As the Serie A enters into its traditional winter break, we take a look back over the season so far and analyse the statistics from runaway leaders Juventus to relegation-threatened Frosinone. How can analysis midway through the season help you find value in Serie A betting odds? Read on to find out.
Serie A – A four tiered league?
As we reach the halfway point, it appears the league can be separated into four easily disguisable tiers, each with their own important ramifications for those who are inside them.
As seen from @PenaltyKickStats’ graph above and the league table itself, there is a clear divide between the league chasers, European chasers and relegation battlers which I have split up into the following tiers:
Tier one: Champions in waiting
The Bianconeri have been at their clinical, efficient, and ruthless best so far and remain unbeaten after their best ever start to a league season. Pre-season fears that an already dominant domestic Juventus would somehow become stronger with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo were initially allayed, due to the Portuguese player’s slow transition to life in Italy with just two goals in his first seven games.
Since then however, CR7 well and truly found his feet in Italy, leading the league scoring charts with 14 goals in 19 league games. One of the reasons behind his incredible scoring run could be down to the sheer volume of shots he takes:
125 - Despite only making his Serie A debut in August, only three players have attempted more shots than Cristiano Ronaldo (125) in the Italian top-flight since the beginning of 2018. Alien.#Opta2018 pic.twitter.com/PmTtPblXpR— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 1, 2019
Ronaldo in just five months has already become the highest-scoring Portuguese scorer in a single Serie A season, eclipsing Rui Barrios’ 12 goal haul that has stood since 1988-89.
Despite Ronaldo’s and Juve’s prolific offensive form, at one goal behind league top scorers Atalanta, it’s been their defensive performances that have been crucial to their dominant success this season.
Only Liverpool (8) have conceded fewer goals than Juventus (11) in Europe’s top five leagues this season having played as many or more league games so far (PSG have conceded 10 but have played two games fewer than Juve). The Old Lady also held the record for clean sheets in 2018 across Europe’s top five leagues with 22 in total and will look to improve that figure this year.
With a seemingly insurmountable nine-point lead from closest rivals Napoli, it’s no wonder Juventus are in a tier of their own and are overwhelming favourites to retain their domestic crown for an eighth year in a row.
A blip does seem inevitable at some point, due to the remarkable nature of Juventus’ form outperforming all previous models and predictions, such as being 12 points better off than their expected points forecasted, as well as conceding four goals fewer than projected.
Tier two: The race for runners-up
Napoli and Inter find themselves in an intriguing position in second and third respectively. Despite being in close proximity to one another, they both seem too far away to mount a sustained title challenge, but are also seemingly safe from falling any further from their current positions.
Napoli especially are 12 points clear of fourth-placed Lazio but nine points behind the leaders – leaving them in a “battle” to secure the runner-up spot in Serie A for the second time in the last three seasons.
2017/18 Serie A Table January 4th
After driving Juventus to the wire last season, Napoli were hoping to build and go that one step further this time round. Compared to last season, Napoli are four points worse off, as they have lost two more games and scored five fewer goals than this time last season (they have also conceded four fewer).
2018/19 Serie A Table January 4th
2018/19 Serie A Table: January 4th
With half a season to go, Napoli will need to improve offensively and defensively to maintain even a slim chance of making up that nine-point gap to the leaders or they will have to settle for second or perhaps even third.
Third-placed Inter Milan find themselves in the same position as this time last year and are just two points worse off, having won the same number of games and conceded the same number of goals (scoring three more).
The Nerazzuri are four points behind second-placed Napoli and seven clear of fourth-placed Lazio, so should they maintain their run of form and avoid key injuries (especially to Icardi) then they should secure themselves Champions League soccer for the second successive season.
Tier three: Chasing qualification for European soccer
Just seven points separate fourth-placed Lazio and 12th placed Parma, and with the top six positions offering entry into the Champions League or Europa League, Lazio, AC Milan, Roma, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Torino, Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Parma will all believe they can qualify for one of Europe’s elite soccer competitions come the end of the season.
Lazio are currently holding onto the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, with AC Milan, Roma, and Sampdoria all within three points of the Biancocelesti.
Former Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile has been in good form with 10 goals to his name in Serie A (four behind top scorer Ronaldo) whilst the resolute defensive performances of summer signing Francesco Acerbi at centre back has helped Lazio to their current league position.
Napoli will need to improve offensively and defensively to maintain even a slim chance of making up that nine-point gap to the leaders.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has so far failed to live up to the lofty heights of last season, where he notched 14 goals and nine assists in all competitions which earned him transfer interest from Europe’s elite in the summer. The Serbian has just three goals and one assist thus far.
AC Milan, a point behind Lazio, seem to go through phases of brilliance and mediocrity under Gennaro Gattuso, drawing almost as many games as they’ve won (P19, W8, D7, L4).
Another former Capocannoniere Gonazlo Higuain started the season in relatively good form with four goals from his opening five matches but has since struggled and went seven games without a goal before scoring against SPAL in Gameweek 19.
Considering AC Milan’s injury crisis that left them without key players throughout the team, especially in defence, they have done remarkably well to be in the position they’re in. With more key players returning, plus a few January additions (which could include a managerial change) as well as no European competition to distract them means AC Milan will be disappointed if they don’t finish in at least a Europa League spot come May.
After more than eight new arrivals in the summer, Roma, much like AC Milan, have been frustratingly inconsistent this term. They have a very youthful attacking line-up with the likes of Zaniolo (19) Kluivert (19) Cengiz Under (21) Pellegrini (22) Cristante (23) and Schick (23) – all of which have registered at least one goal thus far. Roma also have the fourth best attacking record in Serie A with 34 goals in 19 games.
However, it’s defensively where they have shown vulnerability thus far, with Roma having only the 11th best defensive record in Serie A, which is perhaps in part due to the loss of goalkeeper Allison to Liverpool in the summer.
If the Giallorossi can improve their defensive record, then they are more than capable of challenging for fourth place, or at the very least for a club of Roma’s stature, a Europa league position.
Sampdoria have been outperforming expectations to find themselves in the final Europa league position. They have scored a staggering 10 goals more and conceded six goals less than forecasted according to xG & xGA models.
The remarkable form of 35-year-old Fabio Quagliarella, coming off the back of his best ever league goal return last season with 19 in 35 games, already has 12 in 18 appearances for Samp thus far and became the first player since David Trezeguet in 2005 to score in nine consecutive Serie A games.
If Quagliarella can maintain his incredible form and Sampdoria don’t suffer a regression to the mean in terms of their xG and xGA forecasts, then there’s no reason why they won’t be challenging for a top six finish.
Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez’s form for Atalanta have propelled them into to European contention and at this point of the season.
Atalanta have scored the most goals in Serie A so far (39 goals in 19 games). Zapata has notched 12 league goals and Gomez has made the most key passes in Serie A so far this season (56) and has also chipped in with five goals and five assists.
Torino have once again relied on the goal scoring exploits of Andrea Belotti to include themselves in the Europa League conversation, with Il Gallo notching nine goals so far in Serie A. Without Belotti, Torino would undoubtedly be a lot further down the league table.
Fiorentina boasts the youngest average age and fourth best defence in Serie A. They find themselves, somewhat disappointingly, in 10th place – but are only three points off a Europa League spot. Goal scoring has been real cause for concern for La Viola, with central midfielder Marco Benassi leading their scoring charts with just six goals.
Surprisingly, Sassuolo also find themselves vying for a Europa League position and would be in a much higher position if they improve defensively, as despite scoring 30 goals (seventh best) they have actually conceded more than they’ve scored with 32 goals (fifth worst).
Sassuolo have certainly shared the goals around this season, with no less than 15 different scorers – only Roma (16) have had more.
Last but by no means least, perhaps the biggest surprise of Serie A so far has been the performance of newly promoted Parma, who despite scoring just 17 goals (sixth worst) and conceding 23 (ninth best) find themselves just four points off a Europa League spot.
They have relied heavily on the goal scoring exploits of Roberto Inglese and Gervinho who have 10 goals between them. The impressive performances of Luigi Sepe in goal have been incredibly important to Parma’s success - he is in joint third place in terms of clean sheets with six.
Tier four: Bottom half mediocrity and relegation battlers
Cagliari, Genoa and Udinese find themselves in the peculiar position of being too good to go down but perhaps not good enough to progress past mid-table.
In Nicolo Barella (Cagliari), Krystof Piatek (Genoa) and Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), all three teams have a talisman to build around, and all three players have been helping their clubs achieve respectable positions in the league, with Piatek in particular being touted as the transfer of the summer with 13 goals in 19 games – Only Ronaldo (14) has more.
Should any of those three players leave their clubs however, it would be a big blow to their chances of progressing up the table following any slips from the clubs above them but all three should have more than enough to combat any threats of relegation.
Frosinone and Chievo appear to be favourites for the drop, with both teams registering just one win in 19 games so far – six and five points away from safety respectively.
SPAL, Empoli and Bologna on the other hand will most likely be battling to avoid relegation right up until the final weeks of the season, with Filipo Inzaghi’s 18th placed Bologna in particular being in the precarious position of being three points away from Empoli, who are in 17th - but also three points away from the bottom of the league.
Juventus’ quest for an invincible season, the race for European qualification and the battle to avoid relegation will be the most intriguing narratives going into the second half of the season and if you can get the best odds on the Serie A with Pinnacle.