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Thursday February 18 2021
The secrets behind Spezia's success

Claiming the scalps of several top sides, Vincenzo Italiano’s Spezia are showing they belong in Serie A after their latest impressive win over title contenders Milan, writes Matt Santangelo.

Every year as Serie A welcomes its three newest entrants to the league, there is always plenty discussion about which of them has the most potential staying power.

It is never easy being the “new kid” in town as the rest of the field tends to circle the promoted sides on the calendar as opportunities to snatch up easy points in a long season. In 2020-21, however, Spezia have been anything but a pushover, claiming the scalps of some top sides and proving a worthy adversary on any givenmatch-day.

Of the three new contestants, Benevento seemed to embark on the most ambitious survival quest in their return to top flight under Pippo Inzaghi, executing a few shrewd signings in the summer to withstand potentially troubled waters. Then there is the Calabrese from Crotone who, with prior experience in the division, could perhaps look to navigate the league differently and take another approach to overcome a lack in firepower. For Spezia though, who earned promotion for the first time from Serie B via play-offs, the expectations weremixed.

Newly purchased by American owner Robert Platek, The Ligurian club’s wage bill is the current lowest of all Serie A sides and coach Vincenzo Italiano has only two previous seasons of experience to his name in the professional ranks prior to this one, the most notable being at Trapani.

In a squad with a healthy mixture of locally developed players and calcio journeymen, it would certainly take something extra special from the man in the dug-out to tie loose ends and employ a system that could ultimately obtain results. That is exactly what we have seen through 22 rounds.

Mister Italiano’s 4-3-3 emphasizes deploying a front three which will commit to pressing assignments that typically prove challenging to maintain after the initial stages of a match.

It becomes problematic when energy is depleted and the intensity is simply not there to preventthe opposition from building effectively beyond the initial wave. Unless there is a collective commitment to this, it it very difficult to stay in a match as passing lanes and space are often gaped open as a result of switching off.

While they have certainly experienced a fair share of trouble against some of the league’s top competitors, Italiano’s tactics have often kept the Aquilotti lingering around to scrap for results, or at the very least, make the opposition grind it out until the very end.

Notable league results include victories over Benevento (0-3), Napoli (1-2), Sassuolo (1-2) and the most recent a clean sheet of league leading Milan (2-0), while also suffering narrow defeats to Inter, Lazio and Roma that show their fighting spirit in the face of stronger sides.

One could attempt to highlight the individual exploits of Riccardo Saponara, Milan loanee Tommaso Poebga, Matteo Ricci, or academy graduates Simone Bastoni and Giulio Maggiore. But this is a side led by a manager who runs a squad out there who plays collectively for one another, without fear, and instead, encourages them to express themselves while adhering to a style of play that can be put to memory.

Sitting nine points clear of the drop in 13th, Spezia are the little fish in a large pond that while isn’t quite out of the woods just yet, shows tremendous belief in Italiano, his vision and approach to earning a spot at the dinner table for next season.

@Matt_Santangelo

Have your say...
It's the Spezia's that keep the so called bigger teams honest. Play badly and get spanked and that exactly what they did to Milan. They played well and did not just park the bus for the entire game. These are the kinds of displays that will keep improving the league and as fans we should be grateful.
on the 19th February, 2021 at 1:54am
These are some of the top players in Italy and Italy is one of the top footballing nations in the world. They're probably in the top 0.0000001% of footballers on the planet. The great thing about Spezia is that they play like they know that to be the case. They take the game to the big teams. And why not? If you put any players under pressure they'll struggle.
on the 19th February, 2021 at 12:49am
is all in the 60s to 70s is nonsense. There's no such thing really as a "world class players" since many players who have won "world class titles" were not "world class". That's certainly the case with about 3/4 of the 2006 World Cup winning side. Sure there are next level players (like Italy's spine of Buffon, Canavaro, Pirlo and Totti in that tournament) but they are, by definition, rare. This is all a roundabout way of saying anyone can beat anyone. Spezia can beat Milan. Of course they can.
on the 19th February, 2021 at 12:47am
I was watching the tennis the other night and one of the commentators made the point that the difference between the top 100 seeds and those outside the top 100 is sometimes consistency. Those outside the top 100 have got ability but they struggle to produce it point after point, game after game, set after set, match after match. I'd imagine there's something similar in football and most things. This notion that each player has a computer game like rating, and Juve are all in the 90s and Spezia
on the 19th February, 2021 at 12:43am
As the article says, along with Benevento, Spezia has been the best surprise in Serie A's lower half of the table, just as Parma & (especially, with such a strong squad & seemingly great coach) Cagliari! Many of us, true Calcio fans, would HATE 2 see these 2 clubs relegated, especially given the ambitious squad & stadium projects they have. But, given their terrible form, who's 2 say Spezia don't deserve Serie A spot?!
Hopefully da new owners will invest in stadium, players & other facilities!
on the 17th February, 2021 at 4:03pm

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