After missing relegation by a whisker last season, Chievo have kept faith with Eugenio Corini and significantly reinforced their squad. Tony Ciriello explores the emerging new face of the Flying Donkeys.
In many ways Chievo are one of the anomalies of Italian football. In spite of being the much smaller cousin of Hellas Verona, since 2001 Chievo have spent all but one season in Serie A and even qualified for the Champions League and UEFA Cup. Recent seasons have seen the Gialloblu slip down the table, though, and avoid relegation by smaller and smaller margins. Last season was closer than most before, and heading into the summer, they needed to rejuvenate the side. It appears that’s exactly what President Luca Campedelli and Co have done.
Above all, the club has stuck with former player and Coach Eugenio Corini, handing him a new contract early on, enabling him to have the whole summer to mould his team to his favoured style. That would appear to be a return to the expansive and exciting football that brought Chievo such success over a decade ago, with signings such as Mariano Izco, Maxi Lopez, Valter Birsa and Riccardo Meggiorini. These have been complemented by some seemingly shrewd acquisitions, with experienced defender Alessandro Gamberini from Napoli and emerging talent Cristiano Biraghi from Inter.
It is expected that Chievo will line up in a 4-3-1-2 system with Birsa operating in a trequartista role behind Riccardo Meggiorini and Alberto Paloschi, in a squad that should now relieve the strain on veterans like Dario Dainelli and Sergio Pellissier, and youngster Paloschi, whose goals almost single-handedly determined last season in the club’s favour.
Pre-season form has been decidedly mixed with a 2-0 defeat to Serie B side Modena contrasted by a win over Al-Ahli and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Mixed signals make it difficult to call whether Chievo are successfully translating Corini’s philosophy on to the pitch.
Only time will tell if Chievo can reaffirm themselves as a competitive and secure fixture of Serie A football. Recent history says it’s possible for underdogs like Chievo to compete with the Serie A goliaths.
Former player and captain Eugenio Corini holds a special place in Chievo supporters’ hearts, as he led them to promotion from Serie B and subsequently into Europe. He had the pedigree as a player, but it remains to be seen whether he can replicate his achievements as a manager.
Birsa endured a tough spell at Milan, in and out of the team, but when he was on the pitch he showed himself to be a dynamic, attack minded player. He is still young at 28 and certainly has plenty more to contribute.
Chievo have made a number of sound signings but Birsa is one of the few below 30 and has experience of European football. In the 4-3-1-2 system he will be the one that Corini will rely on to link the play and work with the two strikers.
The 24-year-old burst on to the scene seven years ago with Milan, scoring with practically his first touch after coming on as a sub. Paloschi has said how he models himself on the Rossoneri’s current Coach Pippo Inzaghi, celebrations included it would seem. He hasn’t yet reached that potential, but it would take just a second strong season to follow-up last year’s work to get him on the radar.
BARDI; Sardo, Dainelli, GAMBERINI, BIRAGHI; Hetemaj, Radovanovic, Bentivoglio; BIRSA; Paloschi, MAXI LOPEZ
Based on their summer signings and the style of play Corini is striving to implement, Chievo should enjoy an improved season with a mid-table finish.
|Edilmar (Rio Ave)||D||Canini (Atalanta)||D|
|Seculin (Avellino)||GK||Bernardini (Livorno)||D|
|Farias (Sassuolo)||A||Agazzi (Milan)||GK|
|Papp (Astra Gurgiu)||D||Paredes (Roma)||M|
|Sestu (Sampdoria)||M||Drame (Atalanta)||D|
|Maxi Lopez (Sampdoria)||A||Thereau (Udinese)||A|
|Bardi (Inter via Livorno)||GK||Obinna (Lokomotiv Moscow)||A|
|Biraghi (Inter via Catania)||D||Guarente (Empoli)||M|
|Mangani (Nancy)||D||Rigoni (Palermo)||M|
|Birsa (Milan)||M||Claiton (Crotone)||D|
|Zukanovic (Gent)||D||Squizzi (Retired)||GK|
|Bellomo (Spezia via Torino)||M|