Serie A grades: Juventus are champions, but Atalanta, Lazio star


The coronavirus pandemic made this a Serie A season like no other, but as it concluded, the table had a familiar look with Juventus crowned champions for the ninth straight season. Below them, Inter made a late run to claim second, while Atalanta and Lazio are rewarded for superb campaigns with Champions League places. Roma, Milan and Napoli had mixed fortunes, but did all qualify for Europe.

At the other end, the battle for the final relegation place went to the final day with two teams separated by just one point. Meanwhile, some of the sides in mid-table will look back at a job well done and others will be unable to shake the feeling they could have been more.

Juventus, Atalanta, Napoli, Roma and Inter remain active in European competition, but with the domestic campaign over, here is a look at how each of Italy’s 20 top-flight clubs performed in Serie A.

Champions, 83 points (+33 goal difference)

Grade: B+

They did finish as champions, which means every other team would swap places with them in a heartbeat but, by their own imperious standards, Juventus have been below par.

Going into the coronavirus-enforced break, they were just a point ahead of Lazio, with Inter close behind. Since the return, they have looked shaky and suffered four defeats — their overall total of seven is more than in any of their recent title-winning campaigns — but have come out on top thanks in large part to the failings of their challengers.

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New manager Maurizio Sarri was supposed to have Juve playing a more expansive, attracting style, but there seemed very little difference to the pragmatic approach used by Massimiliano Allegri, other than the fact they looked less solid defensively.

Still, finishing top of the table is no mean feat and, in Cristiano Ronaldo, they had a difference-maker, as evidenced by his incredible total of 31 league goals.

2nd place, 82 points (+45 goal difference)

Grade: B-

The arrival of Antonio Conte and an ambitious summer transfer window, which saw the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez as well as Italy internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi, saw Inter tipped as title contenders. And while it might seem unfair to criticise them for falling short, given they haven’t even been in the race since 2010-11, the issue is they have only themselves to blame for failing to challenge Juve.

They lost home and away to the champions, but also dropped many needless points from winning positions. Whenever Juve had a difficult patch, Inter failed to capitalise, and Conte’s failure to change the club’s mentality will be a huge disappointment given his reputation as a manager who gets teams firing.

Still, to be comfortably in the Champions League places and finish just a point behind the champions is a huge improvement, and you do get the feeling there is more to come from Inter, assuming they can strengthen their squad and not lose key players.

3rd place, 78 points (+50 goal difference)

Grade: A

It was another stunning season for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, and had they not dropped so many points in the first half of the campaign, they could have made a real go of challenging for the title.

It was assumed Atalanta would fail to repeat their stunning third-place finish from the previous campaign and their task was made harder by having to juggle Serie A and Champions League football. However, they excelled in both while playing scintillating football. Atalanta scored 98 league goals, with three players — Luis Muriel (18), Duvan Zapata (18) and Josip Ilicic (15) — scoring 15 or more. They also hit seven in three different matches.

Gasperini’s in-game management has been second-to-none, with substitutes often deciding matches in Atalanta’s favour.

4th place, 78 points (+37 goal difference)

Grade: A

Their season will be remembered for an incredible crumble following the restart. Lazio were 21 games unbeaten, a point behind Juve and with all the momentum going into the break, but lost five of their first eight matches upon resumption. Despite this collapse, the season was a success; heading into 2019-20, they were huge outsiders to make the Champions League, let alone challenge for the title.

Ciro Immobile‘s incredible tally of 36 league goals equalled Gonzalo Higuain‘s Serie A single-season record and earned him the European Golden Shoe, while Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic were imperious for Simone Inzaghi’s side. Lazio claimed the Italian Super Cup with a 3-1 victory over Juventus in Riyadh in December.

5th place, 70 points (26-goal difference)

Grade: C

The Giallorossi moved up a place from last season to fifth, but are still not where they want to be. For the second consecutive campaign, Roma missed out on a place in the Champions League via their league position and that is a huge disappointment, and financial burden.

There were periods where they looked superb, often immediately followed by shambolic spells. Manager Paulo Fonseca has a plan, but failed to implement it or to find a system to suit his players’ strengths. Finishing with a 3-1 victory away at Juventus was sweet but, all in all, it has been a league season to forget.

6th place, 66 points (+17 goal difference)

Grade: C

New manager Marco Giampaolo was sacked after just seven matches, in which Milan suffered four defeats. Stefano Pioli’s arrival set #PioliOut trending on Twitter in Italy and there was little short-term improvement; things looked particularly bleak when they suffered a record 5-0 defeat to Atalanta in December.

However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s arrival in January inspired a turnaround and the Rossoneri went unbeaten in 12 games after the restart, which included a stunning 4-2 comeback win over Juve as well as victories against Roma and Lazio. A sixth-place finish is one lower than last season and not acceptable for such a big club, but there is some hope.

7th place, 62 points (+11 goal difference)

Grade: C+

The first half of the season was forgettable. After seven winless league games, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in December when players refused to go on a squad retreat ordered by president Aurelio De Laurentiis. Gennaro Gattuso was appointed, only to lose four of his first five matches.

But then things began to change. A 2-1 victory against Juventus was a notable victory and Napoli went into the coronavirus stoppage on the back of three straight wins and with a lead in their Coppa Italia semifinal against Inter. They went on to win the trophy, but had it not been for that and their league form since June, their final mark would have been lower.

8th place, 51 points (+6 goal difference)

Grade: A-

Highly-rated manager Roberto De Zerbi has got his front three of Domenico Berardi, Francesco Caputo and Jeremie Boga firing on all cylinders and an eighth-place finish is not to be scoffed at. Sassuolo would do well to keep hold of that quartet this summer.

9th place, 49 points (-4 goal difference)

Grade: A-

Having been relegated in each of their past two seasons in Serie A over the past four seasons, newly-promoted Verona were expected to struggle but finished in the top half. Manager Ivan Juric has performed wonders and even registered a 2-1 win over Juventus.

10th place, 49 points (+3 goal difference)

Grade: C

The arrival of ambitious U.S. owner Rocco Commisso had given fans optimism Fiorentina would challenge for Europe, especially following the signing of Franck Ribery. However, their biggest achievement is having secured safety earlier than the final day, as was the case in the previous campaign.

11th place, 49 points (-1 goal difference)

Grade: B

Another impressive campaign for Robero D’Anversa’s side saw Parma secure some impressive results and continue to improve. However, they might struggle to replace Juventus-bound Dejan Kulusevski, who has been a key player with 10 goals and eight assists.

12th place, 47 points (-13 goal difference)

Grade: C

Another steady campaign for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men with the highlight no doubt a comeback win with 10 men away from home against Inter. No Bologna player scored in double figures, but Riccardo Orsolini managed eight goals and six assists and missed just one league game.

13th place, 45 points (-14 goal difference)

Grade: C-

A disappointing season overall, with a 2-1 victory to delay Juventus’ title party serving as the main highlight. Udinese scored fewer than one goal a game and could lose star performers Rodrigo De Paul and goalkeeper Juan Musso this summer.

14th place, 45 points (-4 goal difference)

Grade: B-

A positive summer transfer window, in which Radja Nainggolan and Giovanni Simeone arrived at the club, seemingly had Cagliari challenging for a top four place early in the season. But a disastrous spell saw them tumble down the table into 13th place.

15th place, 42 points (-17 goal difference)

Grade: C+

The plus grade is down to the work of Claudio Ranieri, who took over a club that sat bottom after six defeats from the first seven matches, only to lead them to safety with three games to spare. However, it is not a campaign supporters will look back upon fondly.

16th place, 40 points (-22 goal difference)

Grade: E

Expected to challenge for Europe, they instead just about avoided the drop. Walter Mazzarri was replaced as manager by Moreno Longo in February but there was no change in fortunes. Andrea Belotti led them in scoring with 16 league goals; the next-best efforts were Simone Zaza and Alex Berenguer with six.

17th place, 39 points (-26 goal difference)

Grade: E-

Genoa have gone through three managers this season and, for a second consecutive year, only avoided relegation on the final day. So while there will be delight at retaining Serie A status after Davide Nicola’s side men won four of their last seven games, the club’s long-term prospects do not look good.

18th place, 35 points (-33 goal difference)

Grade: C-

Impressive though it was for by Fabio Liverani’s side to take the relegation battle to the final day, ultimately they went straight back to Serie B as many people expected. Conceding a staggering 85 goals was the main reason why they were unable to beat the drop.

19th place, 25 points (-44 goal difference)

Grade: F

A disastrous campaign that saw them slip straight back down after winning just twice after mid-December. The signing of Mario Balotelli didn’t work and they go back to Serie B without a fight. A knock-on effect is that Brescia will surely lose starlet Sandro Tonali, who is a target for all of Italy’s big clubs.

20th place, 20 points (-50 goal difference)

Grade: F

Their time in Serie A has finally come to an end after three years, with SPAL managing just five wins and losing 20 of their last 25 games. In hindsight, the highlight of the campaign was a 2-1 victory over Lazio in just their third match of the season.

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