Serie A sets the pace in Europe

The Serie A league has set the pace in European football with their history defining achievement of producing 5 clubs in the semi-final of the three European competitions making up 50% in the two major competitions which is the champions and Europa leagues, if you consider Roma are the defending champion in last year’s newly introduced conference league, while Napoli the most exciting team in Europe lost a nail biting all Italian quarter finals to Serie champions Milan  in the champions league, their form will definitely take them to the scudetto with a couple of games remaining. it is possible that a different opponent could have made it possible for Napoli to reach the semi finals matching the record of twenty years ago when 3 Italian clubs Milan, Inter(you guessed right) and Juventus plus Real Madrid were in the penultimate stage and an all Italian final match which Milan won on penalties against Juventus becoming the second time two finalists from the same country played against each other and establishing a trend in victory which is still on.

This five star achievement  if it turns into trophies at the end of the season will indeed resemble the golden era in Italian football when they produced champions in the various European competitions between the 80s and 90s which made them undisputedly the strongest league in Europe.    

What has made this possible even with the English league, regarded as the toughest and having the most expensive assemblage of players and coaches and the Spanish with the most winners real Madrid in the champions league and Sevilla in the Europa leagues?

A slow start from the Italians.

Apart from the red hot Napoli, the others showed a slow start. In the first knockout stage of the champions league, from the big 5 leagues Germany with 5 entries with England produced 4 teams a perfect turnover from the group stage for the English,while surprisingly Spain had 1 with France, Italy provided 3. the bundesliga had 5 entrants as a result of Frankfurt winning the Europa league but circumstance started changing from the round of 16 and quarter finals, Germany’s 3 were knocked out by England, with City initially defeating Dortmund and topping their group, the Citizens then knocked out Leipzig and Bayern Munich, Chelsea defeated Dortmund while defending Europa champions Frankfurt were knocked out by Napoli, Real Madrid accounted for the exits of both Liverpool and Chelsea. England’s Tottenham fell to Milan, Italy and Germany lost one of their teams before the knockout rounds Bayern Leverkusen and Juventus falling into the Europa league and will take on Roma and Sevilla at the semi-final stage respectively.with only four teams left Italy now leads with 2,  Spain and England with one each, in the match up between Italy and England at the group stage, Chelsea defeated Milan and topped their group while in the group of death, Napoli crushed Liverpool and came out top although the reds got some level of revenge in the reverse encounter,  the duels among the big 5, had a fair share of victory for the Italians especially in the crucial stages with the most significant at the group stage was when Inter defeated Barcelona at the san siro and drew at the nou camp. just like in the champions league, in the Europa league Italy produced 2 teams with Spain(with the champions expected from both) and Germany with one. likely winners before they were knocked out were Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Sporting Lisbon, Lazio, Betis, Feyenoord not necessarily from the big 5. Juventus have given a good account of themselves they defeated Freiburg and then sporting Lisbon which eliminated Arsenal and will prove that the Italians are better than the English and Spain at this level beyond any doubt if they knock out Europa league specialist Sevilla that pushed out Manchester United if they  reach the finals. At this competition the major contenders from Italy and Spain had played each other in the earlier rounds when Betis won one and drew the other against Roma at the group stage. Roma then knocked out Real Sociedad in the round of 16, while at the conference league Florentina is flying the flag for Italy and west Ham for England a final between both will provide more answers on superiority.Spain are yet to be a threat in this new tournament.Even with all this scenario it is still a marginal advantage leading to the finals, Real Madrid with 14 titles and Manchester city are very capable of winning the title while Sevilla will fancy their chances of winning their 7th title.

Factors for the Italians

In serie A, Clubs splashed out the cash although not at the level of the EPL but the prevailing factors for the Italians could be attributed to the following 

Competitive balance between the best.

In the week after the quarter finals from the big 5 leagues, only the Italian and English leagues have their top ten clubs having a positive score but the Italian Serie A in particular  have been very competitive for the league title and European places which started after the decline of Juventus that won 9 consecutive league titles, the Italian champions have been alternated for the past three seasons. as at week 32, the point gap between 2nd and 4th is 7 points while the battle for the 2nd position is still possible for 7th placed Atalanta, the giant killer have also played their part domestically and internationally in the past couple of seasons producing breath taking football with lots of goals, such quality of competition improved the league’s level especially in Europe this season.the frequency in the change of position has made it difficult to predict the final standings.Its hardly a surprise that the final of the Italian cup is between the two of the five semi finalist in Europe : Inter and Fiorentina.

Efficient tactical structure.

This has also helped. reputed for their game management, tactical organization and discipline. it clicked for the Italians at the knock out stages, Inter’s elimination of both Portuguese giants Porto and the impressive Benfica was instructive, their master class performance  in the first leg in both encounters gave them a clear advantage, while Roma’s second leg comeback victory against Feyenoord was also worth noting.

Improvement in certain stars

Oshimen setting the pace,top scorer in Serie A.

This season the impressive improvement of Oshimen, Kvaraskhia, Leao, Onana have taken their clubs to new heights  Oshimen’s injury record was derailing his natural abilities and consistency but he has been able to adjust to the demands of the Italian league and with partner Kvaraskhia the Georgian both have provided the fireworks for Napoli’s outstanding performances -their first quarter final appearance in the champions league and first scuddetto title since 1990 with Diego Maradona.  Leao has also been devastating for Milan with several match winning displays and Onana has been effective for inter between the sticks, Di Maria has also added quality and experience to Juventus since the world cup win with Argentina.

Grit from England

Conte came back to Italy and immediately recruited Young, Lukaku, Moses,Sanchez and Erickson, he wanted players with winning experience, adaptability and pace plus intensity other players from the English leagues were Girould,  Dzeko, Mkhitaryan, Smalling, Abraham, Tomori, Damian. this was a deliberate tactical upgrade of talented individuals from the most demanding league in the world a reinforcement of quality, improving the respective clubs and the league in general.The Italian clubs with the most success in the past two seasons Inter and Milan have the most of such players is it a coincidence? the stats don’t lie.

The Mourinho factor

He has won all the five European finals he contested in, a perfect record, his gamesmanship, desire to win, ability to attract players is top notch.during his time in Spain, Ramos credited him for Real Madrid’ s improvement at the champions league, for those set of players  before his arrival they have been consistently knocked out six times(2005-2010) in succession in the second round, he led them to three semi finals(2011-2013) and with the experience to maintain that level, subsequent coaches built on and made them champions.

The Best! he won the treble with Inter in 2010

At la Liga they were able to challenge Barcelona which were the best at that time. in his first coaching stint in serie A, he became the only manager to win the treble at Inter presently, he led Roma to her first European title. the Portuguese does not need much detailed explanation on how he builds success into any team. the only club that Mourinho and then Conte did not achieve silverware was in England a club with a reputation for taking things differently in comparison to their successful rivals, hardly both managers’ fault. winning has an altitude and Mourinho is the major symbol in Italy.

some observers will argue that if the Italians were to face Manchester city or real Madrid earlier in the competition most probably , will not have had two remaining teams at the semi-final in the champions league, could their success be a question of a kind draw? hardly you must beat what is in front of you which they have. similar argument is also untenable at the Europa league, which teams from the previous rounds had that invincibility and how come they have been eliminated? for those available Sevilla does not have a clear advantage.Even if the Italians don’t win any of the competitions, their record at this stage can never be taken away. great Italian job!

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