Serie A 2015-16: Season Review

Published on ‘Forza Italian Football’ – 18/05/2016

As Juventus clinched a fifth successive Scudetto, the complete story of this Serie A campaign is a little more complex than that, with a number of teams taking turns at the top of the table.

August – December 2015

Following four straight Serie A titles, Juventus started the 2015-16 season as firm favourites to make it a record-equalling five in a row.

The initial rounds soon illustrated that the season may not be as straight forward as some thought, beginning as one of the most open competitions in recent times.

In round 1 alone, the Bianconeri suffered a shock loss to Udinese at home, Sassuolo surprised many by beating Napoli while the previous season’s runner up, Roma, dropped points to Hellas Verona.

A heavyweight clash in round 2 saw Juventus lose their opening two matches, going 2-1 down to Roma after finishing the match with just nine men.

The Nerazzurri went on to claim top spot following an encouraging 1-0 win in the season’s first Derby della Madonnina while Chievo looked the early season surprise packet following an emphatic 4-0 victory over Lazio.

It took until round 4 for both the Bianconeri and the Partenopei to register their first wins of the season, with the Old Lady claiming a relieving 2-0 victory over Genoa and the Neapolitans demolishing Lazio 5-0.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina had begun to find consistency, with three victories over Genoa, Carpi and Bologna, moving them up into second position by round five.

The top two went head-to-head in round 7, where La Viola completely outplayed their favoured opponents to record a 4-1 win at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, thereby overtaking the Nerazzurri into top spot on goal difference.

inter fiorentina fredy guarin

In another major clash for the round, goals to Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain secured a 2-1 win for Napoli over the struggling Old Lady as doubts were increasingly cast over the Bianconeri’s abilities to challenge for the Scudetto.

Round 6 and 7 saw both Frosinone and Carpi register their first ever top-flight victories over Empoli and Torino respectively, leaving only Hellas Verona winless in the league.

Following emphatic victories for both clubs, Napoli met the leading Viola outfit where Maurizio Sarri’s men took the spoils and began to look more like Scudetto challengers.

Roma were fast approaching the top of the table with three straight wins, scoring 12 goals along the way, and made no mistake when presented with the opportunity to leap Fiorentina into the lead, defeating Paulo Sousa’s men 2-1 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Meanwhile Juventus, suffered what would be their final loss before embarking on a 15 match Serie A win streak and 26 match unbeaten run, following their loss to Sassuolo on October 28.

Towards the bottom, Bologna had suffered five losses in six matches and stood 18th in Serie A, which was enough to see Delio Rossi receive his marching orders and be replaced by Roberto Donadoni who would soon turn the team’s fortunes around.

In round 11, Inter hosted Roma and edged out the visitors 1-0 with a first-half strike from Gary Medel, joining Fiorentina on 24 points at the top of the league.

nainggolan salah roma

In the following rounds, a Paulo Dybala strike helped Juventus defeat AC Milan to jump the Rossoneri into sixth before a Higuain brace enabled Napoli to defeat Inter and jump the Nerazzurri into first.

It was short-lived however after the Partenopei suffered a 3-2 loss to the resurgent Bologna with both Mattia Destro and Higuain picking up a brace for their respective sides.

The Biscione’s victory over Genoa, their eighth 1-0 win of the season, reclaimed top spot and a week later extended their lead to four points with an emphatic 4-0 victory away to Udinese, with Mauro Icardi grabbing a brace.

Meanwhile, two straight draws to Carpi and Verona left Milan with just 1 win from five Serie A matches, with pressure building on new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic.

In the final round of 2015, Lazio was able to produce their first win in eight Serie A matches with a shock 2-1 score line away to the Nerazzurri, who had their lead cut to just one point after Napoli and Fiorentina recorded respective victories.

Despite the setback, it was Inter who would lead the pack into the Christmas break, Juventus sitting in fourth off the back of seven consecutive Serie A victories and Sassuolo emerging as the year’s big surprise in sixth position.

January – May 2016

As 2016 began, it seemed not much had changed with Inter recording yet another 1-0 victory, this time away to Empoli.

Pressure had been mounting on Rudi Garcia following the Giallorossi’s dip in form leading up to the break and after consecutive draws left them just one Serie A win in seven matches, the Frenchman was swiftly replaced by Luciano Spalletti.

Round 19 also saw a new Serie A leader after the Nerazzurri suffered a last minute loss to Sassuolo as Napoli leapt ahead with a 5-1 victory over Frosinone.

The Partenopei went on a goal-scoring spree with 17 goals in just four league matches, all the while keeping their two-point advantage over the Bianconeri, who had continued their own winning spree and now held second position.

Things had started to turn sour for Roberto Mancini’s men who were winless in three matches, the last of which was a demoralising 3-0 loss in the Milan derby.

After a draw at home to Verona and a loss to Juventus, Spalletti’s Roma outfit earned their first win in round 22 with a 3-1 result over Frosinone as Stephan El Shaarawy netted his first Giallorossi goal following his recent arrival in the Eternal City.

el shaarawy roma

The main story of round 23 was Verona finally breaking their winless streak, claiming three points against Atalanta for the first time all season.

By round 24, the Scudetto looked likely to be decided in a two-horse race given the Partenopei and Bianconeri had pulled out an eight point gap on their nearest rivals, as both Inter and Fiorentina continued their disappointing form.

The race came to a head in round 25 with the top two facing one another at the Juventus Stadium in one of the highest anticipated matches of the season. In a close-fought match, it was Simone Zaza who emerged from the bench as the hero, scoring in the 88th minute of play to snatch victory and move the Old Lady to the top of Serie A for the first time of the season.

The Rossoneri had also enjoyed some rare consistency in form with a 1-1 draw away to Napoli extending their Serie A unbeaten streak to eight matches while Roma had jumped into fourth position off the back of four straight wins under Spalletti.

Before long, the Giallorossi had entered the top three with another emphatic victory, this time thumping the troubled Palermo 5-0.

Round 27 brought about a number of major clashes as Fiorentina drew 1-1 with Napoli and Juventus extended their lead to three points with a 2-0 win over Inter.

After suffering a form slump to start the year, Sassuolo backed up victories over Empoli and Lazio by downing Milan 2-0 and moving to within three points of the Rossoneri in sixth place.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina’s form slump continued with disappointing draws against the relegation threatened Verona and Frosinone.

Standing five points behind Roma’s Champions League playoff position, the Nerazzurri were close to reducing the gap when they faced the Giallorossi in Rome, before an 84th minute equaliser from Radja Nainggolan ensured the spoils would be shared.

At the other end of the table, Carpi picked up consecutive victories over Frosinone and Verona, escaping the relegation zone and sending Palermo down in their place.

Round 31 saw Napoli suffer a shock 3-1 loss to Udinese, handing Juventus a six-point lead at the top, with a fifth straight Scudetto now seeming likely.

It was also Stefano Pioli’s final week in charge of the Lazio squad, with a demoralising 4-1 loss in the Derby della Capitale ending his club tenure and was subsequently replaced by Simone Inzaghi.

The following week saw yet another coaching casualty as the Rossoneri finally lost patience with Mihajlovic after five games without a win and replaced him with Cristian Brocchi.

Juventus’ gap ahead of Napoli remained at six points until Inter produced an impressive 2-0 victory over the Partenopei in round 33 to all but end the Scudetto race.

Though despite the victory, Inter’s slim hopes of Champions League qualification were wiped out when they failed to produce against Genoa just four days later, going down 1-0 and cementing the season’s top three in Serie A.

It was round 35 when the Bianconeri were assured of their fifth consecutive, celebrating as Nainggolan’s winner for Roma over Napoli made it impossible for the Azzurri to reach the top.

Despite the disappointment, Napoli would go on to win their final three fixtures to hold off Roma for second place, finishing the season with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Frosinone.

Higuain was able to net a hat-trick to break a 66-year-old record and become the highest ever Serie A goalscorer in a single season, scoring his 36th and final with an incredible over-the-head kick.

In the closing rounds, Carpi staged a monumental charge to escape relegation, with wins over Genoa, Empoli and Udinese, only for Palermo to save themselves with a final day victory over Verona.

Meanwhile Sassuolo’s final round victory over the Nerazzurri secured a shock sixth place in Serie A with the potential for a Europa League birth, dependant on the Coppa Italia final between Juve and Milan.

Photo credit: forzaitalianfootball.com

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