The Calcio Consultant, Frank Crivello, is back with his final instalment of Italian Serie A league predictions for the 2017/18 season. Look out for his other columns on World Football Index as the season progresses.
The talking and speculating can finally be done.
In a matter of hours from when this blog is posted, Juventus and Cagliari will kickoff a 38 match-week adventure. For Serie A fans, this is one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory.
Are the Old Lady strong enough to keep their crown on the peninsula? Are Napoli better for doing next to nothing in the summer? Has the Chinese money and the signings been enough to make Milan a Scudetto contender? Can Roma continue at the level they established last season or will they drop-off?
What of the new boys? Which of Hellas Verona, SPAL, and Benevento are equipped to survive and get a second season in Serie A? Who of the traditional powers are doomed for a fall in the table? And who might be the Sassuolo and Atalanta of recent seasons?
These are my final predictions for the upcoming Serie A season as far as table finish. Much can still change this over the last couple weeks of the mercato, and of course I’ll probably be wrong about a lot of these teams. Alas, here is The Calcio Consultant’s best guess as to each team’s destiny this season (or fate).
THE 2017/18 Serie A Champions are: Juventus
We hammered all the other predictions out in our special preview edition on Serie A Sitdown, and when asked who the champion would be, I just can’t mess with a streak. However this will be a Juve more like 2015/16, having to overcome key departures and massage in key additions before taking control of the table.
2016/17 was a foregone conclusion when they added players from rival clubs. The Bianconeri will make it seven in a row, but barely. This really could be a title race that goes to the final match week.
Juve lost Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves, but added dynamism in their attack with Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi. Further, there is still plenty of experience and know-how with veterans like Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, and Mario Mandzukic.
All this before talking about Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Can they overcome the disaster in Cardiff, and retain their place as the best in Italy? I think they can.
Arguably the most attractive side to watch in all of Europe and a real spectacle in Italian football. 94 goals in league play last season was key in Serie A being the most prolific of the major European leagues last season.
The main pieces of that attack are all back with Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, and Marek Hamsik. If Arkaduisz Milik can return to pre-injury form, he’s another piece that can just add to the fun.
The Partenopei did little in the summer, and in their case really didn’t need to do much. Still, I can’t see Pepe Reina as a title-winning goalkeeper. Quite surprising to me that, as of this blog, they didn’t look to strengthen that position.
If new ownership are reasonable, and by all accounts they have been, finishing in the Champions League places should be an acceptable accomplishment in their first full season.
Ye,s all the investment should have the fans demand a scudetto, and rightfully so. However with such an overhaul you have to expect that points will get dropped just from the players’ need to get acclimated.
Their mercato business was the talk of the summer, and they may not be done yet either. Vicenzo Montella has exceeded expectations wherever he’s gone as manager, and now he has his most talented team to work with. That could merit them being a title contender.
A lot of people, including guests on our podcast, are expecting a fall from Roma this season.
While it should be obvious to expect regression from a 2nd place finish and 87 points last season, I don’t think they’ll fall too far. Eusebio di Francesco is a talented manager who plays an attractive brand of football.
The Giallorossi have to overcome the losses of Mohammed Salah and Antonio Rudiger, but they have reinforced nicely. Keeping Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, and (as of now) Kostas Manolas might have been equally as crucial to their success this season.
They’ve gotten trendy recently and some think they’ll finish top four. It won’t surprise me if they accomplish it but I still think they are just short of the four ahead of them.
Luciano Spalletti as manager immediately brings them a stability they haven’t had at the position since Jose Mourinho left. Keeping Ivan Perisic was massive for their prospects this season; he, Mauro Icardi and Antonio Candreva should continue to be a solid trio in attack. Borja Valero coming over from Fiorentina to pull the strings is a nice get as well.
They have to overcome the mental fragility that tends to hold them back at times, and the defending has to be better. I have them 5th, but they are closer to 4th than they are to 6th.
I just think they learned from Sassuolo last season and won’t allow the same problems to plague them with European football added to their workload. Gone might be Roberto Gagliardini, Frank Kessie, and Andrea Conti, but remaining are Papu Gomez, Mattia Caldara, and Leonardo Spinazzola.
Atalanta added smartly too, Josep Ilicic arrives on the cheap along with players that have European experience in Andre Cornelius and Timothy Castagne. The surprise story of last season should not drop off as much this season.
Simone Inzaghi did a great job in steering the Biancaelesti to 5th and a Europa league finish last season. Ciro Immobile in particular rediscovered his form and led the team in goals. However this is a Lazio team that lost their captain in Lucas Biglia and before the window closes, Keita Balde could be playing somewhere else.
Hard to get excited about this season when everyone around you strengthens, and your top signing is Lucas Leiva from Liverpool. Napoli might be fine with more of the same, but the concern here is that Lazio and Inzaghi’s tactics are likely to be found out.
The defending has to be better, and I think it well be. Salvatore Sirigu takes over in goal on a free, and N’Kolou on loan is a nice get for the centre of the defense.
As of this post, Andrea Belotti is still with the Granata as well. Hard to expect him to come through with another 26 goal tally like last season, but a 20+ goal season is the floor with him. Especially when you consider Sinisa Mihaijlovic’ attacking style and the playmakers surrounding him.
Marco Giampaolo has to cope with losses such as Milan Skriniar, Luis Muriel, and Bruno Fernandes. Each were helpful is getting Samp into a top half finish after some early struggles last season.
Some reasonable additions have been made, including Gianluca Caprari who was a bright spot in a dismal campaign while on loan at Pescara. Gaston Ramirez could be a sneaky good playmaking midfielder to help the likes of Patrick Shcick, Caprari, and Fabio Quagliarella get their chances. Enough to trouble some of the big teams, just not enough to sustain a run at a European place.
Stefano Pioli enters this situation without a number of significant names. Borja Valero, Mattia Vecino, Josep Ilicic, and Nikola Kalinic are among those that are plying their trade elsewhere.
Fear not Viola fans, help is on the way in the form of Giovanni Simeone. Valentin Eysseric and Jordan Veretout are attack minded players who spent time in Ligue 1 last season, and are both serviceable. Marco Benassi was a sneaky get from Torino for the midfield. Nice signings, and you have to expect Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Saponara to step up.
This is your team that will struggle the first half of the season to acclimate to Pioli’s tactics, and playing with each other. They’re 10th with the likelihood that their form in the second half of the season would be that of a top 6 team.
I mentioned in the preview pod that I would eat crow over thinking that Sassuolo would blow up this summer, and that I’d move them up in my predictions. All because there was no blow up, and the most noteworthy departures are Lorenzo Pellegrini and Gregoire Defrel.
Cristian Bucchi is the new manager after a season at Perugia, who are unlucky to miss out on Serie A this season. Bucchi plays an attacking style that will suit the likes of Domenico Berardi, Matteo Politano, and Diego Falcinelli.
Went from being a team that was looking to survive the drop to a team that could be a real threat for a top half finish.
Plenty of attacking options and experience in those positions should leave the Flying Donkeys with a position around 12th. I’m not convinced they have the upward mobility to get into the top half.
Sergio Pellissier, Roberto Inglese, and Lucas Castro provided a nice attacking nucleus down the stretch of last season. Manuel Pucciarelli is there on loan from Empoli and will add some depth. The defense still has issues, and I can see them keeping Chievo in the bottom half.
Luigi Del Neri gets a full season with the Zebrette now, and while he has a nice young crop of players to work with, enough departures have taken place where any higher position will be a challenge.
Felipe and Thomas Herteaux were experienced centre backs, and now they are with other teams. Emmanuel Agmeyang-Badu left on loan as well. Cyril Thereau, Seko Fofana, and Rodrigo De Paul remain to give the Friuli outfit some bite going forward, and Simone Scuffet returns in goal.
I had the Grifone a little higher and was pretty optimistic about them, but now they’ve sold Giovanni Simeone and my wish for a Simeone/ Lapadula combo is wiped out just like that.
Andrea Bertolacci returns to a club where he found some success and where his performances merited his move to Milan in the first place. Mattia Perin returns in goal, it’s no coincidence that Genoa’s free fall in the second half of last season correlated with the young custodian’s season-ending injury. Ivan Juric shouldn’t have to sweat out a relegation scrap this time around.
The league’s worst defence has every opportunity to be better this season and largely because the back four responsible for such calamity are all gone.
Replacing them are a nice mix of veterans and promising youngsters. Marco Borriello remains with the team for now but rumours are he is not happy and might be seeking a move. Diego Farias made for a nice attacking link toward the end of the season as well. The pieces are there for survival.
Mark Neale was on our podcast and pointed out Bologna’s decline toward the end of last season coupled with what’s been a disappointing preseason. Roberto Donadoni will feel the pressure to produce.
He still has Mattia Destro and Simone Verdi at his disposal in attack, and additions like Saipher Taider and Andrea Poli should help. Still, this is a team squarely in a relegation fight, and they have just enough to survive.
The Antonio Cassano telenovela is past, and it is one less ego for the dressing room to deal with. Giampaolo Pazzini is a proven goalscorer at this level and will be leaned on heavily. With Alessio Cerci, Verona are hoping he taps into his Torino form from a few year ago.
Adding Martin Caceres and Thomas Herteaux for their back line was a savvy move, two players who provide Serie A experience. This is a veteran side that will have the know how to stay up, and in fact it would surprise me if they finish higher than this 17th position.
After incredibly escaping the drop last season, I just can’t see Crotone surviving after this season. Diego Falcinelli was a big part of their march to safety last season, but he is employed by Sassuolo and as of this post he’s staying there this season.
Marcello Trotta is the Sassuolo loanee they’ll lean on this time. Leandro Cabrera and Mariano Izco are free signings to give them experience.
A great story last season, but I just don’t see Crotone having it in them to survive again. Though they will be fun, in particular Simy, a 6’6” forward from Nigeria.
SPAL are a trendy choice by some experts to stay up. Alex Meret returns as their goalkeeper and on loan from Udinese. Felipe also joined to offer experience to defense, and Alberto Paloschi will have a full season of first team football by all accounts.
Still, while impressive how quickly they’ve made it to Serie A, I see a quick drop back to Serie B.
Despite qualifying for Serie A via winning the promotion playoff Serie B, Benevento are just about everyone’s favourite to be at the foot of the table this season.
There’s some Serie A experience acquired in Danilo Cataldi (loan), Gaetano Letizia, and Massimo Coda. However, it’s a team that found a way to overachieve in the playoffs and really are making up the numbers here.
Of course, I also thought this about Crotone last season, so they’ll draw some inspiration from that!