Thursday, 6 December 2018

Serie A: November Review

Serie A once again delivered in November with some excellent football, goals and more excitement. Not one but three clubs changed managers during November as the pressure really increases on managers fighting at both ends of the table. Juventus continue to lead the way with an 8-point cushion over 2nd place Napoli. While Chievo are still winless and rooted to the bottom of the table and are joined in the relegation zone by Frosinone and Bologna.

Juventus continue to dominate Serie A and they continued their unbeaten season through November winning all 3 of their games. Cristiano Ronaldo is in his element and leads Juventus’ scoring chart notching 10 league goals. Juventus are utterly dominating Serie A and teams are finding it extremely tough to keep up with them at the top. Max Allegri has assembled an expensive squad, but he has got them playing and firmly in the groove both domestically and in Europe and its no surprise they are one of the favourites for the Champions League. Despite being unbeaten throughout November, Ancelotti’s Napoli have gone further behind Juventus after collecting 7 points from their 3 games. A goalless draw at home to rock bottom Chievo didn’t gone well with the fans or Ancelotti with the Naples club creating numerous chances and failing to take them. Despite that, Ancelotti will be pleased with the application of the squad to his ideas but a crucial December looms with important league games and a crucial clash with Liverpool in the Champions League to decide wo progresses to the last 16. The Champions League places are made up by Inter and Lazio. Luciano Spalletti’s Inter collected 6 points from their 3 games with their only blemish being a heavy defeat at improving Atalanta. That defeat coincidently ended Inter’s 7 match winning streak. They have made an excellent start to the season and find themselves just one point behind Napoli and clearly these two will battle for the right to finish runners-up. Meanwhile, there is a nice fight brewing between Lazio and AC Milan for 4th at the moment with these two swapping places on a regular basis. Currently the Rome based club sit in the Champions League places 1 point clear of AC Milan but 5 behind Inter. An unbeaten November saw Lazio collect 5 points from their 3 games. These two heavyweights of Serie A will battle for 4th but hope rivals above them slip to give us neutrals a fascinating battle for Champions League football.

Sides who enjoyed November included Atalanta and Parma. Gianpiero Gasperini has got Atalanta going after a slow start to the season. They’ve won 4 of their last 5 games after a 7-match winless run. Form has picked up as has their goalscoring, but they did end the month with a disappointing defeat at Empoli. But despite that setback, Atalanta find themselves in 9th just 5 points off the Champions League places and overall, they are much improved. Meanwhile, newly promoted Parma are exceeding all expectations and currently find themselves in 6th place after an excellent November which saw them collect 7 points from their 3 matches. It has been a terrific return to the league after their promotion and they could even dream of Europe should they continue their excellent run. Gervinho is their talisman and key to everything good going forward and he has thoroughly enjoyed his return to Italy after spells in England, Turkey and China. Parma are a breath of fresh air and the fans will be hoping they could achieve the impossible and challenge for European football. Based on current form, they will fancy their chances.

Another side who enjoyed November eventually was Empoli. The club chose to sack manager Aurelio Andreazzoli after a run of 10 games without a win stretching back to the opening day of the season. A difficult situation needs an experienced head and the club have chosen that direction and appointed Giuseppe Iachini who was jobless after leaving Sassuolo at the end of last season after guiding them to survival in Serie A. Iachini is an experienced, excellent manager who will sort out Empoli’s attacking and defensive issues. The experienced Italian has made a brilliant start winning both his matches so far against Udinese and Atalanta which saw them climb out of the bottom 3. Federico Caputo is vital to their chances of survival and so far, Iachini has got the experienced striker going notching goals in both victories so far. While the start under Iachini has been perfect, there is still a long way to go in their battle for survival but so far, the change of management was the right call.

Two other clubs changed management during November. One was a sacking; the other was a ridiculous resignation all centred around a lack of commitment. The sacking came courtesy of Udinese who dismissed Spaniard Julio Velazquez after a run of 6 defeats in 7 and overall just 2 league wins in their 12 matches. Velazquez will be disappointed with the sacking having only taken over in June but as football is becoming a results-based business, time is not available anymore. Despite their issues, Rodrigo de Paul arguably their best player this season continues to perform and even signed a new deal, so he is on board and crucial to the team and hopes of igniting their season once again. Udinese are in a slump and with Velazquez now gone, hopes now turn to new manager Davide Nicola. Nicola has got good experience in Serie A having managed Crotone and he is tasked with changing the fortunes of a side in a real slump. His first game did bring success an impressive victory over Roma. They sit 16th at the end of November and hope to be climbing further during December before the winter break in Italy. Nicola has belief in his squad and will be hoping to build on that excellent debut win. In contrast, lowly Chievo just cannot find a victory anywhere they look. The basement club sit bottom with just 1 point and now find themselves on their 3rd manager of the season after Gianpiero Ventura resigned after just 4 games in charge believing he couldn’t save the club from relegation and allegations have emerged from the squad that he wasn’t committed to them or the club and just a final big payday. The fans are furious, and things just aren’t improving on the pitch and the club find themselves 11 points off safety and the only club in Europe’s top 5 leagues without a win. The Verona club are now on their 3rd manager of the season and the club have appointed a man who has managed the club before. Domenico Di Carlo has been given the impossible task of rescuing Chievo from the drop. Back for a 3rd spell at the club, he is tasked with finding a win and sorting out their defence and attacking movement. Di Carlo has started well picking a terrific point at Napoli, but he must find a win from somewhere to give themselves the best chance of beating the drop.

The bottom three is made up of struggling Frosinone and Bologna. Despite showing some improvements in recent weeks, Frosinone find themselves second bottom collecting just 8 points so far this campaign. They lost just once in November but no wins for the club. Winless at home and they must find a win at home in front of their supporters to really push their survival charge. They are improving but they are not scoring enough goals therefore, wins allude them. Bologna are also in trouble and finding life extremely difficult. Filippo Inzaghi is struggling to get a tune out of his team and the pressure is beginning to mount on his shoulders after a run of 2 wins in 13 league games and are on streak of 6 without a win. Goals are proving difficult for Inzaghi’s side notching just 12 league goals and if things don’t improve, the well-respected former world cup winner could feel the wreath of the managerial axe.

November was entertaining, and no doubt December will be the same as a crucial part of the season approaches. Games coming thick and fast as the winter break looms. Some excellent games to come including Fiorentina vs Juventus, Roma vs Inter, AC Milan vs Parma, Atalanta vs Napoli, Juventus vs Inter, Lazio vs Sampdoria, Torino vs Juventus in the first Turin derby of the season, Atalanta vs Lazio, Bologna vs AC Milan, AC Milan vs Fiorentina, Juventus vs Roma, Inter vs Lazio, Juventus vs Sampdoria, Sassuolo vs Fiorentina and Chievo vs Frosinone. A crucial period is upon us and the pressure will increase, and the festive cheer certainly won’t reach all clubs. Will Juventus continue their unbeaten run with some tricky games to come? Only time will tell. But honestly can anyone in Serie A stop them?

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