Last time it took 11 years
Hellas was relegated in 2002 and also forced to drown for four interminable seasons in LegaPro (with a dramatic playout to avoid even the second division) before returning to smell the scent of Serie A camps, in 2013. This time the purgatory lasted just 12 months, last year’s flop was promptly cancelled. As per the easy initial forecast, one could add, if it were not that easy, in the season of Verona, on balance there was just the right one: the initial forecast. After all, in recent years Palermo and Cagliari have been the only teams relegated from the top league that can keep up with their role as obligatory favourites for the B championship without patens. The others, the return among the big ones, had to sweat and not infrequently, despite higher budgets and more competitive organic on paper, have also missed the goal.
Hellas was the “easy prediction” team mentioned above for 13 days. The first ones, in which the courageous choice of president Setti and disease Fusco to bet on a young technician with a proactive idea of football like Fabio Pecchia has given lush fruits both in terms of the quality of the game and the results: 30 points won out of 39 available and first in the standings at +5 over the second (then the Citadel). What happened in the 6 days from Sunday 13th to Friday 18th November will always remain a mystery (Pecchia himself, thinking back to his cold mind at the end of the season, was unable to find an explanation). The fact is that a team capable of scoring 31 goals up to that point, suffering 10 and returning from a streak of 8 wins and 2 draws after the only defeat of Benevento on day 3, in the next 180′ of goal has made just one, has taken 9, but above all has lost all his certainties: four slaps at the Bentegodi from Novara, five on as many inactive balls after the quick advantage signed Pazzini in Cittadella and the dramatic groping of the switch to rekindle the light before falling.
Verona did not fall
But it was not even the same team anymore. Pazzini’s furious outburst at 7′ from the end against Bari put the Gialloblù back on track, especially on a psychological level, helping to ensure the Venetians the leadership at the turn of the mark, with 5 points of margin on the third. But there was no trace of the sparkling Verona of the beginning of the season and the defeats of Latina, Avellino and Frosinone in the first 6 days of the return round have sent the team of Pecchia out of the promotion area. What followed was a long arm wrestling match with Spal and Frosinone, with a few too many draws and a bad internal mistake with Spezia, but without losing contact, also thanks to the not impressive rhythm of the two antagonists. So, when Pazzini caught a game apparently scored in Novara on April 10, the points of a delay from second place, despite everything, were only three. It could still be done, in short, despite the meagre loot of 18 points in the first 14 games of 2017. The sprint began with the double success on Cittadella and Bari, while the Frosinone collapsed ruinously with Novara and Ternana. Special was now on the run, but at least there was once again an invaluable second place to defend on the final straight. With his heart in his throat. As on 1 May, in a dramatic derby with Vicenza, he recovered and beat 3-2 thanks to two pearls of Bessa at 88′ and Romulo at 95′. And again on May 13, with Ganz’s draw at 8′ from the end against Carpi who, together with the knockout of Frosinone at Benevento, guaranteed the Venetians a soft landing in Cesena on the last day. Manuzzi’s 0-0 was enough, thanks to the advantage in the direct clashes with the same number of points against the Ciociari (2-0 in the first leg, 0-1 in the return leg). Mission accomplished, by a whisker.
Hellas finished with 74 points
The second-best attack behind Spal (64 goals scored) and the fourth-best defence of the championship with 40 goals in the passive. Numbers not exciting overall but enough to make the difference in a balanced championship like this. The basic module was 4-3-3, although with some digressions here and there towards 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2. Between the posts was a monologue of the Brazilian Nicolas, who never lost a minute (3780 in the season) despite a few small gaps. En-plain only touched Souprayen from the left outside, absent for disqualification to Chiavari on the third last day, but with 41 appearances out of 42, he was the most used movement player (3670′ for him, ahead of Bessa’s 3480, third in this ranking). At the centre of the defence Bianchetti (34 appearances) and Caracciolo (33) made a fixed pair for most of the season, with Cherubin first and Boldor then to pick up what was left, until, at the end of the season, Pecchia decided to try also Ferrari in that role. The boy who arrived in January on loan from Bologna was above all the first alternative to Pisano on the right side, adding up 14 appearances thanks to some injury to the owner. After 5 goals that had made him the top scorer of the defenders in Serie A in 2016, this year he stopped at 3 in 25 games, being the only member of the department to contribute in this regard, except for the acute isolated Boldor against Cesena, in his debut as a starter.
But Pisano and Ferrari were not the only interpreters of the right side. Because among the countless roles held this year by Romulo there was also one, especially in the decisive phase of the championship. The Italian-Brazilian played in defence (even on the left, when Souprayen was only absent), in midfield, as outside at 5 or halfway (right or left depending on the needs), with different appearances even in the attacking trident. A very useful wild card, in short, arrived to add 39 appearances enriched by 4 goals and 9 assists (team record, ahead of the 8 of Valoti and the 7 of Luppi and Siligardi). But the versatility of the players has been a feature much exploited by Pecchia in general. Even the young Zaccagni, for example (26 appearances, 13 from the beginning), has played a bit ‘everywhere, Valoti has made the shuttle between the middle and three-quarter and the same Bessa has acted left indifferently from the middle or high outside, with some cameo even in directing. The latter also scored 8 goals, second scorer of the team and leader in this sense of a midfield that also distilled 3 goals from Valoti, 2 from Fossati and Zaccagni and one from Bruno Zuculini.
About role change
Fossati started out as the undisputed owner in the low-play spot, with Maresca and Bessa as sporadic alternatives. In January, however, Argentine Bruno Zuculini, Franco’s brother, arrived from Manchester City and had already been in Verona since the start of the season. And the new purchase soon became established as central midfield, forcing Fossati to recycle from the right inside. Only there were already Romulo, Valoti, Zaccagni and Franco Zuculini himself, protagonists in turn according to need, so his appearances have become less and less continuous. In any case, 37 total appearances (33 from 1′), were enough for Fossati to be the most admonished player of Hellas, with 13 yellows charged, while in terms of expulsions we find 7 players with a red each: Ferrari, Bienchetti, Caracciolo, Zaccagni, Maresca, Pazzini and Fares.
Pecchia didn’t employ many players (25 in all, 23 of them at least once owners and just 15 used in the initial formation in a minimum of 10 occasions), it was just the tourbillon of positions on the field to reduce certainties, in all departments. Attack included. The only guarantee, in the front line, was Giampaolo Pazzini, who remained on the banks of the Adige to redeem a season of just 6 goals in Serie A. He did well, winning the title of top scorer in the B series 2016-’17 with 23 goals in 35 games (one every 129′ played). His squires, however, were never the same. Luppi (35 appearances in total, 22 starting games and 6 goals) and Siligardi (31, 28 and 5) took the biggest share but, if the other forwards did not compete with them, the same cannot be said for Romulo and Bessa, often employed in the trident. Siligardi was also the most replaced player of the team, with 21 games closed early, while the most popular successor was Ganz, with 17 entries in progress. The young player on loan from Juve was the vice-Pazzini, with 4 appearances as a starter and as many goals to his credit, while the various Gomez (one goal), Fares, Cappelluzzo and the “talisman” Gennaro Troianiello picked up the crumbs especially on the outside: 14 appearances, all from the bench, for his eighth promotion in his career, the fifth from B to A.