Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Owen Neilson On January - 12 - 2012

Serie B Focus: Unlucky 13 for Torino and Ventura

The Serie B seesaw has tipped and the slow descent to the end of the 2011/12 season has begun. Most onlookers had Torino pegged as certain for automatic promotion if not the title after ten wins, two draws and a solitary defeat cemented their position at the summit of the table. The superstitious amongst us might gape at the beginning of their demise, after the thirteenth game, and puzzle over those queer little numerical milestones that seem to plague sport. Only this weekend Kwadwo Asamoah proved the world turns on the roundest of figures, his first goal of the season coming in his 100th appearance for Udinese.

Since that unlucky 13th game, when Torino had 32 points from a possible 39 and led second placed Pescara by four, Giampiero Ventura’s side have tripped and muddled their way to the halfway mark. A distinct lack of goals has been the hallmark of that demise, scoring six in their last eight fixtures, four in one game, and only recording wins thanks to a freakish Alessandro Parisi strike and Pescara’s admirable disregard for defending.

Meanwhile a pack of four has chased in earnest to narrow the gap on a side that once looked uncatchable, such was Torino’s stubborn defence, conceding seven in those opening thirteen games, and aggravating knack of finding the winning goal, eight of their ten wins came by a single goal margin, with half won in the final fifteen minutes.

Hot on their heels are Verona, undefeated in eleven with eight wins and vying with Juve Stabia for fairytale of the season. After finishing fifth in Lega Pro last year the Gialloblu overcame Salernitana in the play-off final to end a four year stint in the ‘hellish’ third tier of Italian football. Coach Andrea Mandorlini chided the world to keep its feet on the ground but a brilliant turn around at the Bentegodi last Friday and another daring comeback against Lazio in the Coppa Italia has only furthered the mastiffs claim to catch the flagging bull.

A single point separates each side in the top five with Sassuolo, the model of consistency losing only one game since the end of September, in third, the oxymoronic Pescara in fourth and a steady Padova completing the quintet.

So who will win the league? With twenty-one games remaining a further period of eubstance from any of the five sides; Pescara had a five match winning streak, Padova took seventeen points from seven games, should create a crucial buffer in the final games of April and May.

Torino’s claim for automatic promotion has looked less likely with each performance as the leaders have frittered away their earlier advantage. Ventura has stubbornly persisted with a 4-2-4 formation that relies heavily on Alan Stevanovic’s creativity and speed on the flanks, delivering crosses and beating the full-backs but opposing managers have simply doubled up against him, leaving Rolando Bianchi and Osariemen Ebagua with little service.

The former Bari boss, who turns 64 on Saturday when his side face bottom of the table Ascoli, is clearly aware of his team’s shortcomings. Transfer speculation surrounds Novara’s Brazilian forward Jeda and Riccardo Meggiorini, after Henry Gimenez of Bologna refused a move to the league leaders causing waves at his own club, there’s also a possible swap of Bianchi with Sampdoria’s Nicola Pozzi.

Statistically Jeda is a puzzling choice for his distinctly average qualities. At 32 he’s not particularly fast, tall or skillful and was forced to chase into the channels last season for Lecce scoring four goals in twenty-five appearances and only one for Novara this year. Meggiorini has scored seven in his last seventy-three league games while swapping the club captain and top scorer, despite Bianchi not netting since October, to a potential play-off rival seems foolhardy, if not ridiculous, particularly as Pozzi has only one more goal this season.

There is also talk of a home-coming of sorts for Franco Semioli who was born in Ciriè to the north of Torino and started his career with il Toro in 1997. The 31 year-old midfielder completed eight seasons in Serie A and would offer a new option and experience to evolve the narrow pairing of Manuel Iori and Migjen Basha.

President Urbano Cairo will need money if Torino do manage to traverse the remainder of the season, and will view star defender Angelo Ogbonna as his golden goose when the summer transfer window opens. The 23 year-old came on as a substitute in Italy’s 2-0 win over Poland in November to become the first Torino player since Alessandro Rosina to appear for the Azzurri, and is now in contention to travel to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Torino did well to keep their prized asset last summer, and Cairo will hope national coach Cesare Prandelli is forced to play Ogbonna in the Euros to add further value to a future sale. The president will surely push for his full valuation of €20million to help bolster a squad lacking Serie A pedigree, but first Ventura must bring revolution else he could be counting the thirteen turns of the managerial noose.

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