Adam Digby1 Comment


Adam Digby1 Comment

The more things's Adam Digby. 

While Serie A has started one round late after the player strike, this weekend finally saw Italian footballs top flight get underway amid much talk about all the developments that taken place over the summer. Every team had new signings, Cesena had a new synthetic pitch, Juventus had a new stadium but nowhere embraced this supposed changing of the guard more than in the capital where AS Roma underwent a revolution brought about by the country's first foreign owners.

American Thomas Di Benedetto has, thanks to some remarkable work from his newly appointed Sporting Director Walter Sabatini, overhauled a team that had begun to fade last season. With former Barcelona man Luis Enrique handed the reigns to a vastly different team, the Giallorossi are the most intriguing story by far.

Their opening day line-up contained no fewer than six new signings as they hosted Cagliari and they dominated the early going with visiting goalkeeper Michele Agazzi putting on a superb display to thwart their efforts, making some excellent saves from a seemingly endless parade of Roma chances.

Just as the bright new dawn seemed ready to break, the storied past of Serie A stood up to be counted. At the Stadio Olimpico it would be Cagliari's Daniele Conte - son of Roma legend Bruno - who opened the scoring, the fifth time he had returned to haunt his fathers former club. Roma left-back Jose Angel - who's error directly resulted in the goal - would then receive an undoubtedly harsh red card that should not spoil what was, until then a very good debut for the new signing.

An exchange of late goals made it a 2-1 defeat for the Giallorossi and across the league that pattern of old triumphing over new would be repeated. Cesena's new Dino Manuzzi turf saw old Napoli faces Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik net in a 3-1 win, Alberto Gilardino scored in Fiorentina's 2-0 win over Bologna while Friday nights opening fixture saw Miroslav Klose, Djbril Cisse, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano all score in Milan's 2-2 draw with Lazio.

Even at Udinese, widely criticised for the number of changes made to last seasons successful and entertaining side would once again rely on Antonio Di Natale's incredible scoring run to get them off to a winning start against Lecce. Inter, themselves undergoing a major renewal came undone in bizarre circumstances against Palermo but again it was Diego Milito and Fabrizio Miccoli scoring two each in the 4-3 win.

Of course another major point of interest was Juventus, for whom 'new look' really is an understatement. With eleven summer signings, a new coach in Antonio Conte and a stadium that raises the stakes for the entire league as the revenue it will generate will hand the Bianconeri a clear advantage over their rivals.

In his press conference on Saturday, the coach stated clearly he would select a team of players who were not only fit, but had spent the most time training with the club over the past week. When the team-sheet was revealed it proved he was as good as his word, leaving out a number of high profile signings who had been away on International duty last week. Eljero Elia, Arturo Vidal and Mirko Vucinic were only given reserve roles as Conte selected a starting line-up containing no fewer than ten Italians.

Yet the team delivered a superb performance, harassing Parma from the opening whistle with a relentless pressing game that completely unsettled their opponents. It would be the one foreign player on the pitch that opened the scoring, Stephan Lichtsteiner slotting past Antonio Mirante to record the new stadiums first official goal.

Parma were no match for a Juve in irrepressible mood and, while recent arrival Vidal would get off the bench and onto the score-sheet alongside Simone Pepe and Claudio Marchisio, the whole performance was orchestrated by Andrea Pirlo. The same midfielder Milan had deemed surplus to requirements showed he still had so much to offer, notching two assists and putting on the kind of passing display that rightly sees him held in the same regard as Xavi Hernandez.

Of course the game ended 4-1 thanks to a late penalty slotted past Gigi Buffon by who else but Sebastian Giovinco, the former Juventus man scoring his fourth goal in just three games against his old club. Serie A may indeed have returned, but a changing of the guard? Don't you believe it!

Results: Catania 0-0 Siena, Cesena 1-3 Napoli, Chievo 2-2 Novara, Fiorentina 2-0 Bologna, Genoa 2-2 Atalanta, Juventus 4-1 Parma, Lecce 0-2 Udinese, Milan 2-2 Lazio, Palermo 4-3 Inter, Roma 1-2 Cagliari

Adam is a freelance Italian football writer and co-founder of Juventi Knows. Follow him on Twitter @Adz77