Siena go into a crucial relegation double-header with an option they didn’t previously have, as Rob Paton explains.
Siena enter a crucial stage of the season from Week 27. Four points above the relegation zone and above a particularly resurgent Lecce – thanks in no small part to the 4-1 win over the Robur – Giuseppe Sannino’s men face successive games against Cesena and Novara. Both clubs have for a long while made mention of Siena as the team they intend to catch and both have previously labelled the upcoming clashes as season defining.
Which is perhaps also the case for Siena, with the chance to eliminate two rivals’ hopes at the same time as boosting theirs further. Six points here would present the team with 10 remaining fixtures to play and only five points needed for the traditional safety target of 40 points. After the 4-1 win over Palermo and the 3-0 over Cagliari from the past two rounds – the latter of which Saninno described his team as ‘delighting everyone’ – belief is that six points is a reasonable target.
However, where Emanuele Calaio may have popped up with a spectacular effort against the Sardinians and Mattia Destro may have inspired the previous week’s precise and against-the-run-of-play thrashing of the Rosanero, eyes might actually be on Erjon Bogdani.
For the promise Destro has shown this term and the keen understanding that has developed with Calaio, the feeling from the start of the season remained that Sannino needed a reference point in attack and more specifically, a player with greater experience to lead the line and offer more of a hope of making the difference in tighter games.
Up to Bogdani’s January deadline day return to the club, the Robur had failed to score in nine of their 20 League outings, whilst five of their nine defeats had been by a single goal. Significant to these single-goal reverses were the statistics. For example, the 2-1 defeat to Udinese came even though Siena created more chances than the Zebrette, whilst the 1-0 home defeat to Inter saw the team manage nine attempts at goal, only for all nine to not even find the target. Similarly, December’s 1-0 loss to Bologna saw the side create as many chances as their opponents, but only average one in four on target.
Scoring goals is significant to Serie A survival, as Bari, Sampdoria, Atalanta and Empoli from recent seasons will all attest to. Each of these clubs have endured recent relegations off the back of unresponsive strike-forces, in campaigns that saw others finish above them despite having considerably worse defensive records.
To turn Siena’s chances this season into goals, defeats into draws, draws into victories and hope into survival, attention is back on Bogdani. Whilst not the most prolific of strikers, nor even the club’s first choice – they admitted to going for Pippo Inzaghi – Bogdani is someone who can hold the ball up and change the face of a game. As his 11 goals for the club in 2005-06 and his two from two starts this season reflect, he also takes chances presented to him.
From this weekend, playing the bottom two sides in successive fixtures should actually be a manageable test for Destro and Calaio, whilst Bogdani is a doubt to start in Week 27 due to a minor muscle injury. However, the 34-year-old is the alternative that Sannino can turn to that he didn’t have before. And in facing a Cesena side that with 10 men kept Catania out and for 74 minutes managed to prevent Fiorentina from registering a single shot on target last weekend, a half-fit Bogdani may not look like a lot, but might be all the strength the Robur need.