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What a difference a week makes. Two fixtures into the Serie A campaign and Siena were down at the wrong end of the table with a single point and no goals from games against Catania and Juventus. Fast-forward seven days and the Robur are ninth after two inspired performances saw them take four points from six, starting with a draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Many expected Luis Enrique’s new-look side to click into gear against Siena on Thursday night but last year’s Serie B runners-up did plenty to dispel the pre-match predictions in the opening stages. Franco Brienza and Angelo tested stand-in Roma ‘keeper Bogdan Lobont early-on with the Robur looking sharp on the break. The turning point came on 25 minutes, when Pablo Osvaldo converted Roma’s first true chance of the game to put the Giallorossi 1-0 up.

The Robur kept their composure and continued to prod. Calaio, Bolzoni and Gonzalez all threatened as Siena lured the home side forward and broke with pace, continually unsettling a Roma side struggling for cohesion and fluidity. Seeing their side squander such chances left Siena fans wondering if they were in for another goalless night, but their good play was finally rewarded on 88 minutes. Right-back Roberto Vitiello found the back of the net from Brienza’s rebound and the Robur left with a fully-deserved point after an impressive counter-attacking display.

The Roma result gave Siena an excellent platform to build from, and on Sunday they welcomed relegation rivals Lecce to the Stadio Franchi. “We must do better, especially in attack,” coach Giuseppe Sannino said at the start of the week, and his players responded in style with a storming performance against the Salentini.

Azzurri Under-21 striker Mattia Destro justified his inclusion with a debut goal, heading home from Gaetano D’Agostino’s free kick after just six minutes. Lecce threatened twice with Daniele Corvia and Andrea Bertolacci missing decent chances, before Siena doubled their lead with Emanuele Calaio’s strike in the 52nd minute. 2-0 up and looking comfortable, Lecce’s Andrea Esposito handed Siena a numerical advantage after receiving his second booking for a mistimed challenge on Destro.

Starting to dominate proceedings, the Robur added a third goal on 70 minutes. Visiting ‘keeper Julio Sergio rushed to clear the ball from Destro’s feet but his poor clearance fell to Calaio 25 yards out. Calaio, seeing Sergio off his line, knocked a sublime chip over the Brazilian and into the net. Paolo Grossi’s stinging drive could’ve made it four late-on but Sergio was equal to it and the game finished 3-0.

It was an excellent team performance from the Robur: Claudio Terzi was a rock at the back, Zeljko Brkic made a couple of vital saves and central midfielders D’Agostino and Gazzi set the pace throughout. The most encouraging performances, however, came from the forwards. Destro and Calaio both had excellent games. Sannino couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from his strikers, who took their goals well and linked-up effectively throughout.

The Calaio-Destro partnership is already showing promise, but they still have a lot to prove. Calaio has never been anything more than a rotation player at this level, and Destro, 20, is still to establish himself in Serie A. The expectation on both men’s shoulders has only been increased after Sunday’s performance and it’ll be up to Sannino to keep them hungry and motivated as the season progresses. The partnership has potential if they can build on this performance and continue to grow, but Siena can’t just assume Calaio and Destro will score the goals to keep them up on their own.

Siena’s squad is strong throughout: the Robur had a good mercato, and snatching Gaetano D’Agostino from Fiorentina (via Udinese) is a huge coup. D’Agostino had a mixed 2010-11, but his superior range of passing and deadly set pieces make him an excellent player to build the team around. His performances for Udinese were nothing short of outstanding, and Siena will have one hell of a player on their hands if D’Agostino can get back to his best. Fellow new addition Daniele Mannini is no world-beater but he was a solid performer for Brescia, Napoli and Sampdoria and should give Siena some quality in wide positions.

The fact that Siena didn’t really lose any of their key players during the mercato is arguably even more important than the players they’ve added. None of their back four are particularly outstanding players but Terzi, Vitiello and co. form a well-organised unit that’s only shipped two goals so far. Selection continuity is more important in defence than anywhere else, and the trust Siena have shown in the defence that got them promoted should continue to reap dividends. The value of a solid defensive unit who know and understanding each other’s playing styles cannot be overstated.

Giuseppe Sannino, however, could prove to be the real ace in Siena’s pack. Losing Antonio Conte to Juventus was disappointing, but Sannino is a manager of real talent. He performed a minor miracle at Varese, guiding the Leopardi to two consecutive promotions and a 4th-place Serie B finish. This is his first season as a Serie A manager but he’s already instilled his hard-grafting, lionheart philosophies on the Robur. Throwing an untested manager into a relegation battle is always a risk, but Sannino is crafting a side with a no-surrender attitude that’ll serve them well this season.

Siena have overcame a tough opening set of fixtures to make a great start to their first campaign back in Serie A, but it’s far too early to judge their long-term prospects. Their defence, as tight as it is, hasn’t been truly tested. They lost to Juventus but the Bianconeri were far from convincing. Roma, at times, looked out of ideas in the final third, and Siena were rarely threatened by Catania and Lecce. It remains to be seen how they’ll cope against a fully-fit Milan frontline or Napoli’s Cavani/Hamsik/Lavezzi trident. Yes Siena’s backline has been sturdy so far, but lets see how they cope against a fluent strike-force.

So much of the Robur’s season will hinge on the players’ ability to perform at the highest level. Most of the squad were with Siena last season and few have genuine Serie A experience. Keeping the bulk of Siena’s squad together has maintained togetherness, but can these players supply the goods week in week out on calcio’s grandest stage? Possibly, but don’t rule-out a January signing or two if things turn sour before the New Year.

The Robur are more than capable of staying-up this season, and Sannino has a huge role to play. D’Agostino can thrice in his new environment and the squad has plenty of potential, but a bad run of form and subsequent dip in confidence could spell disaster for Siena. So much will hinge on this unremarkable group of players maintaining their spirit operating as a well-oiled unit for the remaining 34 games: Siena’s campaign will be defined by Sannino’s ability to uphold this.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit for more from Andrew.

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