Both Coach and fans refuse to put pressure on Bologna – even as they lost their fourth consecutive game this weekend. Rob Paton explains why
Bologna suffered their fourth consecutive loss this weekend, as they fell to a 2-0 home defeat to Emilia-Romagna rivals Cesena. It is now five weeks without a win, and in this slide, the Rossoblu have recorded just one point from a possible 15, scored just twice, with three of the defeats having been to relegation-threatened sides.
What is most perplexing for fans is the sudden, sharp decline comes off the back of an admirable run of form that saw the team reach the 40-point mark as early as Week 30, and included wins over Lazio, Palermo and Juventus.
From significant changes made to the playing staff and the last-minute sacking of original Coach Franco Colomba, to two separate points deductions and then continued uncertainty over the future of the club and who was running it, Alberto Malesani's work in focusing the players had been nothing short of excellent.
However, since reaching the team's objective of 40 points with a 1-1 draw at home to Genoa, the team has collapsed in dramatic contrast. In light of the latest loss this weekend, Malesani suggested the team achieved their goal of avoiding relegation too early, and that the deterioration is purely psychological. "My task is to make a deep analysis that has nothing to do with tactics or training, nothing to do with anything."
More interesting perhaps though is Marco Di Vaio's admittance that the players are now "afraid", significant as concern grows that the side are replicating a collapse previously seen under Malesani when he was in charge of Verona in 2001-02.
In that season Malesani's early work with the team left them comfortably sitting in seventh place after 21 games played. However, a run of form that saw them record just seven points from the remaining 51 available resulted in their final day relegation.
Malesani has been quick to dismiss the comparison however. "At Verona there was a general lack of quality and depth to the squad. Here the issue is in the mind. We are a large group, but the only medicine is results."
Growing uncertainty over a number of places in the playing squad has no doubt contributed to the side's psychological issues, with the latest group in charge of the club – led by Albano Guaraldi – keen to reduce the wage bill and re-start the Bologna project.
Club captain Di Vaio has penned a new agreement, but no-one else has been offered a deal, or looks set to be until all options are fully assessed in preparation of what looks like another unsettling summer at the Renato Dall'Ara. That includes Malesani and sporting director Carmine Longo.
Also interesting has been Malesani's refusal to put pressure on the players, even where doubt surrounds their future. The Coach has defended them in light of each of the four defeats, insisting they should still be applauded even if they lose every remaining game of the season.
This is echoed in the stands, with the Curva Bulgarelli having already declared their undying devotion to the players in the wake of the Chievo defeat, and committing to support them regardless of the season's outcome.
Perhaps in a campaign that went from pre-season promises of European qualification to severe mid-season doubts over the club's future, everyone at Bologna recognises the work Malesani and his young group of players have put in, and are happy to look to the future in a more realistic climate.