25 Aug Will Juventus’ Italian Dominance End This Season?
A turbulent, eventful and fairly surprising summer in the Italian transfer market will have punters licking their lips as 17/18 sets up to be one of the most open campaigns in recent memory. At times last season, it was almost a precession as Juventus coasted to add to their record haul of 33 league titles. Roma, powered by free-scoring Edin Dzeko, chased the Old Lady throughout – but despite Juve’s gruelling run to the UEFA Champions League final – they were a class above, far too strong for their counterparts.
Such was Massimiliano Allegri’s side’s dominance, Juve were top of Serie A from gameweek five until the end of the season. Only Roma (on opening day), Genoa (on matchday two) and Napoli (on matchday four) tasted brief spells at the summit of Italian football. The disappointing and perhaps downright embarrassing campaigns from both Inter and AC Milan saw both miss out on automatic qualifying for European competition. The Rossonieri, who pipped their city rivals to 6th, have to get past Romanian also-rans CS U Craiova in UEFA Europa League qualifying.
Such underperformance has led to some kneejerk reaction in the transfer market. Fabio Borini’s loan move from Sunderland to AC Milan being the standout transaction in what has become a very interesting couple of months in the build-up to the new season. Borini, a full Italy international, who has commanded in excess of £20m in transfer fees and has a CV decorated with stints at Liverpool, Chelsea, Roma and Parma has scored just 31 goals in his eight-year career. However, one of the most prolific points of Borini’s career came during a spell at Roma where he found nine of those goals in 24 appearances.
Much has been made about AC Milan’s business in this window. Hotly-tipped young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was the subject of an early transfer saga before penning a new five year contract with the club. Donnarumma then found himself with new teammates including his brother Antonio, who re-joined Milan after leaving for Asteras Tripolis.
Mateo Musacchio (€18M from Villarreal), Franck Kessie (€28m from Atalanta), Andre Silva (€38m from Porto), Hakan Calhanoglu (€24m from Bayer Leverkusen), Andrea Conti (€24m from Atalanta), Ricardo Rodriguez (€18m from Wolfsburg) and Lucas Biglia (€17m from Lazio) also followed as Milan’s summer spree continued. Then came the big one. Leonardo Bonucci – the rock of Juventus’ sturdy defence upon which a team that has won the Scudetto for six consecutive seasons was built – arrived at San Siro donning the red and black. In one move, the market changed – AC Milan are now Serie A contenders and their price has been cut to 13/2 as league winners.
Juventus immediately reinvested the Bonucci money with Fiorentina’s Federico Bernardeschi arriving in Turin for £34m. Juan Cuadrado (£17m from Chelsea), Medhi Benetia (£14m from Bayern Munich), Wojciech Szczesny (£10m from Arsenal), Mattia De Sciglio (£10m from AC Milan), Rodrigo Bentancur (£9m from Boca Juniors) and Douglas Costa (on loan from Bayern Munich) have also bolstered the 5/7 league favourites.
However, the best business that has been done so far in Serie A is Napoli retaining their key players. Maurizio Sarri’s men have not lost a league game since November and completed over 5,000 more passes than Juventus last season. This might seem like a vacant stat, but they enjoyed 59% possession against their opponents on average last season, averaging 18 shots on goal per game! Belgium forward Dries Mertens carried Partenopei at times last season, with a staggering 34 goals in 45 games. Mertens also contributed 11 assists and has signalled his commitment for Napoli ahead of the new season.
Napoli are also adamant that Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Marek Hamsik will be plying their trade in Naples. Young Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik will also return from a back injury that prohibited his first season in Italy, when the €35m signing from Ajax was widely expected to replace Gonzalo Higuain’s goals. Both Milik and Mertens are 11/1 to finish as the league’s top-scorer. Napoli are currently 5/1 to win Serie A in 2017/18 and with their settled and in-form squad, we wouldn’t bet against them!
It would be pretty rude of us not to mention our friends over at Torino in this Serie A season preview. If you don’t already know, we’re the Toro’s new Betting and Gaming partner and the SportPesa logo will adorn the back of the famous maroon jersey this season. Torino have done pretty well to keep hold of their prized asset Andrea Belotti – one of the hottest prospects in world football. Here are his stats from last season…
We’re sure that there will be plenty of our customers interested in the 14/1 on offer for Belotti to finish as top-scorer in Series A next season.