Serie A Myth-Busting: Why You Should Watch More Italian Football in 2017

Soccer Features
Serie A Myth-Busting: Why You Should Watch More Italian Football in 2017

Serie A may be one of the top five leagues in the world, but it’s increasingly difficult to watch it on TV. Few networks buy the rights to show Italy’s top division, and those that do often prefer to show La Liga’s top teams, or even Ligue 1 matches. Those who really want to watch Serie A often must resort to digital streams, legal or otherwise. The sustained myth of the league’s dullness prevents it from attracting new fans—who wants to go through all that effort just to end up bored?

While it’s true that, like any league, Serie A has its fair share of low-scoring matches, they’re more often the result of tactical duels than bus parking. In fact, defensive breakdowns (that’s a polite way of putting it) have produced more than one moment of late drama this season, and we’re only a the halfway point. Juventus don’t have a lock on the title, the other two Champions League spots are up for grabs, and half the league have their sights set on European qualification.

Boring, boring Serie A, this ain’t.

A quick word about Juventus. Their total league domination over the last few years has been as predictable as their tactics, and their players have lacked charisma. Things should have been worse this season with Paul Pogba back in Manchester, but instead Juve chose to swoop in for Gonzalo Higuaín, last season’s Capocannoniere with 36 goals. He’s been paired often with fellow Argentine Paulo Dybala, last season’s second-highest scorer. Together, they’ve formed one of the best forward partnerships in Europe on that, with Dybala fully recovered from injury, we should be seeing more often.

Still, this Old Lady is more frail than she’s been in recent years—age does take a toll, after all—and a sustained run of bad form could open up a genuine title race in the final stretch.

Roma are their strongest challengers. You know, Roma, the club that’s been picked to steal the scudetto over the past few years. They’ve still not got all the pieces in place, but under Luciano Spalletti they’re finally having fun, creating plenty of chances. Unfortunately with Edin Džeko leading the line, they’re still missing plenty of them, too.

Roma are certainly more enjoyable to watch than in seasons past, but they still aren’t the Most Entertaining Team in the League. That title belongs to Napoli, even if the scudetto won’t. Many thought that without Higuaín, the team would fall flat on their faces. In some ways, they have – how else to explain the 3-3 draw with Fiorentina, or letting Crotone, a team with 14 goals in 18 games, score at all? This Napoli side loves a challenge, and their defense certainly provides that. But their relentless attack has bailed them out. Late, point-rescuing goals are not uncommon. Dries Mertens exists. The Belgian attacker has truly blossomed and he alone is enough of a reason for you to tune in to Serie A.

And if cheering on the more obscure sides is more your thing, Serie A’s got you covered there as well. Atalanta, Serie B champions just six seasons ago, are determined to earn a spot in Europe. Even if you’ve never watched La Dea, you’ve likely heard tale of their coach. Gian Piero Gasperini lasted all of five games at Inter in 2011, earning a single point. He won 3 of 21 at Palermo, got sacked, and came back three weeks later for two matches. But Gasperini’s high-pressing, high-tempo 3-4-3 requires both patience and personnel. Atalanta didn’t send their manager packing after starting the season with four losses from five, and the result is a young squad showing off some truly joyous moves. The only downside to supporting Atalanta is having to use their dreadful hashtag, #GoAtalantaGo.

Oh, and the Goddesses’ ascent to Europe isn’t at all assured. Fourth place guarantees them a spot in the Europa League, fifth place goes to the qualifying round, and sixth might be available depending on who wins the Coppa Italia. Right now, 2nd and 7th in the Serie A table are separated by just six points. And we know the Milan sides, having felt rather humiliated over the past five years, are determined to force their way into the top five.

Milan are there at the moment, but their inevitable collapse has become a reason in itself to pay attention to Serie A. Despite having Vincenzo Montella at the helm, they’re simply not scoring enough goals; more significantly, the club is directionless. The rossoneri continue to be caught between youthful blushes and ancient legs, and not even the impressive Gianluigi Donnarumma will be able to save them if fear tips the club back into overreliance on its veterans. City rivals Inter are eager to take Milan’s place, having won four in four under new coach Stefano Pioli. Alas, Pioli’s teams don’t often provide must-see TV, so you’ll likely watch in hope of another combustion (or in hopes of fireworks from Mauro Icardi).

If these reasons aren’t compelling enough, this season’s Serie A might give you hope for the future of the Italian men’s national team. Gian Piero Ventura, surprisingly enough, is giving some of these youngsters starts in World Cup qualifiers, but it’s with their clubs that their true talent shines. Torino’s Andrea Belotti has 13 goals in 17 matches, faring far better partnered with Adem Ljaji? than Ciro Immobile. Domenico Berardi has missed much of the season for Sassuolo, but his return could boost both the club and the Azzurri future. Mattia Caldara has yet to get a senior call but could well be taking the place of Andrea Barzagli, so now’s the time to say you watched him before he went to Juventus.

And, of course, there’s always the hope that Palermo, almost certain to be relegated, will beat their own record and sack a manager partway through his first match.

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