Coppa Italia: Round of 16 / Team rating: [7/10] / Top scorer: Andrea Belotti (15) / Europe: N/A
For the fourth time in five years, Torino finished in the top half of the table, but Walter Mazzarri will be disappointed after missing out on European football yet again, writes Michael Barbaro.
Torino certainly made steps forward compared to last season and even hit a new record in the era of three points for a win, but it still wasn’t enough to qualify for Europe, unless of course Milan bow out over Financial Fair Play violations.
After losing Antonio Barreca to Monaco, they still boasted a great team with Salvatore Sirigu, Nicolas N’Koulou and Andrea Belotti starting the majority of games. The trio often put in hardworking shifts in an attempt to help their team find consistency. Armando Izzo was brought into the squad, as Walter Mazzarri intended to create a dynamic defensive partnership with N’Koulou, and it worked well with 15 clean sheets, the most since 1991-92.
Roberto Soriano was also brought in to help stabilise the midfield, but his loan spell from Villarreal was cut short in January and he joined Bologna from the Spanish outfit for the remainder of the campaign.
Simone Zaza also joined the club, finding the net just four times in 28 appearances. Toro must now finalise their deal for Zaza, as his loan deal from Valencia included an obligation to buy the striker for €12m.
Although they conceded nine fewer goals than they did last season, they were not able to find the target as much as they’d hoped, despite their improved goal difference.
It will be a summer of what-ifs for Mazzarri on the Toro bench. Frustratingly for them, it was always a difficult task with the quality above them and also Atalanta’s rise to Champions League football - a feat Mazzarri will know that could very well have been his side. Roma and Milan endured disappointing, inconsistent campaigns and La Granata were unable to capitalise.
Nonetheless, it is onwards and upwards for Torino. The spine of their team remains intact and should they keep hold of Sirigu, N’Koulou, Izzo and Belotti, they are very well capable of having an even better season in 2019-20. Mazzarri insists that his side are only “two or three players away” from having a great team.
One would just feel that they were still as close as ever to a Europa League spot - four points to be exact - and fans of the club will be almost demanding an improved finish next season.
The Coach: Walter Mazzarri
Mazzarri will be ruing Torino’s failure to make the Europa League in arguably their best opportunity in a long time. While he still is regarded as one of Italian football’s best tacticians, he may have to deploy a change of formation and tactics next season in a last-ditch attempt to provide his team with a fresh spark.
Player of the Year: Andrea Belotti
Belotti finally remained relatively injury-free this season. He finished as Toro’s top scorer with 15 goals in his 38 appearances and seemed to rediscover some of the clinical form he hit in the 2016-17 campaign. Toro must keep hold of Il Gallo at any cost, as his departure could very well leave a massive hole in their attack.
Highlight: Torino 2-0 Milan
A sensational night in Turin saw them jump into sixth place following their dominant victory over the struggling Milan. Torino were on a five-game unbeaten run going into that showdown and it lasted two more weeks after this win. This was confirmation the Granata were stepping up a level.
Nightmare: Empoli 4-1 Torino
Their eight-game run came to a crashing halt at the hands of eventually relegated Empoli in their worst result of the season. The 4-1 loss at the Castellani meant that Europa League football was nothing more than a dream and once again they fell short.
Did you know?
- This was Torino’s highest finish in Serie A since the 2013-14 campaign, when they were also seventh.
- For the first time in 10 years, 63 points was not enough to qualify for Europe.
- The Granata conceded 37 goals this season, their best defensive performance since the 1993-94 season.