For the benefit of those who haven’t been following the Italian Serie A, here’s a recap. Suggestive of utter hegemony and totally nauseating for non-Bianconeri fans – Juventus have won the past 5 Scudetti by a collective 54 point margin. 4 points in 2011/2012, 9 points in 2012/2013, 17 points in 2013/2014. It was then another 17 points in 2014/2015 and 9 points in 2015/2016. Clear dominance.
Such is the gulf in class between them and the chasing pack that a Scudetto is a given going into the season for the past 5 years. The continuously widening chasm became even more prominent last term as a stuttering Juventus side, reeling from the departure of key players somehow waltzed their way to yet another title. At this point, there is little to suggest that the Old Lady cannot extend this domination, not even Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United will weaken them.
Instead, it’s the other way round – Juventus “doing a Bayern Munich” by directly weakening their closest rivals and snapping up Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain from Roma and Napoli respectively.
With these signings, and seemingly so, every vestige of competition, if there were any in the first place, go up in a big ball of flames. In today’s football, stats do the talking, even much more than the screaming men in commentary boxes across Europe. Now what would a team with the league’s highest goal scorer, the second highest goal scorer and the top assist maker not do? Definitely not losing the league, right?
Who would possibly encumber the Old Lady’s march towards a 6th successive Scudetto? Who would flip the script in this old Italian sitcom – a poser which Napoli’s film producer and owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis doesn’t have an answer to.
Despite Napoli’s impressive 2nd place finish in the league last season, Roma have been Juventus’ biggest title challengers for the better part of the last 3 or 4 seasons. This, however, is not a conscious attempt to denigrate Napoli’s achievements and potential to mount a serious title challenge. In fact, it would be stimulating to see if the Partenopei would cope with the burden of European commitment and their league ambitions.
However, as long as prevailing circumstances go, the Giallorosi are widely tipped to give the Old Lady a run for their money (not the one they paid for Pjanic apparently). The reasons aren’t that far-fetched.
Before Luciano Spalletti was appointed as Roma coach for the second time, Rudi Garcia’s team hung precariously on the precipice of European football after a run of bad results. Spalletti brought with him the right tactics, discipline, calmness and stability that saw the capital club win 14 league games, draw 3 times and lose just twice, one of them against the eventual champions – a decent achievement as Roma had run out of steam at the time of his hiring.
For a coach whose antecedents are well-known, Spalletti is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone the club has hired since the American takeover. One of such antecedents is being the brainchild of the most innovative counter attacking side of the last decade, the 4-6-0 formation, if you like, a template later used by Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble winning Manchester United side.
In Spalletti, Roma have a coach who is tactically versatile and very willing to experiment which makes the threat posed by the team at the Olimpico even greater. Therefore, with the right backing from the management and a cordial dressing room, Juventus ought to be wary.
If Juventus’ stranglehold on the league title is to come to an end, then this is the year as they will most definitely prioritise the Champions League ahead of the Serie A. You don’t spend the budget of a Third World Country just so you could win the league for the 6th consecutive time, right?
While this might be a logical assumption as to why the Old Lady, characteristically parsimonious in previous transfer markets, would break the bank, let’s not hold our breath. However, this is an avenue that can be milked by Roma as not even the most optimistic fan is expecting them to win the Champions League. The key is getting off to a real good start against Udinese.
Article By: SIDNEY DIOGU