As Juventus eased to a sixth consecutive Scudetto, the real story of the 2016-17 campaign was the great escape achieved by lowly Crotone. Davide Nicola’s history makers battled against the odds all season before a run of six wins from the final nine matches ensured the Calabrese kept their top flight status.
This remarkable feat came at the expense of an Empoli side who totally capitulated, losing 11 of the final 15 domestic fixtures. Fast forward 12 months, and the roles have reversed. The two clubs are now going in different directions and the 2018-19 season should offer much optimism for the Azzurri.
Empoli, of course, bounced back to the big time at the first time of asking, and the turning point was undoubtedly the managerial change in mid-December. Outgoing Coach Vincenzo Vivarini had his men fifth in the table until President Fabrizio Corsi gave the 51-year-old his marching orders. Successor Aurelio Andreazzoli subsequently took over and the Blues have not looked back since.
Corsi has a good track record with managerial appointments and was responsible for hiring Maurizio Sarri and Marco Giampaolo, two of the country’s most revered trainers, and all signs suggest Andreazzoli will continue the impressive coaching path in Florence.
Under the former Roma assistant’s guidance, Empoli went on a quite astonishing 23-game unbeaten run beating off the likes of Parma, Frosinone and Palermo to top spot and, really, promotion should be just the beginning for the exciting Blues.
In Andreazzoli, Empoli have a tactician who played a pivotal role alongside Luciano Spalletti, as the pair developed the lone front man system that has exploded over the last decade. While Spalletti earned the plaudits, it was Andreazzolli who went under the radar, but is now flourishing in his own right.
The Massa native instantly improved the squad from front to back and none more so than striking duo Francesco Caputo and Alfredo Donnarumma. The pair hit a combined 49 efforts, eclipsing the 46 strikes shared by two of Italy’s leading stars Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne while at Pescara in 2011-12. If the Firenze based outfit are to be comfortable this coming term, the forwards will once again be integral.
Empoli can look to Atalanta, a modest side that is run impeccably, using a sound recruitment model. The Bergamo club enjoyed European football this campaign and only narrowly missed out for the coming term, but continue to prove they can compete with the riches in the league.
The Azzurri have lofty ambitions of their own. With a new stadium on the horizon, the club should be geared towards a sustained period in Italy’s premier division and can look forward to a bright future with a comfortable mid-table finish a realistic target.
Image via empolicalcio.net