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Five Things To Watch Out For In Serie A This Season

Wednesday 27th August 2014
They always say that it is better to be fashionably late to a party, and calcio has very much subscribed to that theory. The Premier League, Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and La Liga are all up and running, but this weekend it is Serie A's turn to kick off for the 2014/15 campaign.

After what ended up being a very one sided title race last season, the chasing pack have made changes in the off season in an attempt to end the four-year-long stranglehold Juventus, who themselves have made some important changes, have had on Italian football. The relegation battle also looks interesting with Cesena, Palermo and Empoli gaining promotion from Serie B last season, replacing Catania, Bologna and Livorno who went down. Another interesting season is in store, and here are five things to look out for.

1. Max Allegri and Juventus

Is there any other place to start? The Old Lady were shaken with the resignation of manager Antonio Conte just a day into their press-season preparations this summer. The former Bianconeri midfielder has since replaced Cesare Prandelli as head coach of Italy following the Azzurri's disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil this summer. At the helm of the champions now is former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, whom many see as a rather uninspiring choice after the way things ended at the San Siro. However, having led the Rossoneri to their 18th Scudetto title in 2011, as well as winning the Manager of the Year award ahead of a certain Jose Mourinho while at Caligari and playing an important role in Sassuolo's rise to the top, perhaps people are slightly quick to judge Allegri. He inherits a similar situation in Turin as he did in Milan, and although an act of poor man management with Andrea Pirlo when the pair last worked together is a worry, overall he has shown that he can work well with big personalities.

All of the big hitters in the Juve squad remain at the club, which may come as a surprise to some. With the likes of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba being added to by the arrivals of Alvaro Morata and Patrice Evra from Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively, the current holders and all time record winners, with 32, will no doubt be favourites to retain their crown once again.

2. AS Roma

It is hard to put what has happened at Roma over the past year into words. Since the arrival of Rudi Garcia, who wasn't even the club's first choice upon appointment, their rise has been meteoric as they finished second in Serie A with a club record points haul of 85 points. A theme across Europe developed last season, which was teams exceeding expectations in their league campaigns. The Giallorossi, along with Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, all put themselves back on the map with brilliant seasons challenging for their titles. Only the latter ended up successful, but Roma's return to the Champions League has made them an interesting proposition. In terms of business in the transfer market, there are few that have been more shrewd than Roma for the most part. Last year, the arrivals of Gervinho and Kevin Strootman helped spur them on, and the signings of Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita have added much needed European experience, while Juan Iturbe joins from Hellas Verona to add another attacking outlet.

Many will say that only Real Madrid and Barcelona can keep hold of their best players, but Roma are a club that are well-versed in letting their stars go. There top scorers in 2012/13, Dani Osvaldo and Erik Lamela, as well as defender Marquinhos, all left last summer, which in itself makes the last twelve months all the more amazing. Medhi Benatia, the man who stepped into Marquinhos' shoes last season, departed for Bayern Munich this week, but with the likes of Mariam Pjanic, Strootman and of course Francesco Totti still around, it can be another very good season for the red half of the Capitsl.

With Champions League football returning and many people tipping them to go one better in the the title race, there is a different pressure on Roma this season. It is up to them to handle it.

3. Zdenek Zeman's complete disregard for defending at Caligari

Roma fans know what it's like, and soon Caligari fans will too. It is exciting, but also must be frustrating at times. When Zdenek Zeman takes charge of your team, you are in for a ride. His famous (or infamous) grasp of 4-3-3 formation is arguably the most attacking in the game, bucking the stereotypical trend of conservative football in Italy. He doesn't care one bit about the back four. Instead, he goes for what looks like a rather unbalanced system, with wing-backs, wing-forwards and a sweeper keeper.

The only possible comparison on these shores to the Czech's philosophy was that taken by Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United in the mid-1990's, but even that doesn't quite do Caligari's new manager justice.

The fact that the job at Stadio Sant'Elia, which he took this summer, is his 20th in the 67-year-old's 33 year long career in football management says it all. Zemen never played the game, but has perfected the art of attacking football.

In his second spell at Roma, his style wasn't best suited to the club. Now, at Caligari, Leeds owner Massimo Cellino's Italisn project, he'll have the likes of Colombian Victor Ibarbo at his disposal, but it may end sourly. Caligari will not run Juve or Roma close for the Scudetto, but they will be one of more interesting watches in Serie A this season.

4. Palermo possibly having more managers than points

A tongue in cheek remark it may be, but Palermo are well known for parting company with their managers. Chairman Maurizio Zamperini is a lot like Cellino in his rash and impulsive approach to running a football club.

When former AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was sacked by Zamperini in September 2013, he became the 20th manager to receive that fate in the 11 years since the Italian businessman bought the club in 2002.

Before Gattuso, both Giuseppe Sannino and Gian Piero Gasperini both had two spells in the hot seat each between June 2012 and June 2013, while Alberto Molesani also got a crack at it too during the sae period of time.

So, perhaps they will have more managers than points come next May...

It is sad that Palermo as a club have been reduced to somewhat of a laughing stock under Zamperini's guidance. The club that reside in Sicily were at one point, not too long ago, a thoroughly decent team that at different times had the likes of Luca Toni, Andrea Barzagli and Edinson Cavani wearing their pink shirts in the past. European football was a regular occurrence too. Perhaps the most bizarre and frustrating aspect of their saga is that good times have happened in Zamperini's tenure.

After a year out of the top flight, Palermo are back in Serie A. A club like theirs deserves a top flight status, but the key for them to survive will be giving current manager Giuseppe Iachini all the time he needs. The big question is whether Maurizio Zamperini thinks that too.

5. Pippo Inzaghi coaching AC Milan

Many people could put a case forward for AC Milan being one of the biggest clubs in the world. In the past, whether it was under the stewardship of Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello or Carlo Ancelotti, the Rossoneri were a force. However, as the years have gone by, the money has dried up, and so has the success.

Last season, under a combination of Max Allegri and Clarence Seedorf, Milan finished 8th. It was there worst league finish in many a year, but it was also part of a bigger picture. Milan are at their lowest ebb, the contrast in the quality of the playing squad between now and ten or twenty years ago is stark beyond belief, and the club's demise sees them a million miles away from the clubs they have always competed with.

It was one member of Ancelotti's great side for another this summer as Seedorf was replaced at the helm by Filippo Inzaghi, who has spent the last two years coaching the youth team, with some success.

It is hoped that, in the age where Milan can no longer compete for the very best, most expensive players, that Inzaghi can bring through and nurture some of his academy players like at FC Barcelona. Hachim Mastour, an 16-year-old incredibly skilful striker, in particular is the biggest hope. Although the saying goes "if you're good enough you're old enough", it is somewhat unrealistic to expect someone so young to deliver on the biggest stage yet. For Mastour, it may be a while.

It seems that Pep Guardiola has indirectly had a negative impact on the perceptions of football management. His success from the very start of his career at Barcelona is more of an exception than a rule, not any former player can coach in the youth team and step up. That said, is anyone expecting miracles from Inzaghi?

In the long run hiring him is a refreshing approach, but that wassail about Seedorf too. The problems at Milan are much deeper than the manager. Their financial issues have resulted in business being down on free transfers and loans, while the sale of Mario Balotelli to Liverpool means that Inzaghi has lost his best player the week before the season starts. Hardly ideal, but unfortunately a sign of the times at Milanello, and it will take a lot more than a former goal-poacher extraordinaire to bring back the glory days.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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