Coppa Italia: Quarter-final / Team rating: [3/10] / Top scorer: Andrea Belotti (16) / Europe: Europa League play-offs
Torino’s season was on a downward slide from the moment they lost the Europa League play-off and never recovered, writes Owen Diana.
Hope abounded for Torino when their campaign began last July. The Granata were back in the Europa League for the first time since an inspired run to the Round of 16 in 2014-15. Yet, a season that promised so much has turned into a huge let-down for one of Italy’s most historic clubs.
Their European dreams were shattered before the end of August. The play-off elimination at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers seemed to affect Toro, who could not recapture the form that made them such an effective unit under Walter Mazzarri in 2018-19.
Nevertheless, their battling display in a tightly-contested derby defeat to Juventus at the beginning of November brought about an uptick in results. Torino won five of their next eight matches to put themselves back into contention for a Europa League spot. The Granata had rediscovered their mojo, but only for a short while.
In the midst of that early winter hot streak, few could have imagined the nightmare second half of the season that awaited. The seven-time Italian champions seemed set for the drop following a shameful sequence of six consecutive losses before the lockdown. Mazzarri left by mutual consent in the middle of that stretch, allowing former Toro midfielder Moreno Longo to take over.
Performances have hardly improved since the restart. A limp 4-1 submission to their city rivals in early July was particularly deflating. Were it not for wins over fellow strugglers Udinese, Brescia and Genoa, Toro would be staring down the barrel of an unexpected relegation. A squad containing the likes of Andrea Belotti, Salvatore Sirigu and Simone Zaza should not need to wait until Week 36 to secure safety. This season from hell will not end with a demotion to the underworld of Serie B, but that is just about the only positive for Toro fans.
The Coach – Walter Mazzarri/Moreno Longo
After guiding Torino to a laudable seventh place in his first full campaign, Walter Mazzarri’s reputation around Santa Rita could not have been stronger. Despite a respectable first half of the season, the Livorno-born mister could not overcome the shocking back-to-back drubbings by Atalanta and Lecce. The former Napoli and Inter boss departed just a few days on from the 4-0 reverse at the Stadio Via del Mare. Although he holds close ties to the club, Longo has done little to suggest that he deserves to be in charge long-term and has already been let go.
Player of the Year - Andrea Belotti
The star turn in a severely under-performing group, Belotti showed flashes of the forward that drew interest from the likes of Milan and Chelsea during a magical 2016-17. He did not approach the 26-goal haul that nearly crowned him Capocannoniere a few years back, but 16 strikes in 35 games is the second-best return of the ex-Palermo hitman’s career. Belotti’s showings are all the more impressive considering the lack of help he has up front. Torino have the league’s 16th-best attack with just 45 goals scored. Il Gallo has also been unlucky, striking the woodwork on six occasions.
Highlight – Upsetting Atalanta
Only three days on from their Europa League elimination, Mazzarri’s troops visited Atalanta’s improvised Ennio Tardini home in Round 2 of Serie A action. With the previous season’s exploits still fresh in the memory, Toro retained an ability to duke it out with the peninsula’s heavyweights. They went down 2-1 early in the second half to a breath-taking solo special from Duvan Zapata. Undeterred, I Granata responded with goals from Alex Berenguer and Armando Izzo to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory that kept them in the rarefied air of third spot through the international break.
Nightmare – La Dea take revenge
When Atalanta traveled to the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino on January 25, Torino sat ninth in the table and had their eyes on a second consecutive European qualification. By the end of perhaps the darkest night in the club’s history, the Granata had dropped to 12th after receiving a beating they are yet to recover from. The 7-0 final score, which included a spectacular Josip Ilicic hat-trick, was bad enough. However, the visitors could have had 10 were it not for some smart Sirigu saves. Mazzarri was out within ten days, leaving Torino in the midst of a skid towards the relegation zone.
Did You Know?