Coppa Italia: Third Round / Team rating: 7.5 / Top scorer: Maccarone (13)
A season bookended by poor form disguises what has been a relatively successful campaign for Empoli, writes Dave Stacey.
Considering the massive upheaval Empoli suffered in the summer, this has been a season of some success for the Azzurri. First they lost their Coach Maurizio Sarri to Napoli, before he returned to take star playmaker Mirko Valifiori and full-back Elsied Hysaj south. Then defensive lynchpin Daniele Rugani was recalled by Juventus, leaving new Coach Maro Giampaolo with several key headaches in his first role in Serie A since failure with Cesena in 2011. Key new signings Lukasz Skorupski, Riccardo Saponara, Leandro Paredes and Andrea Costa arrived to play a big part in steadying the ship.
Things looked bleak for Empoli after a run of just two wins in their opening eight league games and an early cup exit to lower league Vicenza. Victory over Sassuolo at the Castellani in early October surprisingly kick-started a run of form which led to premature talk of a European challenge, with the Azzurri securing eight wins and two draws in 13 games. Just three wins were picked up in their final 20 rounds, however, including a run of four consecutive defeats, left fans wondering what might have been.
Whilst Lorenzo Tonelli and Saponara gained all the plaudits and calls for national selection, it was veteran hitman Massimo Maccarone who once more shone brightest, top scorer for the second season in a row with 13 goals and contributing a further five assists. Despite that, a key area for improvement is goal scoring, Empoli being the least prolific side in the top 13.
The Tuscans finish the season four points and four places better off from last year, but with Coach Giampaolo already confirming his end of season exit and Tonelli joining Sarri at Napoli, another summer of upheaval beckons. At least they’ll have the experience of this season to fall back on. Can the Azzurri repeat their heroics in 2016-17?
Somewhat of a surprise choice to replace Sarri, Giampaolo got off to an awful start but quickly steadied the ship and got the Azzurri playing some pleasing football before tailing off towards the end. He has already announced he’s walking away, with Milan heavily linked.
The summer returnee from Milan confounded all expectations, finishing the season with five goals and 11 assists as the creative hub of the Empoli team. Now linked with a host of bigger clubs and with a place in the national squad for the European Championships.
- If Empoli lose their opening away game of the 2016-17 campaign they will equal the Serie A club record of seven consecutive away defeats.
- Manuel Pucciarelli’s return of six Serie A goals this term is his personal best.
- The club clocked up four consecutive victories for the first time ever in Serie A with Lazio, Verona, Carpi and Bologna put to the sword in November and December.
|4||D||Andrea Costa||23 (1)||1||-|
|11||D||Vincent Laurini||24 (1)||1||1|
|20||D||Marco Zambelli||13 (6)||-||-|
|21||D||Luca Bittante||3 (13)||-||-|
|6||M||Lenadro Paredes||29 (4)||2||1|
|7||M||Riccardo Saponara||32 (1)||5||11|
|15||M||Raffaele Maiello||4 (8)||-||-|
|17||M||Marcel Buchel||18 (10)||2||1|
|18||M||Daniele Croce||19 (9)||-||1|
|22||M||Assane Diousse||9 (6)||-||-|
|23||M||Rade Krunic||5 (10)||1||-|
|25||M||Franco Signorelli||0 (1)||-||-|
|10||F||Massimo Maccarone||35 (2)||13||5|
|14||F||Manuel Pucciarelli||33 (5)||6||3|
|26||F||Marko Livaja||4 (14)||1||-|
|27||F||Alessandro Piu||2 (8)||-||-|
|28||F||Levan Mchedlidze||2 (11)||-||-|