In case further evidence were needed, the opening half of this Serie A season has demonstrated that the days of
catenaccio *being the prevailing tactical system are now well and truly gone. In fact, it has been the most prolific start to a season ever in the Italian top flight, with an average of 2.76 goals per game.
With runaway leaders Juventus cruising towards a third consecutive title despite excellent progress by Roma and Napoli, this is a season for record breaking. In Milan, meanwhile, there has been little to celebrate with the *Nerazzuri *and *Rossoneri *20 and 30 points adrift respectively of the pacesetters.
FIFA.comtakes a look back at the opening half of the campaign.
A golden midfieldWith new strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente still finding their feet, Juventus remain reliant on their gifted midfield. Undoubtedly one of the most balanced units in Europe, it boasts the vision of Andrea Pirlo, the dynamism and talent of Chilean Arturo Vidal and the industry and influence of France’s Paul Pogba.
Beyond that, they can also call upon an experienced defensive line and evergreen goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who, at 36, appears better than ever. Finally, with a collective effort that has seen 46 goals from 13 players, the reasons behind the Turin side’s dominance are not hard to see.
Having accrued 52 points from 19 matches – eight more than at the same stage last season – Antonio Conte’s men could even surpass the 100-point mark for the first time. While the previous best is still Inter Milan’s 97 points in 2007, *Juve *are currently on a record run of 11 consecutive wins.
However, none of the above could prevent the team’s disappointing elimination from the UEFA Champions League. Finishing a long way behind Real Madrid, they were then beaten by Galatasaray in their final group match, allowing the Turkish side to pip them to second place.
“We need another way to play in European matches, but our coach will find the answer,” said Buffon, clearly unfazed by his side’s exit. Perhaps that is because the final of this year’s UEFA Europa League will be held in their own stadium.
“Right now our aim is to seal a third consecutive title, something the club hasn’t done for 80 years. Writing important chapters in Juve’s history* *is a great source of pride,” the keeper added.
Writing important chapters in Juve’s history is a great source of pride
A southern onslaughtBehind them, Roma* *and Napoli – eight and ten points adrift respectively – have toiled in an attempt to match this staggering pace. Neither club has ever accumulated so many points at this stage of a season.
Under newly-appointed Rudi Garcia, Roma have managed to amass the same number of points as Juventus had at this stage last season, despite shuffling their side significantly and having to cope with talismanic captain Francesco Totti’s long spells on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, a new coach also arrived at Napoli in the form of Rafael Benitez. With some astute signings, particularly the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain, who was brought in to fill the void left by Edinson Cavani, the club have managed to surpass last season’s total by three points but still find themselves one place lower in the table.
In fourth, Fiorentina have surprised many and are the only side to have beaten the Old Lady in this campaign, recording a 4-2 victory. That aside, injuries to key strikers Giuseppe Rossi – still the league’s top scorer with 14 strikes – and Germany’s Mario Gomez have hindered their progress.
In contrast, the 2013/14 season has been one to forget for AC Milan (seven losses already) and Inter, who are still waiting for new Indonesian president Erick Thohir to make funds available to strengthen an ageing squad.
In the dugouts, there have been eight coaching casualties thus far. One such change saw Milan’s Massimiliano Allegri replaced by his former charge Clarence Seedorf, who finally called time on his playing career to take up the position.
It could even be argued that Allegri’s fate was sealed by this season’s great revelation: newly-promoted Sassuolo’s 19-year-old striking sensation Domenico Berardi. With 11 goals in 14 fixtures, Berardi became the first player to put four past AC Milan as he fired his side to a 4-3 victory, having trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Ultimately, the first half of the season has confirmed a change in style in Italian football. Now more attacking than ever, the goalscoring charts also provide encouragement for the national team, with three Italian players (Rossi, Berardi and Torino's Alessio Cerci) among the top five.