Serie A 2022-23 preview: The contenders

Off the back of their first Scudetto since 2011, Milan will stare down stiffer competition this year in their quest to become repeat champions of Italy, Matt Santangelo writes.

For years, Juventus had a full-on monopoly of Serie A, running off nine straight titles with very limited competition during that stretch. Then Antonio Conte and his rejuvenated Inter came and effectively brought the Old Lady’s quest for 10 to a screeching halt when they lifted the Scudetto in 2020-21.  

Following the Nerazzurri’s league triumph, they entered 2021-22 as the odds-on favourite to repeat and retain the throne, only their hated rival had other plans. Stefano Pioli’s Milan went on an improbable run towards glory for the first time since 2011.

Now with Pioli’s mature, well-drilled group now having added something shiny to Casa Milan to validate their successful rebuild, there is evidence to suggest the balance of power is more even, to allow numerous title challengers on a consistent basis.  

Who are these likely Scudetto contenders in 2022-23?

Starting with the defending champions, Milan find themselves in a very good position. Despite various sectors of the supporter base expressing concern over rather limited transfer market activity after RedBird entered the picture, Pioli returns a squad that is relatively unchanged.

The core group is intact: Mike Maignan, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez, Ismaël

Bennacer and last season’s MVP Rafael Leão are among the catalysts who remain at the heart of one of Europe’s most intriguing projects.

While Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara explore opportunities to fill the holes left by the departures of Franck Kessie and Alessio Romagnoli, Tomasso Pobega, Yacine Adli, Divock Origi and marquee signing Charles De Ketelaere immediately elevate the overall quality.

In addition to the youth and the old guard – consisting of Olivier Giroud, Simon Kjaer, Alessandro Florenzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Pioli’s principles and progressive play should keep the champions in contention throughout.  

Meanwhile, rivals Inter welcomed Romelu Lukaku back after a miserable spell at Stamford Bridge, added Henrikh Mkhitaryan and nabbed promising young midfielder Kristjan Asllani.  

The loss of Ivan Perisic, and market misses like Paulo Dybala and Gleison Bremer, could have taken them to a different level, but like Milan, an argument can be made that player retention could be more important than any singular signing. The defence of Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar remains an area which Simone Inzaghi can build on to keep Inter as a legitimate threat.  

For all the good the Bianconeri have accomplished on the market in 2022, Allegri’s squad still appears thin, specifically in defence, which had served as the backbone for Juve’s success over the years. Bremer to replace Matthijs de Ligt is a fine move, but Giorgio Chiellini’s presence to help Juventus navigate treacherous waters is nearly impossible to replace.  

Though their market is still unfolding and multiple reinforcements are set to join the cause, how far the Turin giants go hinges on whether Allegri can expand the playbook and allow the likes of Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa to flourish to their fullest potential.  

Moving towards the south, Napoli are currently undergoing a transition with their project. Bidding farewell to centrepieces Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and esteemed defensive leader Kalidou Koulibaly, director Cristiano Giuntoli had his work cut out to reshape the roster for a proper facelift, while also remaining in the conversation for top honours.  

Luciano Spalletti’s ability to quickly integrate the likes of Min-Jae Kim, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and potential signing Giacomo Raspadori could determine how fast, or slow, the Partenopei begin the campaign. And make no mistake about it, if they are to achieve anything, Victor Osimhen must have his best season yet in blue.  

Of the two capital clubs, it is Roma who have made the necessary noise in the summer market to put themselves into the ring as a true underdog contender.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Nemanja Matic enter the fray hoping for new leases on their respective careers, while the major coup of Dybala brings a player with the right amount of class. When fit and firing, La Joya has proven to be one of the best Serie A has to offer.  

While Jose Mourinho still has questions surrounding depth, opposition defences are in for a daunting task of containing an attack compromised of Tammy Abraham, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and now Dybala.

After years of Juve domination, we are now in an era where the identity of the champions is far from certain, and any of four or five clubs could come out on top. The Milan clubs are the favourites but nothing can be taken for granted.

Get the full 2022-23 Serie A season preview here.

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