The arms race

Arms raceIn my last post, I was commenting on the fact that spending €50m on right backs is the “new normal”.

Things are different in Italy, of course, where clubs do not have the same financial might as their English counterparts, with the notable exceptions of free-spending AC Milan and consciously wealthy Juventus.

With one month on the clock before the transfer window closes, it’s the right time to make a little evaluation of the activity so far. Below is how I see the top teams perform at the end of the season.

1. Juventus

Yes they have lost Leonardo Bonucci, which is annoying – there’s no way to deny it. But in the Serie A, the Bianconeri are still head and shoulders above the rest. The signing of Douglas Costa from Bayern is shrewd, while Bernardeschi may struggle a little bit. If they can get Keita from Lazio, they will have the power to clinch a 7th successive Scudetto.

2. AC Milan

They’ve recruited top talent such as Bonucci, Biglia, Kessie and Conte but they’re still looking to bolster their frontline. If they sign a superstar like Aubameyang, they’ll become a force to be reckoned with.

3. Napoli

Continuity is the Biancazzurri’s by-word and it may work as they produced the best football in Serie A and perhaps in all of Europe last season. It is unclear whether they will add a big name or two in the last days of the mercato after they qualify (/ if they qualify) for the CL’s group stages. Italian teams notoriously do not spend before those crucial playoffs – probably a mistake. A big signing in defense would do no harm.

4. Inter

Clearly last season’s underachievers, Inter are poised to challenge for the 4th spot – nothing more. Icardi should enjoy more support from the flanks after Perisic departs. New faces would be welcome – at least to placate the fans, jealous of their Milanese neighbours. Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo, 20 years after signing the “other” Ronaldo, would be a coup to consider.

5. Roma

I must be honest here and say that the post-Totti era, peppered with the combined losses of Salah, Rüdiger and Szecszny, is probably going to be tough for Roma. New arrivals such as Gonalons and Defrel are far from exciting for a demanding “piazza” like Roma (neither are established internationals, it should be noted). Mahrez would be a perfect replacement for Salah but what will be missed, first and foremost, is that certain Totti spirit…

And then, there’s the rest…

Outside this top five group of teams, the undoing of slick Fiorentina has contributed to further imbalance the Serie A.

Lazio and, if they unearth more gems, Atalanta, should lead the pack, just as Torino – if Belotti stays put – could be the surprise package of next season.

On the Riviera, Genoa is rebuilding but will change hands in September (annoyingly) while Sampdoria has lost key players and could still see starlet Schick leave before the end of August.

Bologna and Sassuolo could also enjoy mini-revivals but won’t challenge for honours.

The paucity of the rest is such that the 2017/18 season’s need to win as many games as possible (a bit like in Spain) will be key.

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