Solid if unspectacular, the Flying Donkeys can continue their rise with a few tweaks, writes Nick Valerio.
Chievo go into the new season buoyed by overachievement. The small Veronese outfit continue to perform above their means and can look forward to another season of sustained progress. Crucially, Coach Rolando Maran remains in charge, despite reported interest from Lazio and Atalanta.
Pre-season proved a useful exercise, though results were mixed. The Flying Donkeys comfortably dispatched their Serie D opponents, but struggled against more recognised sides such as Hoffenheim and Serie A counterparts Sampdoria.
On the transfer market, the club are still searching for further reinforcements. Alfredo Donnarumma, brother of Milan stopper Gianluigi, has been mooted as a signing, whilst Paul-José M'Poku has joined permanently following a successful spell on loan. The new faces who have arrived are much in keeping with the club's ethos: committed and hardworking. The captures of Mattia Bani and Fabrizio Danese should prove to be astute, even as back-ups to a defence which was ravaged by injury last season. Veteran club captain Dario Dainelli will need to be managed effectively as he enters the final stage of his career.
Significantly, Alberto Paloschi ended the season as the club's top goalscorer, even though the Italian forward left in the January transfer window. Having not been suitably replaced, this remains an area of weakness which needs to be addressed, with talismanic figure Sergio Pellissier struggling to shoulder the goalscoring burden.
As the new campaign fast approaches, the aim for the well-drilled and resilient Chievo squad is to cement their standing in mid-table. With resources at a minimum, the Flying Donkeys can rely on their passionate fanbase who continue to provide support while expectations are exceeded.
The former Chievo player and fan favourite can do no wrong. Adored by the natives, Maran is charged with continuing his fine progress so far. Whilst his side is effective, a criticism which has been aimed at the Italian is the predictability they possess. Perhaps an attacking Plan B may occasionally benefit.
Following Paloschi's departure, Birsa stepped up and took on the mantle of creator-in-chief. The Slovenian midfielder also scored some invaluable goals and will be tasked with continuing this form in to the new season. Birsa will be a main beneficiary if Maran opts to go with a more attacking set-up.
The veteran goalkeeper was decisive in keeping Palermo up last season, so will be hoping for slightly less pressure at the Bentegodi. He’s an old hand at dealing with relegation tussles and above all returns to the Chievo fold after three years away.
Inglese has been a Chievo owned player for six years, but only got his first real opportunity last season, having plied his trade in the lower divisions of Italian football. With the Azzurri entering a new era under Giampiero Ventura, the Lucera born forward should look to hit the ground running.
Surplus to requirements at parent club Liverpool, the talented Italian remains on the market. President Luca Campedelli has offered an escape route, but Balotelli appears more inclined to wait for further suitors to come forward before making a final decision. Audacious but admirable.
SORRENTINO; Cacciatore, Cesar, Gamberini, Gobbi; Birsa, Radovanovic, Castro, M'Poku; Meggiorini, Inglese