Serie A Preview- Where Will We Finish?By: Jeremy | August 23rd, 2012
Are you ready for some football Cagliari style? Yes we are still surviving in Sardinia as our Rossoblu return for yet another season in Serie A and like this blog they are returning but just barely.
With the slow demise of the Italy Offside as most of the teams bloggers felt like there was just no interest or their blogs folowers were better served with independant websites, teams like Cagliari, Napoli, Catania, Fiorentina and even Inter on some level have managed to keep their loyal fans updated with real insight and commentary. Anyone can report game results but it takes real dedication to post detailed insight and commentary regularly for their team. Props to each of you who continue to write. While I felt last year was my sixth and final year blogging in detail for Cagliari on the Offside, I cant seem to let it go as I hate to see a website that provided so much for so many soccer fans just kind of fade away. While most of my commentary will be on Twitter going forward, I will try to post here but as someone who will not do things if I am going to do it half ass, it may not be pretty and I apologize to the few who still read about the team we love where for the past few years, there has been no better English insight about Cagliari.
Enough fontificating and lets talk about our team a bit and lay some groundwork for what could be another exciting but uncertain year. As you may remember, because of the safety issues and overall political posturing, Cagliari spent the last half of their season playing their home games on the mainland which made for a dodgy ride to safety which again was barely achieved with no gas left in the tank. While Cellino dreams of his new stadium in Cagliari, it looks like we will be playing our home games this year at the Stadio Comunale Is Arenas in Quartu Sant Aleni. Quartu is 4 miles outside of the city of Cagliari and the stadium will have a capacity of about 15-16,000 which is less then the Sant Elia by about 7,000. There are still renovations to be done but it is expected to be ready by the home opener against Atalanta on September 2nd. Yes its all a mess, but if we can play the games there, we will actually be at home in a smaller stadium that is never likely to sell out even at these smaller levels except when teams like Roma, Inter, Milan, and Juve come calling, but the Sant Elia seemed like a ghost town on gameday, it was not safe, and maybe the changes will spark some fan interest. Our stadium is not our strong point but it sure beats Trieste, Until the team can consistently fight for Europe, a big stadium should not be on the radar unless we can fill the Sant Elia or whatever stadium we would be in. Past history says no.
Cagliari limped home in 15th place last year but it was Novara, Lecce, and Cesena that were dropped back to Serie B. They will be replaced by Torino, Sampdoria, and Pescara. Samp returns after a one year absence, Torino has spent time in Serie A recently, and Pescara looks to be this years Novara. Overall the league should see a tougher race for survival this year then last year so if we take the second half of the season off like we did last year, we might actually get relegated.
Lets go through each of the teams in the order I think they will finish and Ill attempt to be more detailed about our team then the rest. What is tough about doing a season preview is that players can change teams at the last minute and such switches especially amognst big clubs can cause them to be placed up or down in the standings depending on who is coming or going. With opening day less then a half a week away, keep an eye on player movements at the last minute as even Cagliari has some players on the radar who could arrive and some current players who could face a loan or transfer out of town.
Here is how I see Serie A shaping up this year…
I picked them first last year and I see no reason not to do so this year. They have stabilized their team with Martin Caceres from Sevilla, Asamoah and Isla from Udinese, Leali from Brescia, and Lucio from Inter, not to mention other lesser known moves, they more then offset the loss of Pasquato, Krasic, and Felipe Melo.
They have spent well and with rumors of Matri possibly returning to Milan, they are still stacked. Giovinco returns from Parma and with the same players from last year, their depth at all positions should not only allow them to easily win Serie A, but make a real push in the Champions League. Juve fan has every reason to be excited.
They have to be the logical choice to finish second but this is a team that absent some real talent infusion at the last minute could end up much lower and ex Cagliari coach could see his dream job end in tatters.
Milan still has talent but Van Bommel, Inzaghi, Gattuso, Seedorf,and Nesta are no longer with the team and their leadership will be missed even if they cant play like they used to. Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were arguably the teams two best players who were sold for big money, but they cannot be adequately replaced. Cassano’s loss will also be huge even if he was replaced by Pazzini from Inter the trade. While Montolivo from Fiorentina has arrived, and Zapata from Villarreal could help, even with the likes of Robinho, Pato, Mexes, Boateng, Nocerino, and Ambrosini, this is the first Milan team in some time that lacks real star talent and a dangerous strikeforce.
The gap between them and Juve has increased and Milan could find themselves further down if any of the next group of teams gets their act together.
I am kind of a Roma homer. I seem to have them pegged higher then they finish every year but with the talent they have, I cant see how they have been so disappointing the past few years. They have again made some changes some of which I really like, but can they be consistent enough to make a real move?
They have done a great job shoring up weaknesses by adding Balzaretti from Palermo and the underrated Michael Bradley who is clearly adjusting to Serie A well, and Mattia Destro on loan. Borini has left for Liverpool, Heinz has returned to Argentina, and Brighi is gone.
Luis Enrique has moved on and they will now be coached by Zeman who guided a good Pescara team to Serie A but knew it was a sinking ship as the club was raided of the few good players it had and this may actually benefit the team as Enrique faced much more pressure. The additions clearly outwiegh the losses and if they can get another year out of Totti, Osvaldo can be more consistent,, and DeRossi can stay strong.
The key player is Michael Bradley. If he can link the midfield with the strikers, this team will be dangerous offensively. I think they finally qualify for the Champions League after being just below the top teams in recent years.
Yes they had a bad year finishing sixth but fourth is the worst they likely finish this year. Diego Forlan is gone and Cassano has been swapped with Pazzini in a very risky move, but Guarin has come over from Porto. Lucio has left as has Pandev but with hopefully a healthy Wesley Sneijder and Millito and Cassano doing their thing up front, this is a more exciting team then last year. The star power they clearly have over their Milan neighbors could cause the rivalry that was absent last year to rekindle. Ultimately this team will go as far as Sneijder takes them. Either way, they should be better then last year.
I was wrong on these guys last year so Im trying to make up for it by picking them this high. They were terrible in the CL last year but managed to finish third and will get another crack at it. Asamoah and Isla were sold to Juventus so they should drop down right? Well they finished strong last year after losing Sanchez, Inler, and Zapata. Therefore I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt as long as Di Natale keeps on scoring and Barreto supports him.
This is the prime example of a united team with players who seem to replace the ones who leave adequately and when added to the ageless Di Natale, this finish higher then teams spending oodles on big name transfers. That being said the team could fall off the cliff at any time and fall to mid table. I still think they have one more year of exciting play and should make another push for Europe.
Napoli finished 5th last year and will be in Europe but say good bye to Lavezzi who has been replaced by Pandev. However, as long as Hamsik and Pandev stay on and if Inler brings some new life to the team, they will be in the race for Europe until the end. Napoli is like many clubs that are big but not quite big enough in that there are clubs that players will leave for even if Napoli has established themselves as a year to year contender for Europe. To take the next step up, the owners will have to decide if they want to invest in real big name players for real big fees. So far they are holding off while they focus on trying to keep Cavani on board as his goal scoring will again be key.
Last years fourth place team is in for a bit of a drop. Klose cant keep scoring and other then Candreva coming in on loan from Udinese, did they really improve themselves. Zarate has returned from Inter but is he really in Lazios plans? Dont get me wrong there is still plenty of talent, but to move up, they needed to add some players. With even modest improvements or expected bounces back in form by the teams that were close to them in the standings, could see them drop back just a bit.
Once you get past the top 7 teams, I think there is a big drop off amongst the next bunch of teams all of which could finish 8th through 15th. Even trying to be objective, I still think Cagliari is the best of this bunch and in a slow market, they have made some good moves and if they are healthy, I expect them to finish no worse then 8th. Lets look at our team….
Ficcandenti was brought back to coach after he was fired and seems back in place for another year. I cant see him lasting the year especially if the team spends much time in the bottom half of the table in the first half of the year. Even a decent start last year couldnt keep Ficcandenti safe when a bad streak happened. For him to keep his job, he cannot ever lose more then two games in a row and he cant be managing crappy boring draws or Cellino will axe him. The expectations are again high and we all know what can happen. Ultimately the players need to step up and create some stability. Who will these players be? Lets look at them.
Agazzi will return and will be exactly what he was last year. Solid if not spectacular with the occasional big save. He might be a little better then last year, but wont be as good as he was in 2010-11. Its hard to get a superstar goalie so we can be successful with him because he does not hurt us and he clearly cares about the team.
The biggest coup of the summer was holding on to Astori. If that holds true, we will be better on defense because he is a world class player and we didnt get to have him all of last year due to injury and if he can stay on the field, the defense will be better. Longtime captain Agostini is gone as is Canini but Ariaudo will start and is an up and coming player. Pisano should fill the third spot and newcomers Rossettini and Avelar will likely fight to start in the other spot with Perico holding on to the end of the bench. While Cellino has said there is still another transfer to take place, it does not seem to be in defense. Unless Astori becomes the top defensive player in Italy and Ariaudo shows advanced improvement, this is the weakspot of our team and Cellino seems to have it on ignore. Acquisitions will have to be made at some point as I see it.
This is a group with potential yet is very much in transition and may be why Cellino is so concerned about adding another midfielder with the rumored return of Lazzarri even being mentioned. Why we let him go for under two million in a blind auction was beyond me. He was such a good fit for our team that I hated the fact we let him go for nothing. Ultimately the midfield will be Cossu who is on the wrong side of 30 but still an above average player, Nainggolan who was not sold high seems to be here for this year and while he has potential, he has underperformed expectations. If he can make the move up many expected last year, we will be even better. Fan favorite Danielle Dessena has been redeemed and he should hold down the third midfield spot. With Ekdal and a healthy Errikson fighting for the final midfield spot, you still have captain Conti feeling like he should play and we could see him take a defensive spot as his presence on the field is important. We also have Thiago Ribeiro who while is seen as a forward could play a triquartiesta position and if Ceppellini does not go out on loan, then we have an excess of midfielders.
That being said Cellino is still talking like a big name midfield player is on the way. I still think the focus needs to be on a defender.
Two words. Mauricio Pinilla. He is now a fully owned Cagliari player and the Inter rumors have passed. If he is healthy, I expect he will be one of the top three goal scorers in Italy this year. While on loan with us in the Spring, he brought enthusiasm and goal scoring prowess and helped build a good midseason winning streak. His injury cost Ballardini his job and by the time he returned, not much mattered. Keep this guy healthy physically and mentally and we might finish higher then 8th. So who will partner him? The logical choice is Ribeiro who seems to be resigned to staying in Italy despite his efforts to beat it back to Brazil. Hes talented but inconsistent. If not him, its Ibarbo who has speed and talent but disappears at times. He is Ribeiro with more speed but not quite the goal scoring ability even if his individual skills are off the chart at any given moment. Nene is still on the roster but finds himself as the 4th striker which is about what he is even if he has the best hair on the team. Larrivey, who got us through to the 4th round of the Coppa with a last minute goal last week, is rumored to leave and will likely be sold or loaned out in the next few days. He is just another enigma who for the most part scores goals when things dont matter. His potential has kept him on the team simply because we do not score goals. One player who could emerge and the reason Larrivey and Nenes days may be numbered is Marco Sau. He returns after a dominating season at Juve Stabia and his goal scoring potential could force him in to the lineup. Lets hope he pans out better then Ragatzu but remember his name.
There is clearly a surplus of fowards and Ficcandenti will spend the year trying to find the right partner for Pinilla. The sooner that match is found, the better the team will be as the constant shuffling of forwards like last year will not lead to good things.
There is real talent on this team and Pinillas presence makes the hope for a high finish seem real and Cagliari fans should be excited as there have not been noticeable improvements by most teams in Serie A. We can expect to finish this high and we could do better.
This team surprised and finished 9th last year. They will do it again as I really like them. DiVaio is gone to MLS but the fact they have kept Gaston Ramirez and extended fan favorite Diamanti gives the club great enthusiasm coming off last years finish. Add talented but enigmatic Robert Acquafresca and this team wont be surprising anyone while being enjoyable to watch.
They finished 12th last year despite a 6 point penalty and should find another comfortable mid table finish. They tend to rely on younger players with the occasional supposedly past their prime types. Last years find was German Denis and he will return. If he performs like he did last year, expect a similar finish. If not, they could face another relegation battle.
This team is being rebuilt with players like Montolivo and Gilardino now gone and while they have some exciting new players, remember this is a team that barely survived relegation and with a new coach as well, it is going to take some time before they can honestly expect to move into the fight for Europe. Vincenzo Montella will try to do more with his team then just survive. Viviano is the new goalie and he will help along with Mattias Fernandez and Alberto Aquilani who are trying to rediscover the magic of past years. While they got Rodriguez from Villarreal as they raided this relegated team, the key player will be ex Mallorca and Villarreal man Borja Valero. In the right system he can be a dominating offensive midfielder but if the game is slow and he feels bogged down, he can be useless. Jovetic and Lazzarri are still around but the team is going to have to show an improved effort and if it takes time for these new players to gell they may end up on a similar path as last year.
Palermo finished a disappointing 16th last year and kind of packed it in once it was clear to them Europe was not in the cards. Injuries and questionable moves made the club seem worse then it really is. Can they fight for Europe? Probably not. However, they are not a 16th place club and will likely have an uneventful year if you ignore the musings of their Chairmen.
Gone are Balzaretti and Viviano and while Miccoli returns, they teams transfers hopes are relying on South Americans who often dont adjust as quickly as demanded. The biggest known is Uruguayan Rios and they have added Swiss player Von Bergen.
You cant lose the players they have lost and expect a much higher finish and I am sure they wish they had the talents of a player like Pinilla as he would be very helpful to an offense that relies on an aging and injury concern such as Miccoli. Palermo has seen some good players leave and other then maybe Pastore, all were lost at bargain prices so Palermo fans are hoping these transaction results turn back around in their favor and they can move toward Europe. Its going to take awhile.
With the scare of relegation last year and rival Sampdoria returning to Serie A, this team will have real motivation to make sure there are no issues with the fans as they try to reestablish themselves as a mid table team and potential European contender.
Luigi Di Canio will take the helm and try to move this team up. They have some name players even if many are now on the downside of their careers. Biondini, Frey, Merkel, Jankovic, and Antonelli are names we all know. Add Gilardino and Michele Canini to the mix and one would think this team could be a real mover. They have added some players on loan from Roma(Verre and Pisciteeta) who may make a mark on the team along with ex Juve Ciro Immobile.
This has been one of the busiest teams in the player movement market and I think they will move safely away from the relegation zone and could surprise a bit as well.
Samp faced a year in purgatory in Serie B last year after a disappointing year in 2011-12 where they just allowed themselves to be relegated. The fact they bounced back and added some players combined with the fact they want to avoid this issue again means they are likely to survive even if they need a year to solidify the team before making a push up the standings.
They have Maxi Lopez on loan from Catania, DiSilvestri on loan from Fiorentina and have taken back Tissone from Mallorca and with other long term stalwarts such as Poli they could be this years Atalanta but to expect more so soon is a bit much.
Chievo finished 10th last year and with the loss of Michael Bradley to Roma, any excitement the fans saw in their play will likely be gone and they will again to fight to survive which they always manage to do. Luciano and Pellessier will do their best to carry this team to safety but with the improved teams at the bottom, I think this team could be in for a lower finish and despite their recent history, you cant rule them out for relegation.
Parma finished 8th last year but if you want to see how valuable Giovinco was, now that he is back with Juve, watch this team to be the big dropper of the year.
Amauri is with them and he will be expected to bring his Palermo scoring prowess with him. He has shown flashes in a prior time with Parma but now he is needed more then ever. It may be a bit late for him but you never know.
Parma relies heavily on loans to and they are one of the most active squads looking for that diamond in the rough who cant quite break through with a big club. They hit a home run with Giovinco but despite some purchases in addition to their loans, unless a player or two performs beyond expectations, this team is back in the relegation battle.
I just cant relegate these guys even if year to year they are often a strong favorite to go down. Who are they going to rely on Christian Llama? Why they are loaning Maxi Lopez to Samp makes no sense. I know Lopez does not want to be in Catania but they need him. Their transfers of note include Lucas Castro and Rolin from Uruguay but new coach Rolando Maran simply has his hands full. They did finish 11th last year after a solid season but with the improvements of the other teams, a concern as to where offense will come from, this team is going to drop down as well but should find a way to survive.
Torino makes its rerturn to Serie A and feels like they can stay up but it is going to be tough for them. Captain Rolando Bianchi is a great leader and has scored a lot of goals for Torino the past few years but as he nears 30, it will be interesting to see how he handles the return to Serie A. Pablo Caceres will provide help in the back as he comes over on loan from Mallorca and ex Roma man Brighi will bring good experience if nothing else. They also just added striker Cerci on loan from Fiorentina and he will look to get playing time alongside Bianchi.
Torino could be enjoyable to watch at times and probably has more overall talent then Catania and Chievo, but the return to Serie A is tough on yo yo type clubs which they clearly are and the other teams are simply better so they may be the unlucky team to fill the final relegation spot.
I dont know why I still hate this team but they are clearly relegation fodder and I am surprised they were not relegated last year once they came back to Serie A. They finished 14th last year but dragged themselves across like many other teams. The difference is that they did not improve enough this offseason and they could very easily be relegated again.
Who are their difference making players? I dont know any. Who do you look at when you watch this team. Unless you are a diehard fan, you dont likely know any of the players. Most teams in Serie A have atleast a couple of well know and good players. Even Torino is noticeably better. You cant blame them as they are a small team constantly shuffling players who perform a cut above everyone else doing whatever they have to to survive. Its going to be tough on them this year so they should go down.
This was Serie Bs best team last year and I will be rooting for them to survive but while they could finish higher then Siena, I dont see how even the most optimistic supporter can expect survival. Giovanni Stropa will lead an enthusiatic bunch but their best players from last year are gone including young Marco Veratti who is now with PSG. Last years coach is now in Rome and their best player might be some Czech dude named Weiss. Ultimately what got them up was taken away and they simply cant buy similarly talented players. They instead hope for some more youngsters to emerge which will be tough in Serie A. Its going to be a long year but a fun one as each game is a celebration for this team as this is their first time back in Serie A in 20 years.
So where does everyone think Cagliari will finish?
Who is going to be our final addition for what will likely be the midfield? Cabrera from Uruguay is the favorite but he may not be the answer and Lazzarri is still a longshot albeit a better fit and player.
Who will be the best players on each team and in Serie A this year?
Which players will revive their careers and which players will noticeably regress?
I will try to post updates on important games but I cant honestly say I will post as regularly as I have for the past years. Life just moves on.
I will try to keep the Twitter account going so please follow us
post some thoughts on Twitter.
I hope everyone enjoys another fun season of Serie A.