Sassuolo’s Serie A heaven has turned into a Serie A Hell
Much like the 2011/12 Serie B champions Pescara, Sassuolo are finding life in Serie A incredibly difficult after three weeks of action and three defeats.
Those defeats to Torino, Livorno and Hellas Verona, have seen the green and black give up eight goals while returning a mere one. Six of those given up came at the hands of the teams Sassuolo bested in the Serie B rankings last spring.
With the club’s next three games against Inter, Napoli and Lazio, it’s difficult to fathom when or if the Neroverdi will get their first win in their maiden Serie A voyage.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment the Neroverdi can achieve is surpassing Pescara’s 22 points from a season ago. A season in which the Delfini were unable to replicate their Serie B championship form, too.
Sassuolo have been on an upward trajectory since 2006 when the club won promotion to Serie C1. Their rise even saw one future Serie A Scudetto winning coach take up the reigns at the club. Massimiliano Allegri led the Neroverdi to Serie B in 2008 after two years in C1, and his time with the club ushered in coaching stints by current Bologna boss Stefano Pioli and Hellas Verona’s Andrea Mandorlini.
Consolidating their second-tier position since then, Sassuolo had wooed fans and pundits with their brand of football at a modest size. The club’s home stadium, the Stadio Enzo Ricci, is too small to host Serie A matches; or Serie B for that matter. This season the Neroverdi are playing their home matches at Lega Pro side Reggiana’s stadium, which holds around 21,000 spectators after previously playing at Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braglia.
The team’s current coach, Eusebio Di Francesco, may very well be out the door sooner than later as the team’s start has surely placed him in the coaching hot seat.
Di Francesco has been praised for his work with Sassuolo since he arrived in 2012. But with Sassuolo dead last in the Serie A, the club may act to try and prevent what looks like the inevitable.
Strangely, prior to the start of the season many picked Sassuolo to finish below their promoted brethren. This despite finishing top of Serie B last May, the retention of Di Francesco and star player Domenico Berardi. Though the team was unable to bring back last season’s 11 goal man Richmond Boakye. Boakye’s 21 goals in 63 matches over the course of two loan spells were a key ingredient to the club’s success.
But even without Boakye’s goals, Sassuolo have some experienced Serie A talent sprinkled throughout their squad that could give them the edge they need. Although several of those players have failed to fulfill their potential.
AC Milan reject Francesco Acerbi joined the club on a permanent deal over the summer. Joining him on loan from Inter was Ezequiel Schelotto, a player that forced former club Atalanta into selling him to Inter last January. That move turned out terribly for all parties sans Atalanta, and Schelotto ended last season as many writers’ pick for worst transfer of the season. He is now expected to improve the Neroverdi attack, but against Hellas Verona over the weekend, he looked inept at doing even the simplest things.
Other players with top-flight experience have joined the club on loan or permanent deals – Antonio Floro Flores, Luca Marrone, Reto Ziegler, Diego Farias – yet none of those players are good enough to augment the talent already on hand.
Much like Pescara a season ago, the step between Serie B and Serie A has been too great. Due to this, Di Francesco may pay the price for Sassuolo’s inability to attract the players to keep themselves up.
At 44-years of age, Di Francesco still has a long way to go in his coaching career. For both parties, coach and club, Sassuolo’s first season in Serie A will be a valuable lesson for both in the future.
Regardless of Sassuolo’s fate, nothing should be taken away from their remarkable story. A story that has seen the Emilia-Romagna club emerge from almost nowhere just seven seasons ago.