How Scudetto Dreams Were Shattered

Juventus clinched their 9th straight scudetto this past weekend and, to say the least, it was a struggle for them. Lazio, Inter, and Atalanta gave them a run for their money. While Lazio and Inter were expected to be in the race, Atalanta overachieved for a second straight season. So I’ll be mostly going in on Lazio and Inter’s downfall this year. Before Lockdown, Lazio were only 1 point behind Juve with Inter following right behind in 3rd. It looked like there was a real possibility that the Serie A giant would finally be taken down after 8 straight league titles. Once Serie A returned in June; every team struggled, some more than most, and Juventus came out on top.
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Let go into Lazio first, since they had the best chance to take the crown in Italy. Upon the league’s restart, Lazio only won 4 out of 10 matches with one draw, coming to 13 points in 10 matches. As us football fans know, that is not enough for a title chasing club. Juventus came out with 6 wins in their 10 matches and gained 20 points, pulling away from Lazio. I think this all goes back to Lazio’s winter transfer window. At this point, they knew they would be in the title race, yet they didn’t make any transfers. If a club is able to race to their first title in 20 years, they need to make key transfers in order to add more talent and depth in the squad. This failed them once the league started allowing 5 subs and they were bringing no names off of the bench in matches they needed to win. In this final stretch of key games, Lazio went 5 straight without a win, only gaining 1 point in the process. Despite having Ciro Immobile on the brink of breaking Higuain’s goal record, they failed to capitalize on his great play and a great first half of the season.
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Now we have Inter… ohh Inter. They came out of lockdown along the same pace as Juventus, but they were just too far behind to make any sort of comeback in the table. Inter came out with 6 wins in their 11 matches after lockdown, gaining 22 points in those 11. An even 2 points per game is not enough to be a title winning club, especially when there is catching up to do. Let’s go back to their winter transfers as well. Inter signed Christian Eriksen and Ashley Young, and loaned Victor Moses. At the time, these seemed to be good signings; Young and Moses would fit in at fullback in Antonio Conte’s system; but what about Eriksen? Even with his immense talent, he struggled to find a spot in their starting 11 after joining. When Eriksen was on the pitch, he looked great on set pieces and moving forward in the attack, but he left a gaping whole in Inter’s midfield on defense. I started to wonder how he fits Conte’s system. Conte demands a lot out of his midfielders, basically asking them all to play box to box, and that isn’t where Eriksen succeeds. So, Inter spent a lot of time trying to fit Eriksen into their midfield and it showed with their defensive struggles down the stretch. Another decline we saw with Inter was in their attack; Lukaku and Martinez started off the season hot. They seemed to be unstoppable before winter and the eventual lockdown. Coming back, Lukaku stayed consistent, but Martinez started to struggle and we saw more of Alexis Sanchez off of the bench. If you watched Manchester United in previous seasons, you know that is not a formula for success.
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With Juventus’ main title contenders struggling, they were able to pull it off again, although not convincingly. I’m sure we’ll see these clubs in another title race next season, but expect Atalanta to be even more in the mix as well. Juventus will be going for their 10th straight title and it won’t be easy to stop them with that on their mind. We’ll see if these clubs are up for it.
Written by: Michael “TFT Mike” Cooke (@mike_cooke3)

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