For the first time in their six-year period of dominance, the Juventus stranglehold on the Serie A looks to be under serious threat. Inter Milan look inspired early on, led by a forward on the rise in Mauro Icardi, recent Manchester United target Ivan Perišić, fellow cross merchant Antonio Candreva, and veteran Borja Valero in midfield. Their city rivals are also on a move of resurgence, with their return to relevancy significantly buoyed by outrageous spending and change in personnel. There is the sense that both those title challenges will fizzle out as Inter are just a class below and the AC Milan project may need another year and another manager. AS Roma, the club for which Francesco Totti blessed football from, also look solid but a Champions League berth will be the target for a team that has lost and replaced firepower this past summer.
The most serious contender, and favourites in the eyes of many are the team from Naples, Campani. Società Sportiva Calcio (S.S.C) Napoli are on a ruthless tear that threatens records and the dominance of the Old Lady in a very material way this season.
9 – Napoli have now won 9 consecutive Serie A games for the first time in their history. Climb. #NapoliBenevento
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 17, 2017
Twice champions in the late eighties largely due to the deeds of Diego Maradona, Napoli are well placed to take the title. Why? The concerns about their inability to match the ice-cold efficient undefeated home record of Juventus. Amazingly, this record since January 7, 2013 stands at 89 played, 80 wins, 8 draws and a solitary loss. The points per game during this inspired run is 2.79 or 93.2% of all points on offer. The Neapolitans have to clear this hurdle to break Juve’s run. True, they have lost the services of Leonardo Bonucci and the defense is undergoing transition with the careers of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli winding down. Still, the foundation is solid and either of Benatia or Rugani slot in just fine.
What makes them good
📍 Mertens has been directly involved in 33 goals in 24 games in 2017. (Opta)
1️⃣0️⃣ assists pic.twitter.com/dvKXt5y6Fl
— Everything Napoli (@NaplesAndNapoli) September 21, 2017
Napoli’s strength lies in a big four of forward converted-to-striker for club duties in Dries Mertens, one of the best dribblers around in the homegrown pint-sized dynamo Lorenzo Insigne, the versatile Real Madrid Castilla product Jose Callejon, and midfield general and captain Marek Hamšík. At their best it’s a sonnet of synergistic attacking poetry. It all rhymes. It all goes together. The pace of Mertens and calm, ruthless finishing is complimented by the electric pace and dribbling of Lorenzo who can find himself in the positions that cause defenses headaches and feeds Mertens and Callejon the chances to put teams to slaughter. Before all that, Hamšík instigates the symphony in conjunction with a clever rotation of the Brazilian with Italian roots in Jorginho, Allan, Piotr Zieliński, and possible Azzurri recruit Amadou Diawara. We shouldn’t forget one of the best attacking fullbacks in Serie A, Faouzi Ghoulam, who provides delicious crosses and much needed width from the left in concert with the right footed Insigne. It’s no surprise that 47% of their attacks this season have come from the left side (even more, 56%, at home).