The Serie A season kicked-off on Friday with a 2-2 draw between champions Milan and Lazio. The Rossoneri will remain as the favorites to repeat as champions considering they have kept their key players while adding some quality in midfield with the signing of Alberto Aquilani. Below is a list of candidates for the Serie A title along with the main reasons why they have a chance of coming on top at the end of the season:
The Rossoneri have signed Aquilani and Antonio Nocerino who will both be very useful in midfield, in particular with the club competing on multiple fronts. In addition, the capture of Philippe Mexes and Taye Taiwo will add depth to the defensive line and offer coach Massimiliano Allegri options when he chooses to rest veteran Alessandro Nesta or if he feels full-backs Gianluca Zambrotta and Luca Antonini are not performing well. Below are the main reasons why Milan can retain the Serie A title:
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano are still with the club: The big Swede was a difference maker last season and his performances will be once again key for Milan’s success. As for Cassano, he can be very useful as a starter or coming off the bench to add unpredictability and create chaos.
- Thiago Silva: Will the Brazilian centre-back continue to grow and improve to build on his previous success? His partnership with veteran Nesta has proven to be a success in the slower paced Serie A yet the defensive duo failed to impress when they were fit and playing together in the Champions League. Regardless, the Brazilian’s maturity will be key to Milan’s chances in Italy and Europe.
- Squad depth: Last season the Rossoneri squad appeared to be thin and short on quality substitutes. This season Milan will be able to count on Mexes, Taiwo, Aquilani and Nocerino all of whom have international experience. Aquilani was a revelation in the earlier portion of his loan season at Juventus while Nocerino is a combative player who is probably being groomed to replace the aging Gennaro Gattuso.
- Psychological Edge: The Rossoneri won the title last season and will be confident and experienced enough to repeat as champions. Players such as Nesta, Zambrotta and Gattuso have won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 while veterans such as Clarence Seedorf, Christian Abbiati and Mark van Bommel can ensure continuity and provide plenty of experience.
Below are possible reasons leading to Milan’s failure to retain the title:
- Robinho: The talented Brazilian took a while to get accustomed to the System employed by the Rossoneri and he was responsible for some glaring misses infront of goal. However, Robinho did improve as the season progressed and he will likely play a crucial role in the challenge to repeat as Serie A champions while competing in the Champions League.
- Alexandre Pato: The young Brazilian has shown time and again that he has an eye for goal yet he is injury prone and Milan will be hoping he will remain injury free this season. If healthy, then this could cause friction in attack with Ibrahimovic certain to start and Pato having to compete with Robinho and Cassano for playing time.
- Age Factor: The Rossoneri might have a lot of experience but the squad is certainly not getting any younger with Ambrosini, Gattuso, Nesta, Zambrotta, van Bommel and Daniele Bonera all on the wrong side of 30. This could take its toll if the Rossoneri remain in contention for the domestic league and on the European front.
- The Ibrahimovic Factor: Last season the Rossoneri were accused of relying too much on the Swedish star that in certain matches the club struggled to score when Zlatan was either having a bad game or was on the bench. The presence of a healthy Pato and a more comfortable Robinho should make it easier for Milan to cope with Zlatan’s off-nights.
- The Champions League: The Rossoneri are renowned for valuing and stressing on the European competition as their record shows with seven European Cups, second only to Real Madrid. Trying to win the Champions League could drain the squad’s energy and lead to distractions.
- The Competition: Napoli and Inter will likely compete with the Rossoneri for the Serie A title while old nemesis Juventus cannot be discounted following a busy transfer campaign. Last season, Napoli came close to clinching the title but the club’s lack of depth and its poor showing in the match against the Rossoneri cost the southern club any chance of lifting the title. Napoli have retained their star players and seem to be intent on competing for the title once again. As for Inter, the loss of Samuel Eto’o was a big blow but the fact Dutch star Wesley Sneijder remains on the club’s books will be a major boost. The capture of Diego Forlan will likely prove to be a shrewd signing considering his experience and talent.
There are other factors which could help or deter Milan in the quest to repeat as champions of Italy, but the presence of Ibrahimovic and the addition of quality players will likely increase the chances of seeing the Rossoneri repeat as Serie A winners.