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Once upon a time the most competitive league, the number of pretenders to Juventus' crown has dwindled this season, as Singapore's Jeremy Lim ponders the reasons

By Jeremy Lim
Being the profound Juventus supporter, the tension leading up to our grudge match against Roma begin early last week, given we would be hosting them on Sunday morning faced not just with the task of defending our Serie A title, but maintaining a 44-game unbeaten run in addition to that. One could have naturally associated with my anxiety that it would be only a matter of time, before an opponent sounded a death knell to our proud record that stretched all the way back for more than a year.

It's now Wednesday and therefore safe for me to declare, what could I possibly have been worrying about? Zdenek Zeman's pretenders to our throne were easily brushed aside as the Bianconeri swept to a hugely convincing 4-1 victory in Turin. Basking in the assured manner of the victory, the thought all of a sudden dawned upon me: how could the prospect of waltzing to a consecutive title already feel like a walk in the park, when only less than a quarter of the season has gone by?

Perhaps it is given the manner thus far in which, apart from a nervy trip to Fiorentina that witnessed Vincenzo Montella's surprise package handing my team a lesson in football, not once has Juventus appeared to be in comprehensive states of difficulty. While it would be any fan's dream to regard his side cruising at the top of the table a mere formality, that particular state of affairs casts a nagging shadow of doubt about the state of competition in Serie A.

Credit should be handed to Juventus for the dominant way with which they made Roma walk the plank, but more worrying was the equally remarkable manner in which the Giallorossi made it that much easier. Touted as one of this term's Scudetto challengers, the capital outfit have in no way produced the vaugest measure of consistency so vital to keeping up a title charge, completely flattering to deceive, in my mind at least.

Worryingly, saying that Roma's at best stuttering form is not an isolated case but a circumstance that presently plagues almost every other traditional league heavyweight - bar Juventus - should be real cause for concern. Inter are just another to have blown hot-and-cold, amongst others.

Rest of Serie A


AC Milan

Previous five games
Entering the last week of September, you would have expected more from the side who underwent a major overhaul over the summer, as the Nerazzurri lay marooned in eigth then, following successive defeats at home. Although Andrea Stramaccioni's squad have since picked themselves up a measure, their displays still remain far from the most convicing, and you'd suspect they have some ways to go yet before managing to usurp Juventus' reign of domination in Italy.

Think that's bad though, and you haven't seen AC Milan's shambolic displays yet. If fans initially thought selling the indispensable Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain was suicide, a current appraisal of the situation at San Siro stands the consequences as much more serious.

Sitting in 11th following disastrous home defeats to unfancied Sampdoria and Atalanta, Massimiliano Allegri's former Scudetto holders can be rated what I feel as the disappointment of the new campaign so far. Failing to click as a team on all levels, the lack of form exhibited by the club's unimpressive new arrivals and a lengthening injury list have paired up with plain-old bad luck to reduce the Rossoneri to shambles. Not quite the team I would refer a friend to watch at the moment, were I to introduce him to Serie A.

If there has been one bright spark to the current campaign so far, it has been Napoli, who remain neck-to-neck at the top of the table. One wonders how long they can keep that up, however. While true the former Serie C1 outfit have been making a lot of noise early on, it's still proving difficult to regard them with completely seriousness, given they too bid farewell to their talisman in the form of Ezequiel Lavezzi over the summer.

Sure, they finished third two seasons ago. Sure, they scared the hell out of a few major European outfits in the Champions League last term. But until they find a way to relinquish what is increasingly amounting to total dependance on sought-after hitman Edinson Cavani, who's form has been scintillating to say the least, it's hard to forsee them going to be able to make it all the way. Till then, it's going to remain by-and-large Juventus who will lead the charge for domestic honours.

Naturally, it's too early in the season to write off anyone from a title hunt, but the early struggles of other's lends real insight into the troubles in Serie A presently. It has been an awkward trend of late that a great team's era ends abruptly, just as another one's simultaneously chooses to begin. As is visibly this season's case, Juventus have set the bar of competition out of reach for others, and so remain inexorable masters of their own destiny, excercising a monopolic grip on domestic silverware that could prove unhealthy for the uniform development of Serie A in general.

With no clearly identifiable bogey team that could unhand the Turin giant's vice-like grip of the Scudetto, the rest of the league will just have to bide its time, patiently taking whatever chances to strengthen in the hopes of one day staking a valid claim for ascendancy to champions' status. Wait too long however, and they risk falling too far behind as Juventus blows ahead into the new future defined for European football by leagues overseas, taking the once-respectable stature and prominence of Italian football with them into the backwaters.