Wednesday February 26 2014
Sassuolo’s Malesani decision

A poor start to life under Alberto Malesani has left Sassuolo rock bottom in Serie A. Luca Cetta believes a change is needed.

If Sassuolo were aiming for the mythical ‘new Coach effect’ when appointing Alberto Malesani at the end of January, they were sorely mistaken. Instead, the new boss has commenced his reign at the Emilia-Romagna club in shocking fashion, notching four consecutive defeats. The honeymoon period never eventuated.

The January 12 victory over Milan will go down as Sassuolo’s most iconic moment in their short Serie A history. Domenico Berardi was the star of the show, netting a poker to turn an early two-goal deficit into a 4-3 win. However, it was an anomaly. Beforehand Sassuolo picked up a solitary point in five games. Afterwards, two further losses signalled the end for Eusebio Di Francesco.

What was mostly an inexperienced top-flight bunch experienced early hiccups – the seven-goal thumping by Inter topping that list. They had since improved and in January were aggressive on the transfer market, making additions hoped to ensure their Serie A status.

Paolo Cannavaro, Matteo Brighi and Sergio Floccari were secured late in the month, topping a transfer session which also included Thomas Manfredini, Davide Biondini – the quintet all experienced campaigners – as well as Lorenzo Ariaudo, Nicola Sansone and Antonio Sanabria. Rather than give Di Francesco time to work with all the new signings, he was shown the door.

In came Malesani. The new boss was full of praise for the January recruits: “The club had a precise logic in its transfer strategy. Now we must ensure the team approaches every game with the right sporting determination and aggression. Players often react strongly to a change of management, as they all want to prove themselves in the eyes of the new Coach.”

Granted, with players adjusting to each other and a new tactician simultaneously, it was a tough opening. Tenth-placed Lazio the lowest ranked of the quartet faced, which also included Verona, Inter and Napoli. Yet the reaction never came. It also calls into question the timing of the decision. Under Di Francesco, Sassuolo showed in earlier matches with Napoli, Lazio, Roma and Milan that they could take on the bigger clubs.

Of the four defeats only the Partenopei reverse was by more than one goal. Still, the fact remains that with Di Francesco they were straddling the line between safety and relegation. Now, Sassuolo are firmly entrenched in the bottom three. Malesani’s recent record doesn’t offer much optimism either. A good season with Bologna aside, his last few jobs have ended in disappointment.

At the Stadio Olimpico last Sunday, Sassuolo twice fought back through Floccari and Antonio Floro Flores, but were undone by a late Stefan Radu strike. “We have a lot of regrets, I think the draw would have been the fairest result,” noted Malesani. “And I would say that this has been the best game of my management.” He says he and the club remain close and that patience is needed.

The issue is whether they have time. The Neroverdi face the impressive Parma this weekend, before a more manageable run against Bologna, Catania, Udinese and Sampdoria. It’s here that Sassuolo must pick up points.

Malesani needs his key players to fire. Cannavaro – who has already worn the captain’s armband – must lead by example at the back. Luca Marrone is another as the midfield anchor, plus veteran Floccari in attack and leading scorer Berardi. The star against Milan has struggled for goals since. Malesani has indicated he is a player they are looking to. “Berardi? He is doing well and he knows it. When he entered the field he gave a contribution that I had hoped for in other games. I cannot put hope on anyone, but I am counting on him, he is an important player for the team.”

If the reaction is not forthcoming, who could take over? Well, there’s the Coach sacked a month ago. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Di Francesco is the favourite should a change be made. There’s a sense of unfinished business to take care of. If it is to happen, it should be soon, before the situation gets desperate.

Di Francesco was able to turn their fortunes around after initial struggles. Perhaps equipped with this enhanced squad he can lead Sassuolo to safety.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Having watched Napoli in both legs I was very disappointed with their performances. They can count themselves very lucky to have qualified. Having seen Wilfred Bony dominate Napoli s defenders, it further emphaises what a poor decision it was to let Cannavaro leave. He is a far better defender than any of Napoli s current back line. Napoli are very poor at the back and this will in my view stop them winning Europa. Also felt Napoli badly missed Jorginho in the 2 legs. Was impressed with Insigne
on the 28th February, 2014 at 12:23pm
@ Maldini Heir I am a big roma fan. I hope you are right and I am proved wrong about Astori. Its hard to believe we are so short of quality defenders when you consider all the great italian defenders of the past. Good luck to italian teams tonight in europa.
on the 27th February, 2014 at 6:17pm
@ Sam De Martino I don't see how you'd prefer Paletta over Astori (unless you're a Parma fan per chance). Astori has hardly been played at international level. He wasn't great in the friendlies in the build up to the Confeds but neither were the rest of the team. He's one of the few CBs this season who've managed to deal with Balo. He also frustrated Inter, Roma and Napoli but admittedly did not have the best of games against Juve. I agree though there is a lack of quality defenders out there.
on the 27th February, 2014 at 5:27pm
@ Daniel Giambrone I was going to post the very same thing! I've actually given up looking at the site on my mobile since the App keeps taking over. Won't be doing so again until FI fix it. Re Verratti I'd prefer to see him take Pirlo's role eventually. In fact Pirlo will not have the stamina to play 3 group games in quick succession in that heat. For me a midfield of Pirlo, De Rossi and one other (used to be Monty or Marchisio but neither have been good this season). Maybe Thiago Motta
on the 27th February, 2014 at 5:17pm
@ Maldini s heir I think Astori has looked poor when he has played for italy and has looked out of his depth. He is a good Serie A player but if he was to play european and for italy again would in my view continue to look out of his depth. It is very worrying the lack of quality defenders we have. This is what will stop us in the summer from going the distance. Its depressing.
on the 27th February, 2014 at 2:55pm
Anyone else having issues accessing FI on their Iphone? I keep getting the mobile version, which is nowhere near as good as the full site. Excellent posts on this section so far! I wonder what CP meant when he recently said that he was going to field a more technical team? I'm hoping that he play's Verratti in behind the front two. IMO, he could be our Riquelme/Zidane. I like Monty, but believe that MV would be better suited to this role.
on the 27th February, 2014 at 12:34pm
@ Sam De Martino It is good to see Prandelli try out Parolo and Paletta but I don't see them making the World Cup squad. Astori has been fantastic this season and has nearly made the Team of the Week every week. He's linked with Roma this morning. I have to say I will be absolutely gutted if Milan fail to even bid for him. We so desperately need a CB and he used to be in our youth team!
on the 27th February, 2014 at 11:14am
I don't think there's much harm in Berardi toughing out for a season. It should stand him well for the rest of his hopefully prosperous career. I agree he should move to a team of the level of Torino/Verona/Parma this season. He can then step up to one of the bigger sides. The main thing he's playing and scoring.
on the 27th February, 2014 at 11:11am
I am delighted that Cesare is looking at calling both Parolo and Paletta for Spain game. Parolo did well against Nigeria when he came on and should have scored, he looked great then and is having a great season. Paletta I am a big fan of, he has been good this season in the games he has played and is a far better bet than the likes of Ranocchia, Astori etc, and the other dead wood. Donadoni deserves great credit for Parma s season so far. Its nice to see them doing well.
on the 26th February, 2014 at 9:02pm
I feel sorry for Berardi, he is playing in a very poor team. He has shown his great quality throughout the season. To score 12 goals is hugely impressive, imagine what he could do at a better team. I was surprised he didn't start against Lazio. He perhaps hasn't been at his best in last fews games, but again it is very hard when playing for in my view the worst team in serie A. I agree with Cesare , let him do his time with under 21s and grow. He has a massive future.
on the 26th February, 2014 at 8:57pm
Berardi needs to play at bigger clubs (Lazio,Milan,Torino etc) with better players to further hone his skills. Playing him at a struggling team fighting to avoid relegation does not help. Look at Immobile now. So hopefully when Sassuolo is relegated Marotta does not send him to another bottom-dwelling team.
on the 26th February, 2014 at 7:05pm
@ Vinni M It is surprising that Sassuolo have not done better this season with the players they had. Zeman would be great for entertainment purposes I think it's hard to criticise the choice of Malesani given their position in the table. Would love to see Berardi and Zaza team up again next season under a different coach.
on the 26th February, 2014 at 6:02pm
The perfect coach for this young, attack-oriented team is Zdenek Zeman. What a coach like him could do for a young talent like Berardi would be immense....just look at how he helped others like Verrati and Immobile. Di Francesco has already demonstrated that he's not up for the job in Serie A, and there were rumblings that Zeman was on the shortlist of candidates when Di Francesco was fired, but instead, the management at Sassuolo decided to go with the perennial loser in Malesani......
on the 26th February, 2014 at 2:39pm

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