farias, and Joao Pedro all contributed nicely, giving the Sardinians a nucleus to build on.
    • Be edgy because: The defence was slightly better in the second half of the season, but overall it was brutal. Bruno Alves, the veteran Portuguese centre back, was a part of that back four but is leaving.  For this team to finish any higher, that defending has to get better.
  16. Sassuolo

    • Ceiling: 11th
    • Floor: 18th
    • Be happy because: The Neroverde stumbled for much of the season without Domenico Berardi available, and the Europa League turned out to be a big distraction. Out of Europe and Berardi back, they flashed the form that made them a European side in the first place.
    • Be edgy because: Eusebio di Francesco is now manager at Roma and Lorenzo Pellegrini is believed to be following him. Sassuolo is another team that can be picked apart this summer; as players like Francesco Acerbi, Berardi, Gregoire Defrel, among others could be plying their trade elsewhere.  Indeed one of the wild card teams of the summer.
  17. Hellas Verona

    • Ceiling: 14th
    • Floor: 20th
    • Be happy because: After one season in Serie B, Hellas Verona are right back up and are the most equipped of the promoted teams to survive. Giampaolo Pazzini leads a veteran team as captain and is a proven goalscorer in this league.
    • Be edgy because: Their cross town rival Chievo are getting better for starters. And despite the veteran team, survival is not a given.

     

  18. Crotone

    • Ceiling: 15th
    • Floor: 20th
    • Be happy because: Crotone pulled one of the most unfathomable escapes from relegation, not only in Serie A, but in the history of world football. They might have turned a corner under manager Davide Nicola.
    • Be edgy because: They also could’ve emptied the tank in making it a 2nd season in Serie A. Diego Falcinelli was the centrepiece of this attack late on, but he is owned by Sassuolo and it’s entirely likely he plays for them moving forward.  Crotone will need to unearth a couple of gems for their squad to make it a third season in a row.
  19. SPAL

    • Ceiling: 17th
    • Floor: 20th
    • Be happy because: SPAL made a meteoric rise to hit the big time on the peninsula, considering they were in Lega Pro just 3 seasons ago, this is some feat. With a stadium only holding 8,500, you can bet the fans will pack the stadium to see the likes of the big boys coming to Ferrara.  Veteran players like Sergio Floccari will make sure they don’t trip on themselves too hard in the top flight.
    • Be edgy because: This team had help from many promising young players from bigger clubs and it is uncertain how many of those players will come back for loan spells. This is a team that will be patched together with veterans and young loanees again, and more often than not that’s a recipe for relegation.
  20. Benevento

    • Ceiling: 17th
    • Floor: 20th
    • Be happy because: No matter how they perform in the 2017/18 season, Benevento is a true feel-good story. They gained promotion through a gruelling playoff process.  Like SPAL, this is back to back promotions for them.
    • Be edgy because: The current squad has only a handful of players with minimal Serie A experience or any experience playing top flight football. I anticipate this being another team being patched together with veterans and young loan signings to make it work.  The Benevento supporters don’t know who will be on the pitch for them in August yet.

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