I am providing this just after the mercato closes on Serie A teams. We wave good-bye to silly season and now get down to business.
There was the usual speculation- whether drummed up by media outlets, calcio twitter accounts, or random sites trying to put out click-bait. When the dust settled, we saw some interesting moves, but not a whole lot that would compel me to drastically change the progression of my predictions.
Of the noteworthy on deadline day, we see players returning to the peninsula, specifically Simone Zaza to Torino and Gervinho to Parma.
Joel Campbell and Ragnar Klavan have chances to rejuvenate their careers as they leave the Premier League for Frosinone and Cagliari respectively, and David Ospina gets a season on loan at Napoli after being crowded out at Arsenal.
Time will tell who the winners and losers of this mercato are, but it is clear that Serie A as a whole came out big winners.
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus prompted title challengers to strengthen their sides with quality signings.
It is a league that is still top heavy, but the competition for all the European places will be tight. You can make an argument that Inter, Milan, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, Atalanta, Sampdoria, Fiorentina and Torino all close this window stronger than when they opened it.
Before I give you my final 1-20 for this upcoming season, I want to shape this by offering some of the hot takes I have before the first kick of the ball:
- Juventus will win their 8th straight Scudetto, but……. Not by as wide a margin as the casual fan will think. I think they wrap this up over Inter, but by no more than 5-6 points. Two seasons ago we all handed the Old Lady the title before the season started, and Roma pushed them to match week 37. Roma were then coached by Luciano Spalletti, who now leads an Inter side very capable of keeping this title race a little tighter with all the reinforcements they’ve made.
- Roma will fail to qualify for the Champions League. I like what Roma have put together for the season, but the defending scares me, as I mentioned in our preview podcast. I think it will be their undoing. It’s an older defense with a new goalkeeper in Robin Olsen who- while good- is not of Allisson Becker’s caliber.
- Fiorentina, Torino, and Sampdoria will be 8th through 10th, but….. they are all good enough to step in and grab a European place, ruining someone else’s season in the process. La Viola have an exciting young attack with Marko Pjaca, Giovanni Simeone, and Federico Chiesa. Torino will have Simone Zaza to possibly partner with Andrea Belotti, and plenty of playmakers in support. Sampdoria have retooled nicely despite losing Duvan Zapata and Lucas Torreira; Riccardo Saponara will be a big help in Marco Giampaolo’s midfield and Lorenzo Tonelli has a chance to get his career back on track with the Blucherati. All three sides have made moves to be in the conversation. But…….
- While those three teams are making a push, they better be wary of……. Bologna and Udinese. Pippo Inzaghi is the new boss for the Rossoblu and he has talent up front with Diego Falcinelli and Federico Santander. He also comes in with a better goalkeeper than his predecessor had with Lukasz Skorupski. Udinese bought smartly with a lot of promising young players. William Troost-Ekong is an internationally capped defender with Nigeria and Lukasz Teodorczyk is a striker who performed well with Anderlecht. It would not be a surprise if either of these teams found their way in the top half at season’s end.
- As for the strugglers……. Genoa and Chievo are in big trouble. Chievo simply because they’re still under investigation- one that won’t wrap up until September and it should be expected that they’ll have a points deduction over their transfer indiscretions. Genoa might have added some pieces, but they’ll feel the departure of Mattia Perin in goal. They were brutal in early 2017 when they had to go a stretch of games without him through injury.
So with those takes factored in, I give you my final predictions for the 2018-2019 Serie A Season. At a minimum, you’ll have a good laugh:
- Napoli – hard to sustain what they accomplished last season with a new manager, even if it is a legend like Carlo Ancelotti. Still, Carletto will have this side shored up and keeping a Champions League place.
- Milan – They were the 3rd best team in Serie A last season on points from when Gennaro Gattuso took over, and that was without a proven striker to score the goals, now they have Gonzalo Higuain. The team is deeper this season than they were last season and will pip Roma to this spot.
- Lazio – The transfer window slams shut and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is still there. The defending leaves a lot to be desired though, so while they’ll score a bunch, they’ll give up a bunch too- keeping Lazio from moving any higher.
- Atalanta – If Papu Gomez would’ve left as rumored to Lazio, this side would’ve dropped to 10th. He’s that valuable to them.
- Sampdoria – Slight edge to the Granata over Samp for 9th, I think Mazarri’s side is slightly better in defense. The Colley-Tonelli partnership will take some time to gel.
- Udinese – I like the business they’ve done and looking forward to what Julio Velazquez offers as a manager.
- Bologna – I won’t fight you if you think they’re better than Udinese.
- Sassuolo – The attack could surprise, but the defense will struggle. Roberto De Zerbi took over Benevento last season and took them from dreadful to just bad. That’s an improvement. Now he gets some players to work with.
- Cagliari – They ought to survive, but Pavoletti must get the goalscoring ramped up.
- Frosinone – Yes I think they’ve improved that much. Some issues out of the gate with adapting to Serie A, but this is a better bunch of veterans than the dysfunctional bunch that Hellas Verona patched together a season ago.
- SPAL – They’ll be pesky and they’ll scratch out enough results to stay up.
- Genoa – Will really struggle without Perin, but they are better than the three I think will go down.
- Empoli – They picked up some experienced pieces down the stretch, but the season will end in heartbreak for them.
- Chievo – A points deduction is coming to a level that they won’t be able to overcome it. SPAL and Genoa will be grateful for it, too.
- Parma – Adding Gervinho makes them a little more fun, as does having Robeto Inglese, but they’ll each need to score a lot of goals to help keep Parma afloat.