Serie A Winter Review: Part 2

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If the Serie A title race is proving tighter than expected, it’s even more of a mish-mash in mid-table, where only three points separate Sampdoria in sixth place and Bologna down in 12th as the divide between top and bottom grows with each season. Milan’s summer splurge in the transfer market seemed a sure-fire sign of intent that they would go back to competing for the Scudetto, yet Leonardo Bonucci and co. find themselves nearer to the relegation zone than the top four.

For a long time, Samp threatened to break into the Champions League reckoning with their stylish displays, among them a 3-2 victory over Juventus, but four defeats in their last five games have seen them fall nine points behind fifth-placed Lazio. Furthermore, sixth spot is not so much of a certainty, judging by the way Atalanta have bounced back from their culture shock of juggling the League with European football. Six wins in eight suggest last term’s finish of fourth was no flash in the pan.

In hot pursuit of the pair are Fiorentina, who put AWOL owners and a player exodus behind them to find comfort at the foot of Serie A’s top half, while Udinese look revitalised under new boss Massimo Oddo. The former Italy defender couldn’t buy a win for love or money at Pescara last season, but four have come in succession to lift the Zebrette into ninth. Most impressive of the lot was a 3-1 victory over Inter, which condemned the Nerazzurri to their first defeat of the season.

However, some things never change and Torino being dogged by inconsistency and a poor defence is one of them. The Granata started the campaign unbeaten in five matches, before a dramatic loss of form saw them win just one of their next 10, cranking up the pressure on Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic. That subsided with a surprise 3-1 victory at Lazio, although President Urbano Cairo has put his money where his mouth is and may want a better return on his investment going forward.

That brings us to Milan who, despite spending over €200m on 11 new faces such as Bonucci last summer, disappointingly languish in 11th place. Vincenzo Montella was thought to be the problem after he oversaw a poor run of results and failed to find a winning formula. Yet not even Gennaro Gattuso and the ignominy of a ‘ritiro’ just before Christmas has been able to salvage the Diavolo’s season, which risks descending into chaos as question marks also hang over the viability of their new owners.

Finally, joining Milan on 24 points are Bologna, who have the foundations in place to begin looking up the table. Coached by a seasoned pro in Roberto Donadoni, who has established them in Italy’s top flight, the Rossoblu have shown the resilience required to end bad sequences of results before they can turn into slumps, while up top, Simone Verdi’s inspirational performances are starting to be complemented by Mattia Destro’s goals.

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