Hellas Verona Club Focus: Passion and Pragmatism
In a city visited by tourists from around the world in search of the romance and passion of Romeo and Juliet, Hellas Verona are more than happy to eschew the romance on the pitch but they’ve kept the passion in order to grind out the results needed to stay in the top flight.
Whilst such pragmatism is necessary for a team with the seventh smallest wage budget in the division, the shakiness shown at times last Sunday highlights the risks of being too negative.
The Gialloblu beat fellow Serie A new boys Sassuolo 2-0 at home and did so with what was essentially the same team as used in Serie B last season. Whilst the points picked up are vital there remain concerns over the Gialloblu’s performance given that the visitors were understandably disappointed to leave with nothing after they dominated the second half and failed to score only thanks to the performance of Verona keeper Rafael and the wastefulness of their own strikers.
After the game coach Andrea Mandorlini expressed his satisfaction with his players ability to hang on and sneak a win despite all the Sassuolo pressure.
“What suffering, but I am happy,” said Mandorlini to local Verona newspaper L’Arena.
“We played really well in the first quarter of an hour, we took the lead and could have doubled it.
“Then Sassuolo grew into the game but the group reacted.”
Whilst Mandorlini is understandably happy at his side’s ability to win through their heart and grit despite not playing especially well, he must be concerned at how difficult the Scaligeri made things for themselves and will be looking to learn from the problems in the performance.
The more attacking 4-3-3 that clearly caused the visitors problems in the opening 15 minutes transformed into a 4-5-1 once the Mastini took the lead but the side looked nervous and unconvincing as they sat back and took an all-out defence mentality. That allowed Sassuolo to dominate possession and lay siege to the Verona goal.
“We’ll say that it was a “four” and everyone else back,” joked Mandorlini about the formation to reporters when asked about his side’s defensive outlook.
Whilst the coach is right to appear positive in public considering that Verona have obtained a valuable six points from the first three games, he must surely be aware that the Gialloblu camping out desperately on the edge of their box will not always work and Mandorlini will hope that his side can see games through more comfortably.
One tactical success in the Sassuolo game was to tweak the formation and replace Massimo Donati with Jorginho in the centre of midfield. Jorginho was brought in to do the job he did last season in Serie B and he offered more defensive strength and adaptability than Donati and the Brazilian born 21-year-old did his job very well.
Verona looked at the best in the first 20 minutes when they pressed the opposition high up the pitch and Martinho’s goal came from the midfield three dispossessing Francesco Magnanelli in Sassuolo’s defence. These tactics were also effective against AC Milan when everyone in the midfield and the front line pressed and stopped the Rossoneri being able to get comfortable on the ball.
There were also some problems for the Mastini that were beyond their control. With Luca Toni out through injury the side appeared to lack a focal point in attack and missed the considerable aerial threat posed by the 36-year-old. Serie B’s top scorer in the 2012-13 season Daniele Cacia worked hard but missed a couple of clear-cut chances and the 30-year-old striker needs a Serie A goal to regain his confidence and form.
Overall, Verona did what they had to do against Sassuolo and won even if they were somewhat fortunate. The grit, heart and determination showed by the whole squad cannot be faulted and they are the qualities required of a team that is not the most technically gifted in the division. However, they would benefit from a slightly more confident mentality as they were too quick sit back once they went ahead and invited pressure. Managing to hang on desperately for the three points is a vital art, but Verona have looked at their best this season when they get in the faces of the opposition and make their lives difficult.
The Mastini now face two tricky trips to Piemonte to face Juventus and Torino. Against the champions, Verona can expect to have a very hard time and anything they pick up will be a bonus. The Torino tie will likely be much more competitive and Verona must carry on with the hard work they’ve showed in their first three games but must avoid being too cautious at the home of the Granata. And if Verona maintain their early season passion, their affair with Serie A will have a happier ending than that of Romeo and Juliet.