Coppa Italia: Round 4 / Team rating: [7/10] / Top scorer: Francesco Caputo (21) / Europe: N/A
They took a while to get into gear, but Roberto De Zerbi had Sassuolo playing some fantastic football by the end of the season, writes Michelle Bonsu.
It was a solid season overall for Sassuolo, who failed to qualify for the Europa League, but ended up finishing in a creditable eighth place. The Neroverdi did endure a rocky first part of the term, kicking things off with a poor showing against Torino, and in fact had won just three games by the time December rolled around. Still, despite not fully kicking into gear, they managed to nick a point off reigning Scudetto holders Juventus and keep Milan to a scoreless stalemate at their opponents’ home grounds.
By the time 2020 rolled around, Roberto De Zerbi’s men finally started to pull their act together, notably getting revenge on both Torino and Roma for their early season defeats by beating them both by the exact same scoreline (2-1 and 4-2, respectively). The lockdown did come at a tricky time, however. Sassuolo had just started to really get up and running, and naturally, there were worries that a lengthy pause could see the team lose their rhythm once the season picked up months later.
Any concerns that the COVID-19 induced break would interrupt their stride were quickly abated, although the Neroverdi were no match for a free-scoring Atalanta, who have simply been unstoppable this term, they showed great fortitude and mettle to ferociously battle their way to a point against Inter, thus continuing their record of being a bogey side for the Nerazzurri. Save for two minor bumps in defeats to Milan and Napoli, the team were able to wrap up the campaign on a good note. Overall, the feeling is that had Sassuolo started off the term the way they ended it, they certainly would have made a good case for a Europa League spot.
Unlike in prior seasons where the team were overly-dependent on Domenico Berardi, who could blow hot and cold due to injuries and indiscipline, this time around Sassuolo also had other options up front to support and help lead the line. New acquisition Francesco Caputo proved to be a huge hit at the Mapei stadium, and youngster Jeremie Boga also had a standout season, as he finally broke double digits in terms of goals for the first time in his budding career.
The Coach – Roberto De Zerbi
Now in his sophomore term on the bench for Sassuolo, Roberto De Zerbi can certainly be proud of his efforts during the 2019-2020 campaign. The Neroverdi improved on their 11th-placed finish from his debut season in charge, and while they weren’t able to earn a European football berth, the future does look bright under his tenure. He was able to fully integrate new signing Caputo into the squad and still use Berardi’s talents wisely, but above all got them playing a very attractive, technically strong and possession-based football that has some calling them the next Atalanta.
Player of the Year – Francesco Caputo
In past seasons, the star of the team has been Domenico Berardi, but this time around, the spotlight has now been moved to Francesco Caputo. That’s not to say that Berardi didn’t contribute to Sassuolo’s efforts – he was very much involved at various points when healthy – but Caputo stood head and shoulders above the rest. Impressively, only Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, Juve’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Inter’s Romelu Lukaku were more prolific in front of goal than the experienced striker, who had spent much of his career diligently honing his craft in Serie B before being signed by Sassuolo at the start of this season.
Highlights – Juventus thriller
Since bursting onto the Serie A scene in 2013, Sassuolo have built their reputation as a “giant killer” side, and this season was no exception. Arguably, one of their best games was against Juventus. In their first meeting in Turin, De Zerbi’s side left with a point in hand, but could’ve won that match. In the second meeting at Sassuolo’s home base, the Neroverdi fought their way back into the game from 2-0 down to 3-2 up, taking advantage of sloppy play by Maurizio Sarri’s side and were so close to earning what would have been a deserved victory. Although they had to settle for a point, they successfully avoided defeat – both home and away – to the Scudetto winners this season.
Nightmare – VAR frustration
Despite it overall being a pretty solid campaign for Sassuolo, there were some terrible moments for the plucky club.
Sassuolo and their fans certainly will not want to remember the team’s match against Napoli that was played on July 25 at the Stadio San Paolo anytime soon. During that game, the Neroverdi had not one, not two, but four goals disallowed. Not surprisingly, the visitors ended up losing that game 2-0, and not shockingly, they were left feeling quite frustrated.
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