Published On: Wed, Jan 11th, 2017

Youthful exuberance proving its worth over experience in Serie A

Chievo were on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to Atalanta in round 19 with the Bergamo-based club making the Venetian side look like an Italian version of Dad’s Army.

Experience is something that is highly valued in Italy but Italian football has been bucking that trend this season.

Whether it is due to the squad restrictions introduced by the FIGC or Italy is just witnessing another golden generation emerge, faith in young talent has become more apparent in the 2016-17 Serie A campaign than in previous seasons.

One of the few teams persisting on veteran players are Chievo, who have a squad with an average age of 30.6 years, and they played against Atalanta on Sunday, whose squad has an average age of 26.4 years.

In the match preview in La Gazzetta dello Sport, the headline read, “Atalanta at the home of the grandfathers.” It also said that Ceo’s predicted starting line-up had played 1,584 more Serie A matches than the Orobici’s expected first 11.

La Dea showed the Flying Donkeys that experience is not everything and gave them a football lesson by demolishing them 4-1 on Sunday afternoon. More specifically, the ageing Gialloblu rearguard was humiliated by the youthful Nerazzurri attack.

Chievo tactician Rolando Maran placed his faith in defenders Alessandro Gamberini, Dario Dainelli, and Massimo Gobbi, who are all over 35 and played together at Fiorentina when Cesare Prandelli was the coach, and Nicolas Frey, who is also on the wrong side of 30 played at right-back.

In goal for Chievo was 37-year-old Stefano Sorrentino and although he cannot be completely faulted for the Atalanta onslaught, he had to witness his defence collapse in front of his eyes.

When the Mussi Volanti had possession their play was languid and unimaginative and 30-year-old attacking midfielder Valter Birsa was one of the exceptions by trying to provide some creativity in midfield.

Whenever Atalanta had the ball, though, they opened up the Chievo defence with quick and incisive passing as well as varied dribbling which involved trickery in some instances and direct running at defenders on other occasions.

Orobici coach Gian Piero Gasperini has brought the best out of 28-year-old winger Alejandro  ‘Papu’ Gomez, and once again the Argentine thrived in what he describes as his ‘false support striker’ role, scoring two goals. Gomez also had great support from starlets Andrea Conti, Leonardo Spinazzola, and his partner in attack Andrea Petagna, who are all 23 or younger.

Conti and Spinazzola started in the wing-back positions but they practically operated as out-and-out wingers against Chievo while Petagna is a centre-forward who works hard for the team and has great link-up play with his teammates, particularly with Gomez.

Gasperini’s team has been one of the surprise packets of the 2016-17 season, currently sixth in the Serie A table and they are just one point away from European qualification. Maran’s side are equal 10th with Udinese but they are a far cry from the Chievo dei Miracoli of the 2001-02 under Luigi Delneri.

For all their reliance on veterans, Chievo actually have a good youth academy. The primavera side were champions in 2013-14 and they are one point behind leaders Juventus in the Campionato Primavera Girone B.

From the victorious youth team of 2014, only Filippo Costa and Michele Troiani are in the Flying Donkeys’ senior squad, and from the current primavera team, Fabio Depaoli, Sofian Kiyine, and Emanuel Vignato were in Maran’s 23 on Sunday but only Kiyine got on the field at the end.

While calcio fans have seen the likes of Atalanta and AC Milan rely on youth and Genoa grant a debut to 15-year-old Pietro Pellegri, Chievo seemed to have missed the youth revolution.

Although changes aren’t expected to happen immediately, Maran and the rest of the Gialloblu staff need to realise that experienced heads aren’t enough to provide stability and they can look in their own backyard for some youthful vibrancy.

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