An Emphatic win on Sunday afternoon saw Cagliari pick up their seventh victory of the opening 12 Serie A fixtures, for only the second time in their history.
The last time they achieved the fete was at the start of the 1969/70 season which happens to be the one and only time that Casteddu went on to win the Scudetto. Whisper it on the island as the locals are really beginning to believe that, 50 years on, something special may happen again.
Rolando Maran set his side up in a near-perfect manner using a fluid, forward thinking 4-3-1-2 formation when in possession which switched to a 4-4-2 when defending, with Radja Nainggolan being the man who dropped from an attacking role to sit next to Luca Cigarini in a midfield four.
When in command of the game, as they so often were against Fiorentina, Marko Rog and Nahitan Nandez tuck into a midfield two alongside Cigarini when the ball is being played around at the back and then operate from the left and right respectively, but in slightly wider areas as they look to open up their opposition.
Although captain fantastic – Nainggolan – will steal the headlines and rightfully so with his piledriver of a goal and hat-trick of assists, the other midfielders go about their business in a manner that means the Belgian has the freedom to showcase his best stuff in a what almost appears to be a free role.
Croatian Rog was marvellous from the off, bagging the opener and putting himself about the pitch by flying into tackles and making life tough for La Viola, as he has done in previous games.
As for record summer signing Nandez and fellow midfielder Cigarini, they were also on top of their game as they hustled and bustled, frustrating the likes of Erik Pulgar and Gaetano Castrovilli – both of whom picked up cautions for fouls as they struggled to get near the ball – especially in a first half that was bossed by the hosts.
In fact, Cigarini was rewarded with two assists of his own, which is also a first for him in one Serie A game, reiterating the influence that he too had on the game.
Partners in crime
Aside from having an engine room driven by four fantastic talents, Cagliari are also blessed with two in-form attackers who are sticking away most of the chances that come their way. Joao Pedro and Giovanni once again getting themselves a goal apiece during the trouncing of La Viola.
Joao Pedro celebrated signing his contract extension with a finely taken goal – his sixth of the season – as he heads into Round 13 needing only one goal to equal his all-time tally of seven goals in one top flight campaign.
His partner in crime, Simeone, on the other hand grabbed his 4th of the season against the side from which he moved in the summer, although celebrations were muted as he payed respect to his late, former teammate Davide Astori on what was an emotional afternoon.
The pairing look the real deal as they both offer so much for the midfield men behind them, constantly on their toes to receive passes while also being on the shoulder of the last man, creating havoc with their runs in behind.
Barella a distant memory
With all things going swimmingly on a soggy afternoon in Sardinia, it’s hard to believe that the name of one man hasn’t been mentioned so far this season when talking about the fortunes of Cagliari. A name that probably hasn’t even entered the thought process of many Casteddu fans in recent weeks, above all on Sunday.
That man, Nicolo Barella, being the one in question. After the youngster left for Inter in the summer amidst disappointment from the Cagliari faithful, many thought that it would perhaps lead to the demise of the side and the way they play, having relied on him to create most things of promise in the previous season in particular.
The 22-year-old saw the Islanders receive a vast fee but many believed that his presence would be missed dearly. It hasn’t though, and after 12 rounds it seems as though it won’t. Should Cagliari continue to impress and should Nainggolan perform at the level he is then Barella will quickly become the forgotten man.