Verona, the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A tale steeped in sorrow and regret like no other. A love affair that despite the best endeavours of its protagonists, ended in tragedy.
The Gialloblu, home of the Capulets and Montagues, were the first opponent of Alberto Malesani at the helm of the Neroverdi. Unfortunately, the match ended just as disastrously as that of our two lovestruck characters in the famous English play.
Hellas went to the Mapei Stadium and put the home side to the sword in an efficient fashion that highlighted the troubled plight of the new Sassuolo coach. Despite being extremely active in the recently ended transfer window, with high profile signings such as new club captain Paolo Cannavaro and Sergio Floccari arriving in Reggio Emilia, the team played without the passion so evident in Shakespeare’s emotional writing.
The newly appointed tactician told reporters after the game that his side ‘didn’t play that bad…’ and that all they lacked was the right reaction after the first goal. Well, on this occasion we beg to differ Mr. Malesani and short of biting our thumb at you, here at Club Focus we think the side played quite poorly and more importantly so did your new hero, Cannavaro.
Should the former Napoli skipper have immediately started such an important game? He has hardly featured at all this season and his performance was sluggish and devoid of polish. His timing was dreadful and he looked every bit a sportsman that lacked match practice. And to make him the captain of a set of players that have seen him a matter of hours seems to border on the absurd.
Another new acquisition, striker Floccari has yet to net this season and that statistic did not look in any danger of being modified against a Verona side that itself had been well beaten in its last couple of matches. Again, should a player such as him have started, low in confidence and seemingly lacking in motivation?
In fact the starting XI was almost unrecognisable with the naming of Matteo Brighi and Davide Biondini, also recently acquired, on the team sheet. Added to that Pedro Mendes, Aleandro Rosi and Thomas Manfredini and we have a side that is nothing like that which had thrilled us months previous under Eusebio di Francesco.
In fact Manfredini, brought in for his experience and supposed solidity, gifted both goals to the away side after steering a shot into his own net and being at fault for Luca Toni’s eventual match winning strike.
This was not the impact the Sasol fans were expecting of their newly formed squad.
The weekend sees things become further complicated as Malesani takes his charges to the San Siro to face an Inter side, itself in a shambolic state. Walter Mazzarri’s men may well be looking to ease some pressure on their own shoulders by repeating the scoreline from the previous encounter where the Nerazzurri ran out 7-0 winners. Sassuolo will need to be extremely organised defensively if they are to avoid another mauling and on last weekend’s evidence, we are not so sure they will be.
Centre back Mendes picked up a yellow card against Verona and will miss out so expect Lorenzo Ariaudo to fill in alongside both Cannavaro and Manfredini. A back three will remain in place despite its recent shaky outing.
Reports are also suggesting that the rest of the team will be unchanged, more cause for concern.
This initial performance under the new coach was not one that would have enamoured fans. Losing and playing well is unacceptable but losing and playing in a bland and uninspired fashion is unforgivable.
As yet, the new look Sassuolo has failed to ignite any new passions or the belief that the former Verona coach can succeed where the previous incumbent has, apparently, faltered.
Just as Juliet failed in her attempt to be with Romeo, right now we fear that Malesani is not the man to save the Neroverdi from a similar fate – a return to Serie B.
But as ever, Forza Sasol!