Sassuolo Decline Evident After Di Francesco Departure

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.


What Would AC Milan Look Like in a 4-2-3-1 Formation?

Under the coaching of Vincenzo Montella, AC Milan has struggled to consistently produces results and good performances as he has had to deal with an abundance of new acquisitions in the squad.

After losing 2-0 to Juventus on Saturday evening CET (Sunday morning AEDT), the Rossoneri now sit eighth in the Serie A table after 11 matches and they are currently nine points away from the UEFA Champions League spots.

Whether or not Montella gets sacked soon, one formation that could be trialled by Milan is the 4-2-3-1. I believe it would suit the players in the squad but the way the system is implemented would be crucial in making it successful.

No Bonucci in Defence

Picking Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal is a no-brainer but the selections in defence might surprise some people with Ignazio Abate, Mateo Musacchio, Alessio Romagnoli, and Ricardo Rodriguez starting in my team.

Abate makes the side due to his experience, speed, and time spent at the club while David Calabria would be used at right-back for Coppa Italia matches or against very weak opposition in the other competitions. Rodriguez would be my choice at left-back and he could also take free-kicks from long-range.

Musacchio would be paired with Romagnoli but he would need to cut down his forays forward. The former Villarreal defender can provide a link between defence and midfield but he does not need to run into the opposition’s penalty area on a regular basis.

This line-up does not include Milan captain Leonardo Bonucci because I do not believe that he should be the Diavolo captain and his form does not merit a place in the first team.

Although the former Juventus defender brings valuable experience, the Milan captain should not be one of the new arrivals and instead a player who is familiar with the club surroundings would be more ideal.

Without Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, Bonucci is now experiencing what it is like to play with different teammates in defence and also without two defenders that he had been accustomed to playing with for many years so adapting at Milan might take a while, if not at all.

Place Creative Midfielders in Suitable Roles

Montella has had plenty of trouble trying to accommodate as many attacking options as possible and with that he has altered his formations constantly as well as play certain players out of position. Using a 4-2-3-1 formation should play to the strengths of his midfielders and not weaken other parts of the field.

Franck Kessie would operate in his usual box-to-box midfielder role but Manuel Locatelli would be my regista instead of Lucas Biglia because the former Lazio playmaker is out of form.

Locatelli has the talent but he seems to lack confidence and that does not help in his development if his experienced teammates are not performing well either. I would tell to back himself and also try to dribble and shoot when the opportunities arise. If an experienced player like Biglia is not able to show leadership and efficiency, back Locatelli in and correct his mistakes as much as possible.

In the wide positions are Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura but their roles vary. The Spaniard plays like an attacking midfielder that starts on the wing than a modern right-winger that cuts-in with his left-foot while Bonaventura is a bit more direct and can also make late runs into the box.

Operating in the #10 role in my Milan XI is Hakan Calhanoglu, who has voiced a preference for playing behind a lone striker. Although he can play anywhere in the attacking midfield trio, his best form at club level was in the 2014/15 season with Bayer Leverkusen.

The Turkish international was used by Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt a central position in the 4-2-3-1 and he scored eight goals as well as provided seven assists in 33 German Bundesliga matches.

If the midfield needs a workhorse player in the wide positions, Fabio Borini has been one of the more solid performers in the current Milan side. The much-maligned forward has not provided much in terms of goals but he has provided assists and drops back to help the defenders.

Mobility Over Solidarity to Lead Attack

Nikola Kalinic and Patrick Cutrone play as traditional centre-forwards but a more mobile option like Andre Silva would suit a fluid team like this. Silva would link-up better with the midfielders and potentially drag opposition defenders out of position.

Kalinic has been disappointing since arriving at Milan and he looks very static. Cutrone is only 19 years old but he has scored more goals than the Croatian international and has an excellent work ethic. If the youngster can’t start, he is the type of player that could make an impact in the last 20-25 minutes of a game.

Fluidity and Flair Part of the Philosophy

This XI that I have created places an emphasis on fluidity as well as creative flair but the players would need to press a lot and also move the ball at a quick tempo. Under Montella, their possession play is languid and predictable and there is hardly any pressing when they lose the ball. Historically his teams play better with a back three than a back four.

It seems that AC Milan will stick with Montella for now as coach but a formation and style of play like this might work better than the insipid football the Rossoneri are producing now.

Hellas Verona v Benevento – A Serie A Clash that Might Surprise

On paper Hellas Verona v Benevento on Monday night CET (Tuesday morning AEDT) may seem like a boring game to watch but it might surprise a few people for a number of reasons.

Both teams were promoted from Serie B at the end of the 2016/17 campaign and have failed to win a match so far in Serie A this season. The Gialloblu are 18th with just three points in seven games while the Stregoni have failed to collect a point in their debut campaign.

If their performances in Round 7 were anything to go by, both signs have shown signs of improvement and surely a victory is due soon for one of these teams.

Hellas Verona was trailing 2-0 away to Torino and an injury to Granata star Andrea Belotti allowed the Gialloblu to come back and gain a 2-2 draw. Benevento lost 2-1 at home to Inter but it was a gallant defeat and the Campanian side showed that the Nerazzurri were vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Changes in tactics from both coaches resulted in the improvement in performances in the last round of Serie A.

Mastini tactician Fabio Pecchia has persisted with the 4-3-3 formation but using Romulo as a box-to-box midfielder and Daniel Bessa as a playmaker suits the characteristics of the players. Meanwhile, his Sanniti counterpart Marco Baroni switched from the 4-4-2 formation to the 4-3-3 and started Pietro Iemmello in attack while leaving Massimo Coda and George Puscas on the bench.

Most of the flair on display throughout the match should come from the wingers of both teams.

While Verona can count on the experienced Alessio Cerci and Roma-owned starlet Daniele Verde, Benevento has Cristiano Lombardi from Lazio and Marco D’Alessandro from Atalanta. The Gialloblu wingers are technically gifted albeit inconsistent wingers but they can be dangerous on their day whereas the opposing wingers in the Giallorossi squad are quicker and more direct.

If Baroni does not start with Lombardi and D’Alessandro, he could use Vittorio Parigini, who is on loan from Torino and has experience in the Italy U-21 side, or Amato Ciciretti could make his return to the team after being sidelined with injury.

The wingers will need to fire if the centre-forwards are going to get the service they need, with Pecchia needing to choose between the promising Moise Kean or veteran Giampaolo Pazzini while Baroni will probably persist with the aforementioned Iemmello.

Although the choices in forwards and wingers will be crucial, the midfielders for each will need to prove that they can cope with playing in Serie A. Bessa will need to dictate the play for Verona without the support of defensive midfielder Bruno Zuculini while Benevento duo Danilo Cataldi and Ledian Memushaj need to be effective offensively and defensively.

Defensively there has been improvement from Hellas Verona, especially from its often erratic goalkeeper Nicolas, whereas Benevento need to tighten up more, especially without captain Fabio Lucioni, who is serving a drug ban. The Stregoni can depend on Vid Belec between the posts but the defenders ahead of him must demonstrate the ability to close down gaps.

After a tough start to the season for both sides, this is a great chance for either team to collect a victory over a fellow struggler. Although these teams lack star names, there are certain elements in these squads that could make this Serie A clash more interesting than it seems.


Faith in Italy coach Ventura is Close to Zero

If I was not disappointed before Italy’s 1-1 draw with FYROM on Friday evening CET, I certainly am now because that result feels like an Azzurri defeat and my belief in Coach Giampiero Ventura is almost non-existent.

I have watched the Azzurri since I was an eight-year-old in 1996 and I cannot recall a worse coach in my time watching them play. The former Torino coach looks so far out of his depth, it’s not funny.

He was expected to usher in a new generation of Italian talent but his selections have been poor and he still persists in selecting many veterans who are evidently declining.

Although Giorgio Chiellini can hold his head up high after scoring against the Macedonians, his partners in defence are nowhere near their best. Gianluigi Buffon’s reflexes are waning, Andrea Barzagli can barely last 90 minutes, and Leonardo Bonucci has struggled since moving to AC Milan at club level.

Central midfield has been a problem for Italy in recent matches and the duo of Marco Parolo and Roberto Gagliardini were criticised after Friday’s game.

Parolo plays in a more defensive role when he plays for his country and he does not offer much offensively like he would for Lazio or Parma before that.

Gagliardini is not a play who can dictate the play and his tasks need to be simplified. The Inter midfield should not have started or he should have been paired with the more creative yet less experienced Nicolo Barella.

One of the most bizarre decisions made by Ventura was to give Bologna forward Simone Verdi his Italy debut. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Verdi but he is suited to playing for a provincial club like Bologna and not to be selected for international duty. I don’t like including players that don’t start regularly for their clubs but Federico Bernardeschi should have started instead of the Felsinei winger.

Bernardeschi is the exception to that rule because players like Matteo Darmian, Gagliardini, and Eder do not start for their clubs. Gagliardini was arguably picked out of necessity because three other central midfielders dropped out due to injury but he needs regular time with Inter before he can be trusted in the Azzurri squad.

Another major issue with Ventura is that he is picking players out of form such as Bonucci, Antonio Candreva, and Manolo Gabbiadini when the focus should be on choosing players based meritocracy instead of reputations or beliefs.

Throughout his career the Azzurri tactician has predominantly used two formations: 4-2-4 and 3-5-2. None of the Serie A coaches use the 4-2-4 and 3-5-2 would make the selections of Lorenzo Insigne and Stephan El Shaarawy pointless because they play at their best on the wing.

The 69-year-old Italy coach needs to find a formation that suits the best Italian talent available, not the players with the greatest reputations or even the best potential.

It is easy to say that Italy peaks at major tournaments but it doesn’t always work because the players can still under-perform and fail to obtain results. It is also easy to say that a coach should not play too many kids but the veterans are a shadow of their former selves and their bodies cannot deal with the rigours of international football anymore.

I was willing to give Ventura a chance but the performances under him have been woeful and the recent results have been unimpressive too.

He is turning Italy into a fallen giant and I believe he is incapable of helping the Azzurri bounce back up.

Montella Must Forget Using the 4-3-3 at AC Milan

Vincenzo Montella must forget about implementing the 4-3-3 formation at AC Milan, or better still, he should never use it again for as long as he coaches.

The Rossoneri coach used that formation in the 4-1 defeat against Lazio on Sunday and it is a formation that he tries to use at almost every club he has coached but with little success.

Throughout his career as a coach, the 43-year-old has often created teams that emphasised on playing attacking football and passing the ball around nonchalantly, but they do not press aggressively or defend rigidly.

It is fair to say that Montella’s style of coaching is more Spanish than Italian because of his focus on monopolising possession. If Italy’s 2-1 victory against England at the 2014 World Cup under Cesare Prandelli was the apotheosis of tikitalia, an Italianised version of the Spanish tiki-taka, then Montella is the high priest of the philosophy.

Unfortunately he tries to use a 4-3-3 formation like some Spanish sides do but the only club where it worked regularly was at Catania in 2011/12, where the sporting director Pietro Lo Monaco had acquired players for that formation before Montella arrived at the club. Prior to joining Catania, L’Aeroplanino (The Little Airplane) used the 4-2-3-1 at Roma after he replaced Claudio Ranieri.

Since then, Montella develops the eagerness to play with a back four but he has not suited the squads that he worked with. At Fiorentina, he wanted his teams to play a languid possession game but a switch to the 3-5-2 formation benefited the players at his disposal.

When he coached the Viola from 2012 to 2015, he had Juan Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual patrolling the flanks and often used two strikers in attack, but he experimented with Cuadrado in the trequartista role in his final season before the Colombian went to Chelsea and Mohamed Salah moved to Florence.

After he was sacked by Fiorentina, Montella became the coach of Sampdoria as a replacement for Walter Zenga but the 2015/16 season was one to forget for club and coach. He starred for Il Doria as a player but he could not impose his philosophy on the players, who were still used to workmanlike methods of Zenga’s predecessor Sinisa Mihajlovic.

At Samp he tried to use the back four and encourage possession football but he got more results using the 3-5-2 and defending deep.

Implementing the 4-3-3 started well enough for Montella at AC Milan but the key player in that formation was Giacomo Bonaventura, who played on the left side of the midfield trio before a hamstring injury ruled him out for the remained of the 2016/17 Serie A season. Another key factor was the emergence of Manuel Locatelli in the regista role before his form dropped near the end of the campaign.

With the new investors spending an abundance of money on quality players, L’Aeroplanino is still persisting with the dreaded formation whereas the footballers acquired by directors Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli are more suited to the 3-5-2.

Leonardo Bonucci has arrived from Juventus and has played his best football at club and international level when he is in the middle of a defensive trio. Andrea Conti joined from Atalanta and he operated as a right wing-back in the 3-4-1-2, not as a right-back in a four-man defence.

There is an abundance of central midfielders to choose from now that Franck Kessie and Lucas Biglia have been acquired from Atalanta and Lazio respectively while Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu is at his most effective playing in the hole.

Montella must acknowledge that his players are not ideally suited to the 4-3-3 formation but he should accept that the formation will not prolong his coaching career.


Crotone Rebuilding for Season Two of Serie A

Despite achieving Serie A survival in remarkable circumstances last season, Crotone still had to overhaul the squad for the 2017/18  season.

It was an incredible achievement for the club from the southern Italian region of Calabria, which managed to win six of its last nine league matches and avoid relegation at the expense of Palermo.

Coach Davide Nicola created a compact team that played in the 4-4-2 formation, defended resolutely, and would often hit quickly on the counter-attack.

Unfortunately for the Pitagorici, key players such as Lorenzo Crisetig and Diego Falcinelli returned to their parent clubs and centre-back Gian Marco Ferrari has joined Sampdoria.

With the need to replace key personnel and add some depth to the Crotone squad, sporting director Giuseppe Ursino has acquired a few promising youngsters as well as some players from obscure leagues and locations.

Marco Faraoni has joined as a free agent from Udinese. The 26-year-old has been a journeyman and has failed to regular cement a place at any particular club after breaking through at Inter so he has been given another chance to get his career on track.

Arlind Ajeti has played in Serie A previously with Frosinone and Torino but has struggled to adapt since arriving from Switzerland. He has started well for Crotone, being one of the bright performers in defence in the opening two rounds of Serie A.

Leandro Cabrera is a former Uruguayan youth international who plays as a centre-back and joined Crotone on a free transfer from La Liga 2 side Real Zaragoza. He has played most of his football in Spain’s second division including three seasons with the Aragonese club.

A last-minute signing in defence was Bosnian international Daniel Pavlovic, who has joined the Pitagorici on loan from Sampdoria.

Rolando Mandragora joined on loan from Juventus. The 20-year-old has struggled for playing time with the Bianconeri but playing in Calabria has already provided him with valuable game time in central midfield.

Thirty-four-year-old Mariano Izco arrived from Chievo and the Argentine midfielder provides plenty of Serie A experience with his stints at the Flying Donkeys and Catania.

Versatile midfielder Giovanni Crociata signed a four-year contract with Crotone after joining from AC Milan. He spent last season on loan at Serie B club Brescia and played 19 matches in a variety of positions.

Oliver Kragl played a season-and-a-half at Frosinone and he was a part of the Ciociari’s fight for Serie A promotion in 2016/17 before he suffered a knee injury.

Marcello Trotta has extended his loan from Sassuolo unlike Falcinelli, who has returned to the Neroverdi after playing a vital role in Crotone’s survival campaign. Trotta’s partner for this season will be Ante Budimir, who is back for another spell with the Squali after failing to cement a spot with Sampdoria.

The Croatian centre-forward scored 16 goals in 40 Serie B games in 2015/16 as the Calabrese club went to achieve promotion to Italy’s top flight and a return to Crotone might help him regain his prolificacy.

Another promising starlet to join the Squali on loan is Marco Tumminello from Roma. The 18-year-old scored 19 goals in just 18 games for the Roma Primavera team last season and was given some playing opportunities in the pre-season but a loan spell should grant him more playing time.

The Serie A season has not started well for Crotone, losing 3-0 at home to AC Milan and drawing 0-0 to newly-promoted Hellas Verona and they play Cagliari away on Sunday.

Hopefully with another bunch of youngsters and unknown quantities, Nicola can once again try to create another miraculous escape from relegation.

Pescara Remain Faithful to Zemanlandia

In the early stages of the 2017/18 Serie B season, Pescara is staying true to the football style synonymous with its coach Zdenek Zeman.

Known for his ultra-offensive tactics, the 70-year-old is still implementing the Zemanlandia philosophy that made him famous at Foggia in the 1990s.

Now in his second stint with Pescara, Zeman’s team has stayed true to his way of coaching just three games into the current Serie B campaign, with a victory, a defeat, and a draw.

The Delfini started the season with a 5-1 win against Foggia, a 4-2 loss against Perugia, and on Friday drew 3-3 with Frosinone despite leading 3-0 at half-time. The performances in these matches are reflective of a typical Zeman team as there is little care for defensive structure and the emphasis always remains on attacking.

The victory in the opening round was as emphatic as the scoreline suggests, with Satanelli full-back Alberto Gerbo scoring a consolation goal once Pescara was 5-0 up.

Shambolic defending contributed heavily to the defeat away to the Grifoni while the draw against the Ciociari was truly a game of two halves as the Delfini demonstrated how cavalier they are going forward but how naive they can be defensively.

Against Perugia the Pescara defence was vulnerable at defending at set-pieces while Frosinone was able to tear the Abruzzese backline with diagonal passing. This is nothing new for clubs coached by Il Boemo and nobody should expect that to change.

Although he refuses to improve the defensive aspects of football, Zeman has had a great record of developing talent and already he is working his magic, with Stefano Pettinari being a clear standout. The 25-year-old has been a journeyman striker throughout his career but he has started the campaign in remarkable fashion, scoring six goals in just three matches.

Prior to 2017/18, Pettinari had not scored more than nine goals in a season, which was for Crotone in Serie B in 2013/14, but if he continues at this rate, he will smash that tally very easily.

Last season he was a peripheral figure under Coach Massimo Oddo and needed a loan spell with Ternana to gain some confidence scoring two goals and assisting in another two in 13 games but now he is a key player under Zeman.

Nineteen-year-old Ferdinando Del Sole is another player who is thriving under Il Boemo or “The Bohemian”. Juventus bought the right-winger but has decided to leave him on loan with the Delfini, which should be beneficial for the player.

Del Sole has played in two Serie B games so far this season and he created two of Pettinari’s goals against Frosinone with crosses from the right-wing.

For the first goal, he made a direct run and crossed from the byline for the former Roma youth product to tap-in, and the second goal came from when the 19-year-old received the ball – albeit from an offside position – sprinted down the wing, did a step-over, and his cross was diverted into the net with a Pettinari side-volley.

Three rounds have gone in the 2017/18 Serie B season and the hallmarks of a Zdenek Zeman team are evident to see. The consistency is not present but through the good times and bad, Pescara is already a team that is typical of the ideals of Zemanlandia.

Chievo Could Be More Proactive With New Signings in 2017/18

With some of the new signings at the club, Chievo could play more attacking style of football in the 2017/18 Serie A season.

Coach Rolando Maran has been conservative in his methods despite occasionally implementing pressing tactics and he has been over-reliant on veterans in defence.

Whether he was using the 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 formation, the now 54-year-old has often fielded workhorse midfielders more than creative players in the middle of the park and the strikers were more known for their work ethic than their flair.

Slovenian attacking midfielder Valter Birsa has often had the responsibility to create play but some of the new arrivals should take the workload off him and provide the Flying Donkeys with more creative spark.

Two forwards that have been acquired from Serie B club Cesena are Luca Garritano and Alejandro Rodriguez.

Garritano is a versatile player that has been used as a support striker and a winger but he was used as a creative central midfielder in the second half of the 2016/17 Serie B season. This season he is likely to feature as a box-to-box midfielder in Maran’s 4-3-1-2 formation and should offer more guile than the hard-working Perparim Hetemaj.

Rodriguez possesses Serie A experience, having played for Cesena when it was last in Italy’s top flight and spent the 2015/16 campaign on loan at Sampdoria. Although he is unlikely to take a starting position away from Roberto Inglese, the Spaniard is better suited to a substitute’s role.

Another striker that has joined Chievo in the summer is Manuel Pucciarelli from Empoli, who has been relegated from Serie A. Barring a spell at Gavoranno in 2012, the 26-year-old has spent his career with the Azzurri but the Flying Donkeys purchased him for a reported figure of €3.75 million.

He will play in a support striker role as he did with Empoli, and despite not being a prolific goalscorer, his dribbling ability as well as comfort in drifting to the wings should benefit Ceo‘s attacking play.

In addition to these new arrivals, there are two young forwards that are returning to Chievo from loan spells. Mehdi Leris is a support striker who spent last season in the Juventus Primavera team while Kevin Yamga played for Lega Pro team Arezzo in the 2016/17 campaign.

It remains to be seen if Maran does use Leris and Yamga in 2017/18 but at least the Flying Donkeys have more options in attack than in previous years and he has the opportunity to be more diverse with his tactics.

Since Maran became Chievo coach in October 2014, he has often started with the industrious Riccardo Meggiorini alongside an out-and-out striker. First it was Alberto Paloschi playing as the centre-forward and then Inglese has taken that role while club stalwart Sergio Pellissier has featured in cameo roles. With the new signings though, Maran has the opportunity to create a team that plays in a more modern style.

Instead of grinding out wins, he has players that possess the characteristics produce expansive football, and even a provincial club like Chievo can and should believe that it is capable of dictating the play.


Hellas Verona Dodged Bullet with Cassano

Hellas Verona should count itself lucky that Antonio Cassano wanted his contract terminated before the 2017-18 Serie A season commenced.

The Gialloblu has returned to Italy’s top flight after a season in Serie B and the 35-year-old free agent was among the club’s new acquisitions but he had not played competitive football for over a year.

Cassano’s final Serie A match was at Sampdoria, when the Blucerchiati lost 3-0 in the Derby della Lanterna in Round 37 of the 2015/16 season, and despite remaining at the club to train, he was frozen out of the squad and then had his contract terminated in January 2017.

He had been training by himself but he would have lacked in match fitness and match experience. To return to competitive football after a year out in your mid-30s and be successful is an improbable task and stamina was never a huge feature of his game so succeeding with the Gialloblu would have been a miracle.

Hellas Verona coach Fabio Pecchia already has to work with a few veteran strikers and it would have been a tougher challenged if Cassano honoured the rest of his contract. Captain Giampaolo Pazzini is 33 years old while Alessio Cerci, who joined on a free transfer from Atletico Madrid, turned 30 on July 23.

Cassano would have been reunited with former attacking partner Pazzini and the duo formed a great partnership at Sampdoria but Pecchia’s methods are different to Walter Mazzarri’s and Luigi Del Neri’s. Mazzarri and Delneri usually had two strikers up front in their formations at Il Doria while Pecchia often implements the 4-3-3 formation.

Aside from the current Mastini coach’s system, it has been seven years since “Pazzo” and “Fantantonio” were working their magic with the Doriani so replicating that form or anything near it would have been a mammoth task for them.

While Pecchia still has to work with the experienced duo of Cerci and Pazzini in attack, he does have Daniele Verde, who arrived on loan from Roma during the transfer window.

After unsuccessful spells at Frosinone and Pescara, the 21-year-old winger spent last season on loan at Avellino, scoring eight goals and assisting five others in 32 Serie B games.

With Cassano gone and Juanito Gomez also terminating his contract, Verde should have more of a chance to prove himself and he would add pace as well as youthful energy to Verona’s experienced attack.

French winger Mohamed Fares has featured in the Verona senior squad sporadically in the last two seasons and will probably remain as a bit-part player but it does not mean that Fares and Verde will be the only youngsters in the Butei attack.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Veronese team is linked with Felipe Avenatti, Ricardo Kishna, Sadiq Umar, and Patrick Cutrone so the search for more youth in attack should continue until the end of August. Balancing youth and experience, particularly up forward, should be vital to the Mastini’s survival hopes.

Hellas Verona will commence the 2017/18 league campaign at home against Napoli, which coincidentally was the same fixture that opened the Mastini‘s 1984/95 scudetto-winning season.

Although the current Gialloblu team is unlikely to hit the lofty heights of the great 1980s side, they should be glad that they have one less veteran than what they need.


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