What a tumultuous ten weeks it has been. When the season kicked off, even the most Italian-friendly pundits were predicting that this season, dubbed ‘Year Zero’ by the AC Milan fans, would be the dullest season in Italian history.
But it is now clear how wrong that prediction was. In the first two games of the season, most predictions were proven true as AC Milan were pummelled 4-0 by rivals Inter Milan, while Roma slumped to two successive defeats and Genoa and Juve both played with style.
However, Napoli, who were meant to be dark horses this season, were first defeated by fellow European hopefuls Palermo 2-1, and were then thrashed 4-1 by Genoa two matches later. In the shadow of Napoli and AC Milan, one team rose, scoring and playing their way to the top: Sampdoria.
Sampdoria’s feat is, in many ways, incredible. They had a disappointing summer, losing influential defender Hugo Armando Campagnaro to Napoli, and making few significant signings. But Sampdoria silenced their critics by winning their first four games before losing to Fiorentina 2-0. But the Sampdoria bubbled had not been burst. In their next match, they brilliantly defeated league favorites Inter Milan, before tearing Bologna to shreds 4-1 three matches later. Their only notable summer signing, midfielder Daniele Mannini from Napoli, has so far been a key performer for Doria.
Meanwhile, Juve had lost their early form and were succumbing to several embarassing draws, including one to lowly Bologna, and a 2-0 defeat to an impressive Palermo side. They slowly picked themselves up, drawing to Fiorentina and defeating Siena. Their next test was a home match against a brilliant Sampdoria, a match which few expected to be boring. But Juve regained their great form, shutting up their doubters and massacring a hapless Sampdoria 5-1.
Fiorentina and Udinese, two other teams expected to challenge for the two vacant UCL places, had a mixed start, both teams failing to impress after disappointing transfer windows, even with Udinese managing to retain mercurial midfielder Gaetano D’Agostino from the clutches of Juventus and Real Madrid. Fiorentina replaced Felipe Melo with Marco Marchionni and Cristiano Zanetti, hardly star buys, and failed to fix their defensive problems.
Newly-promoted Parma had made an impressive summer signing spree, keeping free-scoring striker Alberto Paloschi, getting Valeri Bojinov on loan, and securing Christian Panucci and Christian Zaccardo in defense. Despite losing influential midfielder Luca Cigarini, the Ducati were still expected to do well. And well they did.
They collected four points in their first two games, then succumbing to a loss to Inter but bouncing back with an impressive 1-0 defeat of Palermo. They followed that with a victory over Lazio, and proceeded to perform exceedingly well with only two losses; a shock 2-0 home loss to Cagliari and a painful 3-1 away defeat by Atalanta.
So far, the 2009-10 Serie A season has been the most exciting to date, with several teams troubling the hegemony of Jose Mourinho’s Inter. Expect a completely different table at the end of the season, with Sampdoria, Parma, Milan, Genoa, Palermo, Fiorentina, Udinese, Roma, and Napoli definitely all in with a shot at Europe, and maybe even at rattling the current big 2: Juve and Inter. And it is not so sure that Mourinho will have such an easy job this time around: many people have said that the smart money is with the Old Lady this season. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.