Whilst Sinisa Mihajlovic, Max Allegri and Stefano Pioli all impressed in 2014-15, Sam Bridges explains why the Grifone boss deserves the accolades.
The 2014-15 season has seen something of a revival for Serie A. Suddenly Italian sides are picking up in continental competition, whilst head-to-head meetings between the top clubs have been as close, even though Juventus eventually strolled to the title.
As the top sides have improved, so has everyone else - with the exception of Parma. Sampdoria and Genoa blew us away with a push for third place and found similar levels to Napoli and Fiorentina, something that last summer seemed years away.
Although Sinisa Mihajlovic has put his career trajectory back in the right direction after a turbulent spell with Fiorentina, and has also revived a number of talents including Luis Muriel, it is Gian Piero Gasperini who deserves the Coach of the Season title for 2014-15.
Last season Genoa lay in 14th place, and had looked set to move further down this term. Game after game they looked abject and incapable of hitting the heights of that remarkable 2008-09 campaign ever again.
But Gasperini has changed all that, he has found success with a 3-4-3 formation and completely defied the Italian stereotype. He has also overseen the rise of Mattia Perin, who looks set to be Italy’s next superstar, while he has also salvaged the career of Iago Falque, who now looks like one of Serie A’s finest wingers.
Although he has been back in charge of the Grifone since 2013, Gasp is living proof that a Coach needs time. When re-hired, the objective was to avoid relegation and then think about breaking into Serie A’s top half, but after only two years a solid investment in the squad this summer could see Genoa push for a Champions League spot once again.
Gasp has found success with a three-man defence, which although seemingly past its heyday in the peninsula, he has a different take on. It has led to the development of Andrea Bertolacci, who has emerged as one of the League’s best trequartistas, and while he has moved Juraj Kucka to a deeper role to accommodate the former Roma man, the Slovakian has flourished alongside new recruit Tomas Rincon.
His tactical plan has also seen the re-emergence of Facundo Roncaglia, and Nicolas Burdisso has found a new lease of life. Genoa may have finished the season with a 3-1 loss to Saussuolo, but a Europa League place had already been secured. His success isn’t built on bullying smaller teams - indeed, either side of a 4-1 win at Atalanta, the results that secured Europe for the Grifone included a 5-1 demolition over Torino and a 3-2 win against Inter.
These games also highlighted the versatility and options at Gasp’s disposal. The Coach deployed Tino Costa further up the pitch against Torino to take advantage of his passing and shooting accuracy, and the former Valencia man scored twice and assisted Bertolacci.
Against Inter he played Maxime Lestienne and Iago Falque as orthodox wingers and Leonardo Pavoletti as a sole No 9 and the former Sassuolo man scored Genoa’s equaliser and hit the woodwork twice.
Gasperini has proved to have tactical nous and good man management skills, he has experience and knows the Genoa squad inside and out. Where the 57-year-old and the club go from here will be crucial.
As last year's Coach of the Season Rudi Garcia has demonstrated with Roma, once teams work you out, you need to be able to react.