For Spezia, the 2019/20 season’s Serie B playoff winners, reaching the top division for the first time in their 114-year history marked their greatest ever success.
Defying the odds and pundits’ predictions by staying there was the challenge. Ultimately it would be another spectacular season, allowing Gli Aquilotti and their fans to continue to live their Serie A dreams.
Best Signing – Diego Farias
The signing of the 30-year-old Brazilian winger on a season-long loan from Cagliari was not exactly a captivating signing, however, it proved to be invaluable.
Farias had spent the previous two seasons on loan at Empoli and Lecce respectively, both of these campaigns resulting in relegation. Such experience at the bottom end of the table proved important in key matches, with Farias scoring vital, point-winning goals against Fiorentina and Inter.
Youngsters Julian Chabot and Tommaso Pobega played vital roles in midfield and defense, however, Farias’ contribution helping an inexperienced side to safety runs deeper than his stats of 29 appearances, 4 goals and 2 assists.
Best Player – M’Bala Nzola
A pretty easy one here. The powerful Angolan forward scored 11 goals in 25 appearances. Without these goals, particularly in the first half of the season, Spezia would almost certainly have been relegated.
A period of injuries, poor form, and disciplinary issues saw Nzola go without a goal for four months, but he came good again at the perfect time, scoring a brace against Torino in May in the game which saw Spezia secure survival. Every team fighting relegation needs a goal-scorer to have a chance of survival.
Nzola’s goals gave Spezia that chance, which they ultimately took, so he deserves this recognition.
The Coach – Vincenzo Italiano
The 43-year-old coach has done a brilliant job bringing Spezia to Serie A and an even better one keeping them there. Ultimately, he passed this objective with flying colours.
Amazingly, Spezia only dropped into the relegation zone once all season, and their eventual finish of 15th is testament to Italiano’s astute management. The coach has been linked with the open managerial vacancies at Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Napoli.
Post-season talks are planned soon with American owner, Robert Platek, who only purchased Spezia in February. Fans of the Ligurian club will be hoping Italiano stays but considering all he has achieved, would not begrudge him a move to a bigger club.
Milan were top at the time, but a stunning performance saw Spezia take a deserved win with two second-half goals. The opener epitomised Spezia’s combative spirit, with Kevin Agudelo battling to win the ball back in midfield and then surge forward to play a key role in Giulio Maggiore’s tap-in. Simone Bastoni’s splendid strike from a well-worked free-kick routine helped seal an incredible and historic win.
The 4-1 victory in the penultimate week of the season over relegation rivals Torino, which saw Spezia secure survival comes a close second, but beating a side of Milan’s stature will be talked about for decades by Gli Acqile fans.
There were certainly few games or performances this season where Spezia player poorly or were handily beaten but to classify any part of the most successful season in the club’s history feels harsh.
That Vincenzo Italiano’s side only spent one weekend in the relegation zone throughout the whole season demonstrates what a mightily impressive season this has been.
Gli Aquilotti are the ‘smallest’ side to secure survival for a generation. Serie A is much better for it.