MILAN – For the last few seasons, Serie A has turned into a repetitive story of Juventus charging away from the rest of the field, with either AS Roma and Napoli in futile pursuit.
The Turin side have won the last six Serie A titles, usually with several matches to spare and on two occasions finishing a massive 17 points clear of the field.
This season, however, is proving refreshingly different, and not because Juventus have slackened.
In fact, their tally of 28 points from 11 games is one better than at the same stage last season and they are leading scorers with 33 goals – yet that is only good enough for third place.
Leaders Napoli (31 points) have dropped only two points, while second-placed Inter (29), as well as Juventus and fourth-placed Lazio (both 28), have won nine games out of 11 and fifth-placed Roma eight out of 10.
Inter’s points tally is their best-ever at this stage of the season, surpassing anything they managed during Roberto Mancini’s trophy-laden first stint in charge or their treble-winning season under Jose Mourinho.
The season has also been notable for scoring exploits with three players averaging a goal a game or better – Lazio’s Ciro Immobile (14), Juventus’ Paulo Dybala (11) and Inter’s Mauro Icardi (11).
Unpredictability has ruled where the top five have met each other. Juventus lost 2-1 at home to Lazio, their first home defeat for more than two years in all competitions. Lazio in turn were beaten 4-1 at home by a rampant Napoli.
Roma were beaten at home by Inter Milan and Napoli, while Napoli’s clash at home to Inter ended goalless.
Attendances are also up, with an average of 28 024 fans present for last weekend’s matches – the best for a single match-day in three years.
Even coach sackings are down with two changes, at Cagliari and Benevento, compared to five at the same stage last season.
“We’re setting a crazy pace, everyone is winning and don’t forget about AC Milan, who I think will come back into it,” said Inter coach Luciano Spalletti.
“Achieving Inter’s best record after 11 matches, better even than (those achieved under) Mourinho and Mancini, doesn’t affect me at all,” added the shaven-headed coach. “We still have to go deep into the tunnel.
“The teams are all there and everyone has won almost everything. But it’s unlikely to continue like this.”
The downside has been the dismal form of the teams at the bottom.
Serie A debutants Benevento have already set a record by losing their first 11 games, while two teams, Genoa and Verona, have managed only one win apiece and another three, Crotone, SPAL and Sassuolo, have won twice.
Roberto de Zerbi summed up the mood in the basement side after his side were thumped 5-1 at home by Lazio on Sunday.
“We went on to the pitch already certain to lose, and that isn’t good,” he said.