“It’s basically a different sport.” That’s what Crotone coach Giovanni Stroppa said when he was asked about the difference between Serie B and Serie A and in all honesty it’s hard to argue with him.
In each of the last four seasons at least two of the three promoted teams have been relegated back to Serie B immediately. A trend like this not only highlights just how big the leap between Italy’s first and second tier is, but should also serve as a warning for the newly promoted sides.
Therefore Benevento, Crotone and Spezia will be extremely busy during the short pre-season period, as each of the newly-promoted trio needs to improve rapidly in order to keep their place in the elite.
While Benevento and Crotone have previous experience in the top tier after reaching Serie A in 2017, and both clubs seem to be in good shape when it comes to organising the upcoming campaign, the same cannot be said about Spezia. Vincenzo Italiano’s men secured their place in Serie A thanks to their superior league position, as the Aquilotti lost the second leg of their play-off final against Frosinone 1-0, after winning the first one with the same result. With the score level at 1-1 on aggregate, Spezia were promoted for finishing higher up the table during the regular campaign.
Although both legs against Alessandro Nesta’s side were evenly-matched, Spezia have earned their promotion because of their consistency throughout the season. The Ligurian side finished third in Serie B, boosting the third best attack in the league, while also having the joint-second best defence alongside Crotone.
In fact, Italiano’s men were undoubtedly one of the most balanced teams in the second tier, despite their poor start, which saw them win only one of their first seven league games. However, the club decided to stick with their 42-year-old tactician and the decision paid off, as Spezia managed a 13-game unbeaten run before the lockdown.
However, while the faith the management showed in Italiano’s ability can be considered reason for optimism before the start of Spezia’s first ever Serie A campaign, it’s hard to find many more arguments on how the debutants can keep their place in the elite next term.
While Spezia have a decent team, the Ligurians need to keep the current core and at the same time add more Serie A know-how to their ranks. Only five players from Spezia’s current team have scored a goal in Italy’s top tier, while only Simone Scuffet, Antonio Ragusa, Luigi Vitale, Antonio Di Gaudio, Federico Ricci and Bulgarian forward Andrey Galabinov have any notable Serie A experience. Therefore, new and more experienced additions will be sorely needed.
Another huge problem that Spezia need to sort out quickly is with the players that were loaned to the Ligurian outfit, as many of their key performers have now returned to their parent clubs. Scuffet, Ragusa, Vitale, Di Gaudio, Ricci and M’bala Nzola were all temporary signings, which means that at this moment in time Spezia’s squad is even more limited, while their Serie A experience is almost non-existent.
Ragusa, Nzola and Ricci have been responsible for almost 30% of Spezia’s goals last term, so without them, the Aquilotti lose a significant portion of their attacking strength. Of course, the expectations are that the club will do everything possible to secure the majority of those players for the upcoming campaign, but with very limited time and finances, this will be tough.
On the other hand, the sheer number of loan operations that Spezia needs to deal with will limit the club’s ability to strengthen in other areas, which is equally important. Italiano managed to create a strong and united team after his appointment in 2019, but the truth is much more is needed in Serie A and the future of half his squad is now uncertain.
This is a club that went bankrupt in 2008 and had to start again from scratch in Serie D, funded by wealthy businessman Gabriele Volpi. They got back into Serie B in 2013 and reached the promotion play-offs six times in seven years to finally get through. Spezia won’t initially be able to play their home games at the Stadio Picco, because it does not meet Serie A guidelines and needs restructuring work.
Spezia’s promotion will go down in the history books, but the Bianconeri need to do extraordinary things on the field and, even more importantly off it, if they want to make their dream last longer than a single season.
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