Coppa Italia: Third Round / Team rating: 6 / Top scorer: Paloschi (9)
Terrific defensive play kept Rolando Maran’s Chievo in Serie A for the seventh consecutive season and more than made up for the League’s worst attack, writes Chris Smith.
Goals change games, or so the saying goes. And yet for Chievo’s seventh consecutive season of Serie A safety, the Flying Donkeys managed only 28 of them, the worst goalscoring haul by a team to avoid relegation in eight years. Rolando Maran’s men stuck to their tried-and-tested formula, relying on an organised and aggressive defence that limited opponents to only 41 goals.
Club captain Dario Dainelli joined Bostjan Cesar, Nicolas Frey and Ervin Zukanovic in anchoring that defensive unit, which boasted the fourth-best goals against record in Serie A. With an average age of almost 32, the back four possessed plenty of experience to make up for their lack of pace. Veteran Alessandro Gamberini provided cover from the bench.
In midfield, Chievo relied on Ivan Radovanovic and Mariano Izco to clog the middle of the park in Maran’s preferred 4-4-2 formation. Valter Birsa, Ezequiel Schelotto and Perparim Hetemaj all saw significant playing time in wide positions, with on-loan Inter starlet Ruben Botta providing a burst of pace from the bench.
Up top, Alberto Paloschi and Sergio Pellissier provided a handful of goals each, with nine and seven respectively. Paloschi’s excellent form at the end of the season yielded a call-up to Antonio Conte’s preliminary squad to face Croatia in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Riccardo Meggiorini chipped in with four goals and four assists, and served as an aerial target for crosses and long balls over the top.
Tactically, the Flying Donkeys played slow, physical football, dominating in aerial duels in both defence and attack and yet content to concede possession. Their average possession of 40 per cent ranked last in Serie A. Radovanovic and Izco are both known more for their toughness than technical ability, and as such Maran’s men struggled to keep possession and play the ball along the pitch. Still, while their football may not have been beautiful, it was staggeringly effective, and despite an awful goalscoring haul they finished comfortably in 14th.
After taking over for Eugenio Corini in Week 8, Maran faced a difficult task - achieve safety with a squad that’d managed only four points in seven matches. Maran’s reorganised defence kept five clean sheets in his first ten matches, and it’s no wonder Chievo have re-signed him to a three-year contract extension after he secured safety with several games remaining in the season.
When the League’s fourth-best defence makes up for its worst attack and secures Serie A football for yet another season, it’s hard not to respect the veteran. In 30 appearances, the centre-back lent his invaluable experience to his club. At the age of 35, Dainelli more than made up for his lack of pace with his impressive ability to read the game, run the offside trap and make crucial tackles.
- Chievo’s 28 goals scored are the fewest by a squad to achieve Serie A safety since 2007, when Torino managed 27.
- Matches in which Chievo played saw a total of 69 goals this season - the fewest since 2005, when Bologna were involved in only 69 as well.
- Chievo’s defence caught opponents offside an average of 3.4 times per game, by far the most in Serie A.
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