Following a disastrous seven-game spell at Milan, Marco Giampaolo is back on the bench in Serie A at Torino and seemingly intent on recreating his former teams in Turin. The transfer strategy so far has been based on familiarity, bringing in players he already knows and worked with in the past at Milan or Sampdoria.
The Granata have, for the lack of a better word, ‘settled’ for being a mid-table team with the outside chance of competing for a Europa League spot. President Urbano Cairo recruited the coach in the hope that he can possibly take the Piedmont club to the next level. On the other hand, Giampaolo will be attempting to rebuild his reputation after his stock fell dramatically following his stint at the San Siro.
It could be a match made in heaven or another disaster waiting to happen. At least the coach seems to have learned from his Rossoneri experience and using those lessons to lay some solid foundations straight away.
Giampaolo typically employs a 4-3-1-2 formation requiring all to be comfortable on the ball, his Trequartista to create and score, a regista to dictate the tempo of play and his full-backs to push forward. So far the club have acquired Ricardo Rodriguez from Milan and Standard Liege talent Mergim Vojvoda. Both full-backs are expected to support the attack, while not neglecting their defensive duties.
The Milan experience ended practically as soon as it had begun because Giampaolo strayed from his formula. After a full pre-season using one system, he lost the debut 1-0 at Udinese and promptly declared it wasn’t working. The next six games were non-stop tinkering, suggesting the entire summer had been a waste of time. Unlike Milan, Toro have made it very clear they hired Giampaolo for his vision and want him to follow it through. He’s not going to make the same mistake again and is determined at Torino to work with players who already know and appreciate his system.
That means plundering the archives of his old clubs, from Milan’s Rodriguez to ex-Sampdoria midfielder Karol Linetty, with bids for Lucas Biglia, Rade Krunic, Dennis Praet and Joachim Anderson. The idea is to seek familiarity, especially when the pre-season period is shorter than ever before, and recreate his successful Samp dynamic.
Argentine Biglia's contract with the Rossoneri came to an end at the end of last campaign and he has reportedly already had a medical with Torino. Should the 34-year old's move become official, he could be the deep-lying play-maker that Giampaolo requires at the base of his midfield. Bosnian Krunic is well aware of Giampaolo, as he worked with the 53-year-old at Empoli for a year and his career took a step up both in quality and consistency during their time together in Tuscany.
Linetty was one of the mainstays in his Sampdoria line-up, playing 102 games and garnering seven goals from his central midfield position.
There is even hope Giampaolo can finally get the best out of Simone Verdi, an undoubtedly talented player who has fallen badly by the wayside since leaving Bologna in 2018. Unable to find his role in systems at Napoli or Torino, perhaps he can be the trequartista the coach is looking for. Confidence means everything to the 28-year-old, who lately hasn’t even seemed able to take a free kick properly.
The main criticism levelled at Giampaolo in his brief tenure at Milan was his inability to communicate effectively with the players, both on a tactical and human basis. It was even an issue at Samp, where captain Fabio Quagliarella mentioned that he barely spoke to the manager in three campaigns at Marassi. Has he learned from this potential deficiency in his managerial personality?
The current squad is relatively young, with many in their mid-20's, with only regular goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu being over 30. Even captain Andrea Belotti is 26. With so many players in their prime or on the verge of it, Giampaolo will need to connect with his players more effectively to get his methods and ideas of playing football across. Having several players who already know all that will help ease the process along.
Away from the pressure that comes with being under the spotlight of the San Siro, Giampaolo has an opportunity to lay the foundations of his Toro team, or at least get more than seven games to do so. The club has taken a leap of faith with him, the President has invested in the transfer market, so now it's time for Giampaolo to grab this opportunity with both hands.