Believe it or not, the new Serie A season begins on Saturday with a handful of fixtures, including our first look at newly-promoted Monza, who get their first taste of the top flight when they host Torino at the Stadio Brianteo. And just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road, reigning champions AC Milan play host to Udinese as the Rossoneri begin their title defense at the San Siro. With a full slate of fixtures that spills over into Monday, you may not even have to leave your couch this weekend.
To get you prepared for the season ahead, the Chiesa di Totti crew assembled to discuss all the big picture items before the 2022-2023 season begins: Which clubs improved the most? Who's taking the title this season? Will Napoli fall down the table? Who will win MVP?
We answer these and many more in the first installment of our annual summer roundtable. Look for part two, where we'll shift the focus solely to Roma tomorrow.
Enjoy, and please give us your answers in the comments section!
The transfer market is still open, so let's start there. Which non-Roma signing impressed you the most and why?
JonAS: I'm going to go for Di Maria to Juve. Ok, he's a bit older but still a damn fine player who will quickly adjust to Serie A and Allegri's 4-3-3. He, Chiesa, and Vlahovic are a scary trio. You know, kind of like Destiny's Child but even better.
Bren: I'll go with a couple of re-transfers: Lukaku back to Inter Milan and Paul Pogba back to Juventus. Neither are spring chickens, but we all remember what Lukaku did last time he was with Inter, while Pogba's class is clear as day. If Lukaku picks up where he left off, our dreams of Roma winning it all could be dashed rather quickly.
ssciavillo: I'm going to go with Bremer to Juve. The Brazilian was one of, if not the best, CBs in the league last year, so he should easily replace De Ligt. Also, the fact that they landed him when he looked destined for Inter was impressive as well.
Jimmy Miotto: Lukaku back to Inter is my pick. Sure, he flopped at Chelsea, and sure, I don't know if he's going to recreate the magic he had during his last spell at Inter, but he's without a doubt one of the biggest stars of Serie A in the past several seasons, and his move back to the Italian peninsula can only be good for Serie A.
BSanti: Boring, but I have to go with Lukaku as well. I have no doubt he'll pick up right where he left off, regardless of Conte being with Spurs now. He's motivated, he's in a place he feels comfortable and where he's already achieved success - he'll run riot again.
Dig a bit deeper: Which under-the-radar signing stands to have the biggest impact on their new club?
JonAS: Both Caprari and Sensi to AC Monza. Monza has had a strong mercato so far, and I predict they'll have a more than decent season, easily avoiding relegation. Both Caprari and Sensi will lead Monza to a strong finish. All thanks to uncle Silvio.
Bren: Yeah, Monza did some great work this summer, didn't they? Having said that, I'll go with Luka Jovic at Fiorentina. The entire footballing world has been dying to see what this kid could do away from Madrid. He turned out to be another "moved to a big club too soon" player, but there's no denying his talent--a great move from the Viola.
ssciavillo: I’ve been impressed with Monza’s mercato so far. Granted, they have the advantage of Berlusconi and Galliani pulling the strings, which is unique for a team in their position, but for a newly promoted team, they've done some great work. In addition to the signing mentioned by Jonas, I really like the Pessina and Cragno signings. I still don't understand how Cragno isn't at a bigger club.
Jimmy: Yeah, Monza's signings have definitely impressed me so far. Because they're run by Berlusconi, I'd find it pretty appropriate and hilarious if they fell apart and got relegated this season regardless. Still, it's encouraging to see a club that makes the jump to the top flight just go for it and build a squad that can persist. Best case scenario, they become the next Sassuolo, and I'm all for Serie A having more Sassuolo-type clubs.
BSanti: Going two for two on matching with Bren here. I made no secret of my desire to get Luka Jovic while he was available, and I think he will be absolutely incredible for Fiorentina. Roma's window certainly softened the blow, but I'm not looking forward to watching him play against Roma this season.
Other than Roma, which team improved the most this summer?
JonAS: It's still early days, but I'm gonna go for Inter Milan. No one important left as Vecino, Perisic, Vidal, and Ranocchia were all expendable. They already had a strong foundation and added two vital pieces with Lukaku and Mikhi. And Onana is a very, very good keeper; he can turn into this season's Maignan. Losing Dybala and Bremer to us and Juve hurt, though. I expect at least one more coup from Inter.
Bren: Yeah, I agree, Jonas. Inter will be in it until the end, though I think we got the best of Mkhitaryan, so that particular addition doesn't scare me. Still, adding Lukaku in with Martinez should scare the entire league.
ssciavillo: I think Inter has made improvements, especially when you consider they haven't made a big sale, and Gosens will be like a new signing after arriving in January. But part of me is leaning toward Juve. Even at his advanced age, Di Maria will be an impact player. Bremer looks like a coup after the strong Inter links. We'll see how long Pogba ends up being out, but he should improve the midfield. They're also active with links to Kostic, Paredes, and another striker. If they make those moves, then I'd lean Juve.
That being said, I'm curious to see who fills the leadership void left by Chiellini.
Jimmy: I'm going with Inter, for all the reasons JonAS described. I can't say that I think they'll win the Scudetto with that squad, but this is the most open race for the Scudetto that I've seen in quite a while. Isn't that exciting?
BSanti: Has to be Juve for me. Sure, they lost De Ligt and Dybala but adding Di Maria, Pogba, and Bremer will go a long way in getting Juve back in the Scudetto race. Prior to Pogba's injury, I believed that they'd win the league this season.
Napoli lost Koulibaly, Insigne, and Mertens this summer, so is this the end of their top four-run, or do our southern rivals have enough talent to keep pace with the northern clubs?
JonAS: I think the loss of those three will severely hurt Napoli. That's a lot of quality and experience gone. Their starting XI is ok, but their depth is their weak point. The transfers of Kim, Olivera, and Kvaratskhelia don't impress me that much. Nope, I don't think Spal will lead them to a top 4 finish this time.
Bren: Yeah, they had their moment, but I think it's over. And at this point, it's fair to question how long they'll even be able to hang onto Osimhen. The league is more exciting when Napoli is good, but I won't shed a tear for them if they slip back to the middle of the back.
ssciavillo: I know that the players that they bought to replace that trio are said to have potential, but they lost a lot. It remains to be seen if Raspadori ends up there, which would cushion the blow of losing Mertens and Insigne, but at the moment, I think their run of top 4 is over based on the way other teams have improved.
Jimmy: Inter, Juve, Milan, Roma: all four got better this season, and Roma got drastically better. Meanwhile, Napoli's losses make them a far worse side now than they were last season, at least in my book. I think this is the end of the road for Napoli in the top four, and that might be true for quite a while.
BSanti: Nobody has faith in Spalletti working some of his magic again? Ultimately, I think Napoli's losses this summer will be too hard to overcome - Koulibaly especially. They'll be in the thick of it, but I can't see them finishing in the top-four.
The usual clubs will likely fight to the bitter end for a spot in the top-four, but give us a darkhorse candidate that could sneak into the Champions League places come May.
JonAS: Fiorentina. Good players and an even better coach. They signed Luka Jovic and Gollini. I think they can battle it out with Lazio, Atalanta, and Napoli for spots 4-6. But only if all things start to click under Italiano. And European midweek games (they qualified for the Conference League play-offs) could hurt them in the long run if they reach the group stage and thus more games, a bigger chance of injuries, etc.
ssciavillo: I agree that it has to be the Viola as well. They have one of the hottest managers out there and made a couple of solid signings. However, as Jonas said, they have to manage midweek matches this season, so that depth will be tested a bit. Depending on how the rest of the mercato plays out, I'd keep an eye on Atalanta too. With no midweek matches to play, Gasperini may be able to again coax the best out of his squad.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think I'll go with Fiorentina. My bet is that they end up qualifying for the Europa League, but they've got a fun squad, and I think they'll give the clubs that will be making the top four a lot of grief throughout the season. I'm hoping that Atalanta's run as a dark horse CL candidate is over, though; I've never been fond of Gasperini, and all the doping rumors surrounding La Dea don't put me at ease.
Bren: Again, to mix things up, I'll say, Lazio—as much as it pains me to do so. Provided they hang onto SMS, which looks like a big if at this point. But they added Mattia Zacagnia and Alessio Romagnoli and still have Ciro Immobile, so there is enough talent there to keep them in the 4-6 range until the bitter end, and if they catch a few breaks, they could sneak in there. But I'd agree that Fiorentina is the most likely darkhorse CL candidate.
BSanti: Given our inability to put in a credible top-four push the last few seasons, can't I go Roma here? I do think Fiorentina could throw a wrench into the race, and if Jovic erupts now that he's free from the Shadow of Benzema - watch out.
Which teams will benefit most from the unusual fall World Cup break, and which will likely suffer the most?
JonAS: Pretty much all big teams will see their best players go to the WC. But ironically, they can also benefit from Italy’s omission at that same WC as they have a lot of Italian internationals combined (Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Cristante, Mancini, Barella, Bastoni, Bonucci, Immobile, Chiesa, Calabria, Tonali, Locatelli). So I guess that evens it out. In general, I think teams like Atalanta, Fiorentina, and Sassuolo could have a slight advantage because they won't miss that many players, and in November-December, all could still be relatively close to the top 6.
ssciavillo: I agree with the points made by Jonas on this one. I'd also point out that it could benefit some of the teams looking to stave off relegation, as many probably won't lose too many players to national teams. For example, Monza (who I already think will stay up) has a very Italian-heavy roster, and all those players will be staying home (unfortunately).
Jimmy: Italy's omission from the World Cup will probably help out Roma since we have so many key players who are also parts of the Azzurri; still, I can't imagine players like Dybala and Gini Wijnaldum will be at full strength post-World Cup. The clubs that are still quite good but don't have big-club, big-national team talent will probably find success, so yeah, Fiorentina, Atalanta, and Sassuolo all seem likely to pounce after the World Cup.
Bren: I think, by default, the answer is whichever club has the most Italian internationals, right? The World Cup isn't the same without the Azzurri, but getting rest for players like Gianluca Mancini, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Nicolo Zaniolo will benefit Roma tremendously. They still figure to see Dybala, Wijnaldum, and Tammy Abraham go to Qatar, so there will be some anxious moments for Roma fans.
But the big clubs up north, who have internationals at nearly every position, should suffer more than Roma, so that's nice!
BSanti: Yea, it all comes down to how many players you have headed to Qatar - the big teams will suffer, the smaller teams less so. As JonAS alluded to, the sides in the hunt for European qualification but not quite in that top tier at the top of the table are primed to benefit the most.
Prediction time: Who takes home the scoring title this year, and how many goals will they score?
JonAS: I hope Abraham, but my mind says Lukaku with 29 goals. Romelu is just an entirely different player in Serie A. Outrageous. A force of nature. In his prime. And he's eager to prove Chelsea and his doubters wrong, which scares me the most.
ssciavillo: I don't think Tammy is the favorite to win the golden boot, but I'd keep my eye on him as a dark horse. In the end, though, it's hard not to favor Ciro Immobile playing in Sarri's system. I'll go 25 league goals with Lukaku, Abraham, and Vlahovic hot on his tail.
Jimmy: Osimhen, simply because he'll be one of the few exciting attacking talents Napoli has left. I'd love Tammy to get the golden boot, but Roma's attack is a lot more varied now, and while that's good for the club's aspirations, it might make capocannoniere out of reach for any particular Roma player.
Bren: Damn, what's gotten into all of you? Tammy's taking the scoring title with 29 goals, narrowly edging out Lukaku. Belotti will ensure that Tammy remains fresh while taking passes from Pellegrini, Dybala, and even Wijnaldum will make his job a lot easier.
BSanti: You won't like this, Bren, but it has to be my son, Luka Jovic. His wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift.
Who will dish out the most assists?
JonAS: Pellegrini. Not wearing my Giallorossi glasses, mind you. Belotti, Dybala, Zaniolo, and Tammy will all bury their chances thanks to Lorenzo, who gets better year after year.
ssciavillo: Agreed with Pellegrini. He's got an unbelievable quartet of scorers to dish the ball to in open play. Plus, his improvement on set pieces means he should find a couple of heads on set pieces when the trees like Smalling, Ibañez, Mancini, and Cristante crash the box.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's Lolo if he can continue with his world-class form from last season.
Bren: Hakan Calhanoglu with, say, 14 assists, which is also how often I have to delete and retype his surname.
BSanti: Berardi will take home the crown for the second year running. Too many cooks in the kitchen for Roma.
Who will be named league MVP?
JonAS: Since Inter will win the Scudetto, I'll go for Calhanoglu. Lukaku and Lautaro will score a ton of goals, but I see Hakan bossing the midfield alongside Barella, Brozovic, and Mikhi. I predict 10+ goals and assists for the Turk.
ssciavillo: As much as I'd love to say Dybala goes on a revenge tour and takes it, that would probably mean a Roma Scudetto. And I don't think we're there yet. So, I'll go with Lukaku making a triumphant return and getting a lot of the credit for Inter winning the title.
Jimmy: I really don't know who's going to win the Scudetto this year, but I'll blindly guess that Vlahović is this season's MVP.
Bren: Paulo Dybala with 15 goals and 14 assists
BSanti: I’ll go Dybala as well. Roma doesn't need to win the Scudetto for him to win it, and I think he'll flourish under Mourinho.
Finally, the big question: What does the top four look like at the end of the season?
JonAS: Inter - Juve - Milan - Roma (only 1 point separating Milan and Roma, though)
ssciavillo: This is a tough call because we still have a lot of time on the mercato. I agree with the four teams Jonas chose but am going to go with a different order: Inter-Milan-Roma-Juve
Jimmy: Inter - Roma - Milan - Juve... and I could see some last-second heartbreak depriving Roma of the Scudetto, a la 2010.
Bren: Roma-Inter-Juventus-Milan. Roma and Inter are tied in the final matchday, and whichever team loved Mourinho more wins.
BSanti: Inter, Juve, Roma, Milan. Year three of the Mourinho experience will be the one.
We've had our say, and now it's your turn. What will the top-four look like? Who's taking home the MVP? Let us know!