In a season where everything has gone as expected, Serie A nears its conclusion with Massimiliano Allegri’s exceptional Juventus side on course to win their sixth consecutive Scudetto and his third in succession with the Bianconeri. With four rounds yet to be played in the Italian top flight, they are 10 points clear of second-placed Roma and 11 clear of third-placed Napoli and only a major twist of fate will deny them a shot at history.
However, there have been some teams who have had an immense upturn in form this season, and are in positions where many thought they would not be. They are led by their own pragmatists and, along with Allegri, they deserve the honour of being labelled as Serie A manager of the season.
Simone Inzaghi – Lazio
Lazio seemed to be in big trouble after Marcelo Bielsa resigned from his position of head coach just two days after signing for them. They ended up appointing ex-caretaker boss Simone Inzaghi as the permanent coach and he has done a brilliant job at the club so far. The brother of Filippo—who himself has enjoyed promotion with Venezia—he has rejuvenated Lazio and they currently sit in fourth, seven points behind the Champions League play-off places.
His style of football has been appreciated in Italy and the 40-year-old has been getting all the right things done in the capital. For years, they have challenged for the Champions League places but have failed in the end, and although it looks likely that they won’t get there this season, they have a case for optimism. The main problems with Lazio teams in recent years has been their failure to gain points against the ‘lesser’ teams in the league, but Inzaghi’s side have done just that.
In addition to that, he has developed and put several quality footballers into the limelight with the likes of Sergej Milinković-Savić, Jordan Lukaku and Keita Baldé all rising to the occasion this season; the latter scored twice in a 3-1 derby success over rivals Roma this past weekend. Also, they have reached the Coppa Italia final, where they will face Juventus as they look for their first trophy since 2013.
Gian Piero Gasperini – Atalanta
Atalanta and Gian Piero Gasperini have used their famed youth system to the best of its abilities this season and La Dea sit pretty in fifth following a majestic turn of events. They lost four of their first five games this season, but Gasperini’s tactical twitches prompted them to eight wins in their next nine and set the base for an impressive finish to their season.
He has masterminded them to successes over the likes of Napoli, Roma and Sampdoria this season and their most recent game, a 2-2 home draw to Juventus, showed exactly what his team are capable of. Atalanta has a history of producing fine footballers, and this season they have made use of defender Mattia Caldara and midfielder Roberto Gagliardini who are set to be the mainstays in the Italian national team for years to come. Gagliardini left for Inter in the winter transfer window after impressing many, while Caldara signed for Juventus, before being loaned back until the end of next season.
Also, his 3-4-3 system has helped the wing-backs, Andrea Conti and Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola, who have bombarded the attacking wings as well as put in stellar shifts in defence. Midfielder Franck Kessié’s performances mean that he will likely be at one of Europe’s top clubs in the near future. Gasperini’s risk-taking ability has been a major factor behind Atalanta’s rise this season and he is a strong contender for this honour.
Vincenzo Montella – AC Milan
Vincenzo Montella’s Milan side are still not where they want to be, but this season has been a massive improvement compared to previous years. With no major financial backing over the two transfer windows, he has had to make do with average signings, but his good man-management skills have seen him do a decent job in difficult circumstances.
They won their first trophy in five years when they beat Juventus in the Italian Super Cup in Doha, Qatar in December and are on course to qualify for European football for the first time since 2014. He’s given young midfielder Manuel Locatelli a breakthrough in the first team while Gianluigi Donnarumma and Alessio Romagnoli have significantly improved and are fulfilling the potential that many had seen in them over the last few years.
The loan signing of Gerard Deulofeu has been an inspired one and he has added an extra edge to the team’s attack while other starring performers this season include Suso and Chelsea loanee Mario Pašalić. Under the circumstances, Montella has done a good job and he will receive greater financial backing this summer following the takeover of the club by Chinese businessman Li Yonghong. The future looks bright for Milan, and Montella looks to be the right man to lead them into it.