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An Italian flag.

Serie A: Winners and Losers 2014/15

Serie A will draw to a close next week following a season of rejuvenation for Italian football. Clubs from the peninsula have re-established their reputation in European competition and the fare has been just as good on the domestic front. In a special guest post, Italian football expert David Thomas runs the rule over this season’s winners and losers.



Who else?

Having sealed a fourth consecutive scudetto, the Coppa Italia and an opportunity to complete an incredible treble in the Champions League final on June 6th, Juventus are close to joining the ranks of the great European sides of the past.

Regardless of the result in Berlin, their domination of the Italian game is unquestionable, and their juggling of domestic and continental cup campaigns impressive.

Much of the credit for this success must go to Massimiliano Allegri, the coach who has masterminded this success. As the season nears its climax, it is easy to forget the pressure he was under from the moment he stepped into the Vinovo training ground in July.

Sacked by Milan the previous January, Allegri did not seem to many Juventini as the man to replace Antonio Conte, who had dragged the club from mediocrity to the peak of the Italian game during his three seasons in charge.

Taking the supporter’s protests in his stride, Allegri has not dismantled the successful team he inherited, but tweaked it, introducing new ideas and new signings slowly, and the results have been better for it.

Star man: Alvaro Morata

Thanks to the continued shrewdness of Giuseppe Marotta’s transfer policy, additions such as Patrice Evra, Roberto Pereyra and Alvaro Morata have given Allegri’s side the depth required to challenge on all fronts. Morata in particular has flourished under Allegri, having waited patiently for an extended run in the team.

While he would probably have preferred to be on the bench when Napoli defender Miguel Britos arrived to head-butt him on Saturday, the former Real Madrid striker has discovered the knack of scoring important goals at important times.

It is a knack which could serve him well in Berlin, as the club where winning means everything look to scoop the lot.


Highly Commended


After three seasons of relegation dogfights and mid-table obscurity, the Grifone have given their fans something to get excited about in 2014/15.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have built on their 14th place finish last year, playing an attractive style of football with plenty of direct running. As it stands, Genoa sit sixth in the table and under any other set of circumstances, they would have guaranteed a Europa League place with a game to spare.

Their hopes are likely to be scuppered, however, by UEFA, who have denied them a licence for next year’s competition for their failure to provide an alternative home ground to Marassi, which has been deemed unfit. Whether or not their appeal is successful, this season represents a major step forward for the Genoese club.

Their rise is made all the more impressive when set against a backdrop of significant personnel changes, a familiar situation in Liguria in recent years. With eight in and eight out in January alone, the side underwent a period of flux which temporarily damaged the team’s performance. Having taken 18 points from the last 24 on offer, however, they have again found an effective balance, and you cannot help but wonder what this group could achieve with a little consistency.

Star man: Andrea Bertolacci

Andrea Bertolacci could be seen to reflect his team in microcosm. One of Genoa’s most improved performers this term, he is a box-to-box player with greater technical qualities than his role suggests. At his best, the recently-capped Italy midfielder has the ability to hurt any Serie A defence, as illustrated by his sensational solo goal against Milan in April.

Along with team mates Diego Perotti and Iago Falque, Bertolacci’s growth in confidence has led to interest from some of the peninsula’s giants, but he would be well advised to continue his development at Marassi, even if it cannot offer European football in the immediate future.


The Losers

Inter/AC Milan

They share a stadium, so why not an award?

It has been a terrible season for both tenants of San Siro. 2014/15 was always going to feel somewhat peculiar, as neither Milan nor Inter competed in the Champions League for the first time in 13 years. Both held ambitions at the start of the league season of a return to the top 3, yet both have come up woefully short.

Whether their mutual aspirations were remotely realistic is questionable, as its safe to say that both have looked a shadow of their former selves. Off the pitch, both clubs posted significant losses on their most recent accounts, and their early form offered no consolation. Heading into the first Derby della Madonnina of the season in November, Milan and Inter sat 7th and 9th in the table respectively.

What went wrong?

Behind even their beleaguered city rivals, the mind of Inter owner Erick Thohir was made up; coach Walter Mazzarri was sacked and Roberto Mancini returned, looking to reinvigorate a dull, reactive Nerazzurri side.

After a slow start, Mancini appears to have made Inter entertain again with spells of good form, but defensive frailties have put paid to any lingering hopes of European qualification, and the campaign must be considered a failure.


Milan’s patience with rookie coach Filippo Inzaghi has so far endured, but it appears to be wearing paper thin. Inzaghi’s legendary status at the club may have played a part in their restraint, but there is also a recognition that the Rossoneri squad is not up to scratch.

As Giovanni Trapattoni recently suggested, Milan are trying to “make fine wine out of turnips”.  Nonetheless, ‘enough’ is clearly enough for the Curva Sud, who made their feelings clear during Milan’s 3-1 home defeat to Genoa in April, gathering together in the otherwise empty tier to spell out ‘BASTA’.

Since the derby in November, they had seen their team drift through the season, picking up only six wins in twenty games. It is likely that Inzaghi will vacate the bench at the Giuseppe Meazza at the season’s end, while Mancini will understandably be given another chance; neither club, however, can take many positives from their deeply underwhelming campaigns.

Summer Reading

You’re sat on the toilet, clutching a bottle of hair conditioner. You’ve read all of these instructions before, you know exactly how long it should be applied to your hair for. But you need to read it again. You’ve finished all of Harry Potter. You’re now a Hairy Pooper. You need something to read, but no one has bought anything for you for a while. So you turn back to the conditioner bottle. But then again, you’ve heard about something that exists somewhere in the world. Book shops. Someone opens the door and shouts at you, “Book shops don’t exist anymore! Go on Amazon you daft bastard!”. Seeing as you have little concern for the plight of the bookseller, you decide to follow the command. You need something to read, after all. But there’s lots of books on there. If you’re not careful, you may end up buying mummy porn.

So you’re on this blog aren’t you? That means you probably like football. Barring a few exceptions, we’ve tended to avoid other sports like the plague, not that there is anything wrong with them. We’re genuinely not suggesting Tennis will give you Buboes. None of us have the requisite medical training to say that. Although, we also don’t have the requisite medical training to say it won’t give you bubonic plague. Maybe don’t risk it.

Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, football. And reading. Any Reading fans that have accidentally stumbled onto this page expecting to hear about Brian McDermott, look away now. There’s too many yokes to be had about his eggsellently shaped head. But onto the topic at hand, reading. Over the last year, I’ve read several excellent books about football and feel they need to be recommended. I clearly think my opinion is worth sharing, even if it might not be. You’ve chosen to read this though. Sucks to be you.

The books! Yes! I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic by…Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Lagercrantz is, not only, the most entertaining football related read I’ve had, but arguably one of the most unintentionally hilarious books I’ve ever had the luck of laying my eyes on. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, clearly heavily quoted word for word by the likely ghostwriter, manages to paint the life of a modern football with great success. He unravels the reality behind his movements in the transfer market, the importance of signing-on clauses and the general nature of ‘player power’ in today’s market. The segment on his signing for and departure from Barcelona is incredible. If you are interested in the contrasting management styles of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, this book is also right up your alley.

Aside from that, you get to look inside the brain of a man who is, undoubtedly, a genius at the game. Ibra, as he is called around the world, has never really received the respect he deserves for his immense ability. When reading the book, those of us who genuinely don’t have the ability to even conceive of the thought process behind those spectacular strikes are allowed a glimpse at the manner in which the synapses fire. You can finally pretend you understand what it feels like to score a wondertonk before running off and screaming your own name.

Not only this, but I Am Zlatan covers the actual nature of his upbringing, and reveals much about him as a person. It turns out, in the words of Alan Partridge, that Zlatan has spent much of his life being a “mentalist”. His childhood is punctuated by poverty and a kleptomania that is almost impressive. His proclivity towards violence is at times, stunning, and his beliefs regarding head-butting people need to read to be believed. Reading between the lines, one can paint a picture of a man who would be avoided like the plague were he not a footballer. If you want a snappy read that is incredibly entertaining, this is certainly worth picking up.

Also of note is Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, a history of tactics that is very interesting. Interesting is the word to describe it. This is not to say that it is not worth reading, but do not expect the sheer EPW (entertainment per word) rate of Zlatan. I particularly found the explanation of squad numbers in various nations interesting, but that’s probably because I’m quite weird. Discussions about the myriad evolutions of tactics across the world, and the manner in which English football has managed to fall behind are great, and have managed to inspire a dislike of Graham Taylor in me that belies my age and football watching experience. Wilson’s exploration of Eastern European football is also incredibly fascinating, as a segment of football that is rarely covered in the western world. If you view yourself as a mini-Guardiola or, more accurately, Bielsa, this is also certainly worth a purchase and read. You’ll be able to bore your friends for hours with the difference between an English and European number 6.

Finally, as an aside, The Blizzard, also edited by Jonathan Wilson, is probably the premiere football magazine on the market at this point. Available both in hardcopy and as a digital download, The Blizzard features writers being allowed to explore any aspect of football that they choose. This frees them and leads to exceptional pieces of writing, such as comparisons between Don Revie and Richard Nixon, and a personal favourite, The Ballad of Bobby Manager from Iain Macintosh. Available on a pay what you like basis from the Blizzard website, go buy it now.

Purchase the above books on Amazon.co.uk or other websites:

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to hear about other books he reads and less boring things.