It seems to be inevitable and with 11 rounds completed so far in the 2017/18 Serie A season, Sassuolo is experiencing a decline in performances and results since former coach Eusebio Di Francesco left for Roma in the summer.
Gone is the flowing attacking football played under “Difra”, and the team is developing a new identity under new tactician Cristian Bucchi, who has made the style of play more conservative than in previous seasons.
Perhaps Bucchi has made the climb up too soon. He took Maceratese to the Lega Pro play-offs in 2015/16 and managed to get Perugia into the Serie B play-offs a season later but his Sassuolo side is currently 17th on the Serie A table with just eight points.
The Neroverdi lost 3-1 away to Napoli on Sunday afternoon CET, which is not something to be too disappointed about considering how well the Partenopei have been playing this season, but this is now their seventh league defeat of the season. That is worse than their maiden campaign in 2013/14 when they lost six of their first 11 matches.
Under the coaching of Di Francesco, Sasol had an exciting style of play and there was a focus on developing young Italian talent. Although the squad is still predominantly Italian, there have not been many of them emerging like they did under Di Francesco.
Bucchi has given some young players time to play but there is a difference between giving them a chance to play and nurturing their talent. For instance, the midfield trio of Francesco Cassata, Stefano Sensi, and Luca Mazzitelli are in their early 20s but they are not emerging as stars or finding consistency.
Unfortunately the Neroverdi have had to sell key players in recent years such as Croatian defender Sime Vrsaljko, French forward Gregoire Defrel, and Italian internationals Simone Zaza, Nicola Sansone, and Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to letting their coach depart for Roma.
Probably one of the most disappointing reasons for Sassuolo’s decline is that its talisman Domenico Berardi has not blossomed into the great player most people had expected him to be and has sadly shown signs of regression.
The 23-year-old has only scored one goal in eight Serie A matches this season and he scored just five times in the 2016/17 campaign. Injuries have not helped his cause either and it affected Sassuolo’s run in the Europa League last season.
Having such an important player like Berardi out of form is detrimental to a small team like Sasol and it could be the difference between avoiding relegation or dropping down to Serie B.
There are still some talented players in the Neroverdi squad such as goalkeeper Andrea Consigli, Italian international defenders Francesco Acerbi and Federico Peluso, winger Matteo Politano, and centre-forward Diego Falcinelli, who played a vital role in Crotone’s miraculous escape from relegation in 2016/17.
Bucchi is still finding his way in Serie A as a coach and it would be too premature to sack him at this stage of the campaign. Fortunately they face an AC Milan side in crisis and cellar-dwellers Benevento and Hellas Verona in the next three rounds so there is a chance to collect points in those games.
Di Francesco made a great impact at Sassuolo by getting it promoted from Serie B and eventually achieving qualification for Europe in 2015/16. It has been tough for Bucchi to follow in his footsteps so far but collecting a few points soon should bring confidence to the club hierarchy, the supporters, and the players themselves.