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Monday May 27 2019
In praise of SPAL and Semplici

While Atalanta grabbed all the headlines and plaudits, Elio Salerno argues Leonardo Semplici’s SPAL deserve more credit for an incredible story.

Leonardo Semplici has worked wonders at SPAL and what he has achieved can be seen as a minor miracle in the shadow of Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta.

Semplici was appointed in December 2014 with the club struggling in the third division and has since played a pivotal role in helping turn their fortunes around.

Promotion to Serie B followed his first full season in charge and then at the first attempt they achieved what was deemed unthinkable, a dramatic promotion to Serie A for the first time in 49 years.

The fact that the Biancazzurri were on the brink of administration in 2013 makes this story all the more special. SPAL’s presence in Serie A was expected to be short-lived, but Semplici had other ideas. Not only have they secured safety for a second consecutive year, SPAL have sat soundly in mid-table during recent weeks.

Adopting a familiar 3-5-2 formation, SPAL are a team with variety. Out of possession they are prepared to press bravely and intensely, but are equally happy in retreating into a compact block, showing tactical discipline with a tireless work ethic. This togetherness and cumulative working underpin their success. However, they are far from a team that relies on defensive solidity to pick up points.

Gli Spallini are expansive when going forward. Using width and depth to stretch the opposition, they favour short, sharp vertical passes to progress play through the pitch. This commitment to a dynamic attacking style in possession makes for enjoyable viewing.

Wing-back Manuel Lazzari - who has been at the club since its merger with Giacomense in 2013 - has continually progressed under Semplici. Lazzari’s eight assists from the right flank are equal to that of Cristiano Ronaldo and Papu Gomez.

Another player also benefitting from playing under Mister Semplici is Andrea Petagna. Signed in the summer he has registered an impressive 16 goals – four times his tally last season with Atalanta.

SPAL have the second lowest wage bill in the league and have acted frugally on the transfer market, bringing together a nice blend of youth and experience. Former Fiorentina academy tactician Semplici is perhaps not the most glamorous option for Coach of the Year, but he is as deserving as anyone else in Serie A.

Impressively completing a double over Roma whilst also beating Juventus and Lazio at the Stadio Paolo Mazza, SPAL are punching well above their weight. The side from Emilia-Romagna are a rarity in modern football, a small club rescued from obscurity that are now mixing it with the big boys. Intelligently run by President and passionate fan Walter Mattioli, he will be hoping Serie A’s giants do not come calling for the accomplished Leonardo Semplici.

Have your say...
Great story, I like their approach and hope they continue to be successful. Had the opportunity to attend SPAL/Cagliari this year at the Stadio Paolo Mazza, really good small stadium environment and the curva never sat down and never quit singing. Good stuff!
on the 29th May, 2019 at 7:21pm
That's awesome, let's hope the atmosphere in Bologna is electric for that Spain match. No coincidence that this region should be host for those matches. The FIGC should give other incentives to these clubs if they are committed to playing our youth. Think of those colorful local derbies showcasing homegrown talent. Good for the league and our game.
on the 29th May, 2019 at 7:30am
I am Laziale but have been a big fan of FC Emilia Romagna all season. Glad they all stood up. Will be in Bologna in a few weeks watching the Unders. Let's go!
on the 28th May, 2019 at 7:10pm
There is an Italian Renaissance happening in Emilio-Romagna. Clubs like Spal, Bologna, Parma and Sassuolo have all shown a commitment to developing Italian youth unlike the "big" clubs who treat them like expendable commodities. Bologna just bought Orsolini outright from Juventus and this indicates for me the priorities of both clubs. If we are to win a world cup in the future with the amazing talent we have coming up it'll be thanks to these clubs in large part. Forza Emilio-Romangna!!
on the 28th May, 2019 at 5:36pm
Similar story to Bournemouth. Hope they can do what they do. A cool name to say and a beautiful kit.
on the 28th May, 2019 at 2:49pm
Yes, they deserve to survive in Serie A. SPAL is quite dynamic in all of their games. Maybe the defensive line must be improved.
on the 27th May, 2019 at 5:47pm
Imagine even more exciting if it was an 18 team league. ...Frosione and Chievo were utter garbage and irreverent entire season other than gifting all other teams points.
on the 27th May, 2019 at 5:15pm

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