Roma and Milan have managed to turn a corner since the beginning of November and their resurgence is important for the revival of the Serie A, writes Aditya Bajaj.
Time to get over the summer it seems.
It’s December, and a lot of things have changed in Italian football for the better, particularly for two superpowers of the peninsula on a free fall at the beginning of the season.
While AC Milan were reeling under the sad reality of letting go of a cluster of stars virtually fielding a completely new side under a massive transition, AS Roma on the other hand looked to be on the same page as their rivals under new manager Zdeněk Zeman and his world of Zemanlandia having suffered due to the failed experiment under former coach Luis Enrique, that did not work last season.
However, after a torrid start to the new season marked by constant bouts of seizures that rocked both the San Siro and the Olimpico, it can be said that the two sides have managed to turn a corner since the beginning of November as they continue to climb up the table in the Serie A.
More important though is the fact that Italian football in its current state needs these two sides - along with the likes of Inter Milan and Juventus who have been far more impressive so far – to carry on the recent renaissance to help get Serie A back on the map amongst the top echelons of Europe.
After constant criticism and regular calls for his head, Massimiliano Allegri has somehow managed to steady the ship that was sinking until October with some unthinkable and avoidable defeats against the likes of Sampdoria, Atalanta, Udinese, Inter and Lazio all in the space of a month or so. Not to forget the below average performances in the Champions League, once considered to be in the DNA of the club, against Anderlecht, Zenit and Malaga piling on more misery on the Rossoneri who seemed as clueless as the Bush administration trying to justify its stand on the war against Iraq.
But since that disappointing draw against Palermo at the Barbera back in October and that one loss to Fiorentina aside, the Diavolo have been an impressive unit finally looking more of a team with great results against the likes of Juventus and Napoli alongside the demolition of the likes of Chievo, Catania and more recently Torino. While their passage from the group stages in the Champions League was debatable, it was achieved with much ease with a game to play giving much breathing space to one and all in the Milan camp responsible to make the transition a successful one.
Even though Allegri’s selection policy is still questionable at times and Silvio Berlusconi may claim to have a hand in the sudden upturn in fortunes with his weekly visits to Milanello before every match, as long as the team is delivering results no one shall complain. Also if they lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva back in the summer, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattio De Sciglio have managed to cast aside their memories with great performances on the field hinting at a better future for the club.
As for Roma, they have been on an even more impressive run than Milan and the stats are there for everyone to see. Since November and that double disappointment against Udinese and Parma, the Giallorossi have managed to win five of their last six fixtures in the league with much added flair and aplomb thanks to Zeman’s ultra-attacking philosophy which is finally paying dividends after a sporadic start to the season putting the club’s future in doubt.
They did go through the heartbreaking derby loss to arch enemies Lazio amidst their brilliant run, which was nonetheless thrilling as all of Zeman’s previous matches at the helm of the club but Roma have shown brilliant character in picking themselves up as they continue to march upwards towards the top four in the league. Consider the fact that star midfielder Daniele De Rossi was suspended for much of all this due to his outburst against Lazio, and their recent success seems all the more impressive.
Francesco Totti, at 36, is leading from the front but the future looks bright for the Roman club with Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo, Marquinhos, Alessandro Florenzi and more recently Mattia Destro all playing a big hand in making Zemanlandia a beautiful spectacle.
No wonder then, that considering the results of the past one and half months, both Roma and Milan are leading the Serie A earning more points in the last six games than they did in the first ten of the league campaign.
|The Serie A table considering only the results after Gameweek 10
|Team||Played||Won||Lost||Drawn||Goals For||Goals Against||Points||Actual Position||Overall Points|
Now, while the rest of the Europe has been looking down upon the Serie A as a league in decline, it has actually turned into a more competitive and balanced competition despite the financial problems and the host of big name stars that have left the country for the same reason.
Juventus have been as impressive as ever, building upon their success from last season while Inter have put behind their previous disappointments under the tutelage of Andrea Stramaccioni and the strict ‘fit for the future’ policy of Massimo Moratti like the one adopted by their cousins in the red half of Milan. More impressive has been the competitiveness of the likes of Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina with the Viola proving to be a real force under Vincenzo Montella who continues to churn out the best from his players despite the fact that atleast sixteen of his current batch were bought in the summer.
But while these sides continue to impress, the big question is whether Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina can actually sustain their current rhythm and if they can, the bigger question is ‘for how long’?
Even though they continue to push each other hard enough for that crucial spot in the top three, the sad truth is that they cannot compete with the elites when it comes to the financial aspect of the game. Can these clubs really hold on to their star players for long enough to build upon season after season?
Steven Jovetic continues to be linked towards a move away from Fiorentina, while one defeat against Inter last weekend has thrown the future of Edinson Cavani up in the air as the Uruguay international would eventually want to play for a side capable of qualifying for the Champions League every season with regularity despite signing on a 4.5 million euros contract over the summer against the financial capability of the Naples based side. Udinese managed to qualify for the knockouts of the Champions League for two straight seasons but have struggled this time around having sold Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla to Juventus.
Also the loss of that one crucial European spot to the Bundesliga has made the situation even more critical with only three places up for grabs as against four in the previous seasons.
Hence it becomes even more paramount for the likes of Juventus, Inter, Milan and Roma to sustain themselves as even though they have all unanimously inclined themselves towards a ‘no-nonsense’ spending policy complying with the Financial Fair Play and the recession in mind, they are the only ones who can offer the players more stability and guarantee of continuous success both financially and on the field.
| Serie A needs the 'Big Four' to avoid chasing the shadows of its youngsters
The success of these four clubs is what kept the Serie A at the top in Europe for most of the first half of the decade gone by and their revival is the only thing that can help Italian football back to where it belongs – amongst the elites of the continent.
This season has thrown a lot of youngsters onto the field, and they have impressed but more necessary is the need to keep them away from the rich vultures constantly preying upon the clubs in Italy every summer due to their inability to hold on to their assets.
For the very same reason, Serie A needs the original ‘Big Four’ to compete with the English, the Spanish and the Germans who are all a level above their Italian counterpart.
Let’s just hope this is not just one of the many false dawns fans of the Italian game have witnessed post the Calciopoli.
Don't forget to let us know in the comments section below or discuss on twitter@adityabajaj
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com – your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.