Kevin Pogorzelski Date: 2nd January 2019 at 9:03am
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As Serie A halts for a brief interlude, supporters could be forgiven for believing that, despite a number of significant changes during the summer, little has changed between May and December.

The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at reigning champions Juventus was always destined to strengthen the Bianconeri, but few expected the level of Old Lady dominance would increase – dropping just four points at the halfway stage.

Despite failing to register in his opening three matches, the 33-year-old became the fastest player to 10 goals in Juventus’ history and by leading the Serie A scoring charts, is already the highest scoring Portuguese in a single season.

Beneath the Turin giants, there has also been little change, with Napoli somewhat surprisingly remaining their closest challenges after the departure of coach Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho to Premier League side Chelsea.

The tactical acumen of the incoming Carlo Ancelotti, though, has given the Partenopei more flexibility and less reliance on one playing style. Not enough, though, to stop a disappointing failure to progress from the Champions League group stage.

Napoli have also taken part in the more unsavoury incidents off the pitch so far, with the racial abuse of centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly by Inter fans highlighting that Italy and its football is yet to rid itself of such incidents.

The Interisti now face a number of sanctions, just as Juventus supporters had early this term after aiming derogatory chants towards Neapolitans when the sides met in September.

Inter also suffered a humiliating exit from Europe and have struggled to convince domestically, despite sitting in third and continue an inability to rid themselves from a dependence on striker Mauro Icardi.

In mid-October, it was the Argentine’s last-gasp winner against cross-city rivals AC Milan that saved coach Luciano Spalletti some difficult questions and the high-profile signing of Radja Nainggolan from Roma has failed to have the desired impact.

The departure of the combative midfielder, along with goalkeeper Alisson Becker, has arguably had a bigger impact for the Giallorossi, though, dropping out of the Champions League places at the expense of bitter rivals Lazio.

That a solitary win could leapfrog Roma over the Biancocelesti and Milan is an example of the pair’s ongoing failure to cement themselves as favourites going into the second half of the season.

With a number of injuries to key figures, Rossoneri coach Gennaro Gattuso is being afforded the time to return the Milanese giants to former glories, though, whereas Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi’s future could rest on holding onto a top-four spot.

The real excitement so far this season has come from the sides not traditionally expected to fight it out for a place at Europe’s top table – Sampdoria, Atalanta and Sassuolo – but remain in the conversation through some of the most entertaining football on the peninsula.

Ageing frontman Fabio Quagliarella embodies the attacking approach of the Blucerchiati with a number of stunning finishes and, after netting for a ninth consecutive game against Juventus, is among the candidates for player of the season.

However, after ending the 2016-17 campaign in fourth position, Atalanta look the most likely underdog to sneak into the top four come May. The Nerazzurri are Serie A’s top scorers going into the break and if they can tighten up defensively will continue to climb the table.

Another refreshing story emerging from the first few months has been newly promoted Parma. Whilst the Gialloblu will not be challenging for European qualification, Serie A survival seems assured with the likes of Bruno Alves and Gervinho rolling back the years in Emilia-Romagna.

Of those threatened with falling through the Serie A trapdoor, long-suffering Genoa fans may finally be spared the anxiety they often suffer during the latter stages of a campaign through the goals of Krzysztof Piatek.

The performances of the Polish striker have him rivalling Cristiano Ronaldo for newcomer of the season, scoring in each of his first seven league outings and hitting an astonishing 13 goals by the years end.

For those below them, the rest of the season will be a continual struggle, partly comforted by the belief that Frosinone and Chievo are already preparing for life in Serie B. However, the Veronese side will harbour hopes of dragging themselves off the foot of the table.

A three-point deduction for accounting irregularities did not help Chievo’s cause, but results are improving under new coach Domenico Di Carlo and it is not impossible to overhaul a nine-point deficit from safety.

Even with Juventus’ overwhelming domestic dominance, it has been an exciting and intriguing start to the season with many twists and turns still to come when the campaign resumes in mid-January.