Cagliari, Crotone and Pescara were this year’s class of newcomers to the Serie A. The first two qualified directly, ranking first and second in last year’s Serie B, whilst the third emerged through the typical play-off process, overcoming Trapani in the final.
So far, the respective adaptation processes of these teams to the Serie A have shared many, predominantly negative, features. Crotone and Pescara, in particular, sit together at the bottom of the table, 19th the former and the 20th the latter. Cagliari, on the other hand, gravitates in a less dangerous zone (15th), having so far delivered much more convincing results than its counterparts .
A look at these three teams begs the following questions: why exactly has the impact been so tragic for Pescara and Crotone? And, why has Cagliari been able to deal with it much more effectively?
It would be easy to simply answer that lower league teams don’t possess the necessary quality to compete in the country’s top tier. Admittedly, the dreadful show put on last year by Frosinone and Carpi supports this kind of argument very well. Nonetheless, a multitude of teams, over the years, have also managed to successfully ensure their permanence in the Serie A. Sassuolo, Chievo and Empoli are only some examples. It follows that such an answer would be far too reductive, and that we need to dig into this problem a bit more if we want to find out what exactly went wrong.
In today’s Chapter, we take a look specifically at Cagliari:
Currently sitting at 15th, with 27 points collected, Cagliari’s season hasn’t been too dreadful, and considerably better than that of its former Serie B colleagues. Considering just how far from the relegation zone they are (14 points away from 18th place), the season objective for the rossoblù is well on its way to be accomplished.
Curiously, however, Cagliari has the worst defence in the whole league, having conceded an incredible 48 goals in 23 matches. The reason why the weakness of their back line isn’t reflected by their position in the league is that Cagliari have managed to concede 23 of those goals in only five matches. In fact, the impressive amount of goals conceded is not indicative of many lost games, rather of some seriously heavy losses.
Whilst these results (5-1 to Torino and 5-0 to Napoli to name a couple) certainly did not please the fans, the Casteddu also displayed some impressive football this year. The 4-3 comeback on Sassuolo and the 4-1 crushing of their direct contender Genoa indicated the team’s attacking abilities as much as their grit and determination. Overall, Cagliari has really demonstrated some positive traits and has, so far, done somewhat well for a newly promoted team.
At the heart of this relative success is the team building. During the summer, numerous experienced players were signed, in a classic move that is often made to ensure permanence in the top flight. Whilst it doesn’t always work out, with clubs often mistaking the ‘finished’ for the ‘experienced’, Cagliari was able to bag the correct signings. Former Juventus man Simone Padoin, Euro 2016 champion Bruno Alves, the evergreen Mauricio Isla and the young, but experienced, Panagiotis Tachtsidis all joined during the summer window. They have all been of paramount importance for Cagliari thus far.
Needless to say, however, the spearhead of the team has been none other than old fox Marco Borriello. After visibly sorting out his physical form, which had in recent years been more suitable to host a summer barbecue, the journeyman Bomber has become Cagliari’s leader, with an outstanding 10 goals. The importance of Borriello’s goals is evident, especially when weighed up against all those conceded by the rossoblù. In fact, despite having the afore-mentioned worst defence of the league, Cagliari also has the best attacking force out of the league’s bottom ten, with as much as 32 goals scored. A third of these being Borriello’s, the impact of the striker cannot be neglected in this analysis.
No doubt, the team’s performances have also been hindered by the injuries of some key players, such as Joao Pedro, Artur Ionita and Federico Melchiorri, all out for several months and all central to Rastelli’s projects. Undoubtedly, the team could’ve performed, and will perform, even more satisfyingly with these three in their ranks.
The way things are currently set, Cagliari seem to have resisted well against the obstacles the often-brutal impact of promotion in the top tier. If they continue on this same track, obviously working on the palpable defensive gaps, the Cagliaritani should be confident in their chances of avoiding relegation.
Chapter II and III will soon cover, in similar fashion, the less successful adaptation of Crotone and Pescara to the Serie A. Stay tuned.