Walter Mazzarri arrived in Turin, by his own admission, emotional yet motivated. He indicated that he felt the essence of what it is to be Granata and that for him this was the perfect fit.
The 56-year-old Coach has divided opinion, from Livorno to Watford and probably even before, but when it works for him, it can produce impressive and expansive football. Since his arrival, results would argue that this could be a meeting of minds, but with the Derby Della Mole on the horizon he now has the chance to cement himself into the hearts of the Toro faithful.
Torino President Urbano Cairo was quite clear about why he had appointed his new Coach. He had invested significantly in the squad over the summer and yet Sinisa Mihajlovic had let him down. In early January, they were four points worse off than the season before and he cited poor football and a lost dressing room that eventually forced his hand.
Mazzarri, he went on to say, had been a target since 2007 when the pair met in Milan and had a very late night talking. He pointed out that his times at Reggina (where he kept them up on numerous occasions) and of course his time at Napoli, for where he is perhaps best remembered, made the choice easy for him.
So far, Cairo has been proved right. In the five games since the new ‘Mister’ took charge, he remains unbeaten. Bologna were thrashed 3-0, followed by a 1-1 away draw with Sassuolo, a 3-0 win against Benevento, 1-1 versus Sampdoria and a 2-0 victory over a resurgent Udinese.
It is evident that the players seem uplifted by the appointment, confirmed when a number of them visited him in the hotel he was staying at straight after he was hired. Mazzarri was firmly in the mindset that he had inherited a strong group of players and that now, he could set about coaching them and trying to find the best way to make them productive on the field.
In the opening games Mazzarri’s fluid version of 4-3-3 seemed to work well with the parts that he had been given. Straight away against Bologna, his team created a lot more chances than they had been doing under Mihajlovic, spent less time on the ball and would release shots sooner from in and outside the box. They moved the ball around quickly, even more impressively they stole the ball off Bologna time and time again and had an emphasis on getting the ball out wide and looking to cross.
This has been a continued theme throughout the early games, but like any team and certainly any Mazzarri team, they are not without fault. Playing in this expansive way (like his early days at Napoli) they have seen themselves caught offside too much. Individual errors are something that he must focus on, as Juventus offer little in sympathy in most games, but especially in the Derby della Mole.
Tactically the Derby will be fascinating, as it is unlikely that Mazzarri will temper his approach. Toro are at home and under a new Coach who has three straight wins at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino under his belt, suggesting they will not sit back. Juventus will certainly be able to handle this and will look to profit on the individual errors. The game could be enthralling, especially as there is an argument to say that – as confirmed by Tottenham midweek – The Old Lady are not without mistakes themselves.
Mazzarri has been at times accused of trying to force round pegs into square holes, just ask any Nerazzurri fan, but if you give him the right toys to play with, then all can be well for a time. At the moment he is riding a wave and they are a force to be reckoned with, so there is certainly a chance he could soon be a cult figure if he guides them to a derby victory.
Not many after all get to take Torino into this fixture, still unbeaten and knowing that a victory could prevent the Old Lady from retaining the Scudetto. In one fell swoop, he could be legend in Turin and Naples.