Three days have passed since Torino's home defeat to Padova meant that they would not be competing in this seasons Serie B playoffs, and therefore meaning that they will now spend a third successive season in Italy's second tier. In order to attempt to understand how a team that should have been contending for automatic promotion, was able to finish outside the playoffs positions, this blog will outline five reasons as to why Torino failed this season.
1. Poor Start
This is perhaps an obvious comment to make, but no matter what team you are, or what league that you are in, a good start to the season is essential. However, this season, Torino began the campaign with successive 2-1 defeats, firstly at home to Varese, and then away to Cittadella. Whilst on reflection, the opening day defeat to Varese can be excused, as despite being newly promoted they went on to finish the season in 4th position, Torino still had to wait until week 4 against Sassuolo before recording their first victory. For a team who were seeking promotion that can not be considered to be good enough, and when compared with eventual league winners Atalanta, who were in unbeaten in their opening four games, then it shows that Torino were playing catch up from the outset.
2. The 'Cup Final' effect
Without wanting to sound too arrogant, it would be fair to say that Torino are at times victims of their own past successes, especially when playing teams with less distinguished histories. Whilst the the term 'Cup Final' is perhaps a cliché, it is certainly true that other teams in Serie B would raise their performances when playing Torino. The fact that Toro have been champions of Italy seven times, whilst non of the other teams in the second tier have won one scudetto, certainly shows that even nowadays, the scalp of Torino is still a significant one. It can also be said, that some players can under perform due to the pressure of playing for such a large team with a passionate support, and thus in future, it may be an idea to sign players who can deal with coping with this pressure.
3. Over reliance on Rolando Bianchi
If you mention the name Rolando Bianchi to the majority of English football fans, they will remember his brief and ultimately unsuccessful spell at Manchester City in the 2007/8 season in which he only scored four goals. However, for Torino fans, in his three seasons at the club he has became an idol, and due to his goals, he has almost single handedly given Toro at least the opportunity to compete for promotion. After last season, in which the captain scored 26 goals, and despite not performing to the same exceptional standard this season, he was still able to repeat his goalscoring exploits by scoring 19 goals this season, despite the fact he played ten games less. However, for the second season in a row, Bianchi was the only Torino player to get into double figures, and this lack of goalscoring options throughout the team is certainly a contributing factor as to why they have failed to get promotion. With it being almost certain that Rolando will leave the club in the summer, it is vital that they find a way to get the whole team scoring goals, and not just relying on one man for the bulk of the goals.
4. Managerial Instability
Once again, this point is hardly ground breaking, but the fact that Torino had three managerial changes this season did not help their cause. After a run of four defeats in six games, the decision was made in March to fire Franco Lerda, and replace him with former Siena boss Giuseppe Papadopulo. However, just eleven days and two defeats later, Papadopulo was sacked and in an incredible turnaround, Lerda was rehired. Whilst Lerda was relatively successful after his return, only losing one match (the decisive game against Padova) a number of factors have to be considered. Firstly, whilst the decision to sack Lerda as an attempt to revive Toro's chances of playoffs was at the time a fair one, the choice of Papadopulo as his replacement, was undoubtedly a failure. Whilst it can not be said for certain whether sticking with Lerda for the whole season would have led to a position in the playoffs, what can be said is that it would have been impossible for him to do worse than Papadopulo did for his brief period in charge. The fact that in a recent poll on Torino fans website Toronews, the majority of fans held the president Urbano Cairo responsible for the failure to gain promotion, it suggests that his habit of firing managers has turned the majority of fans against him.
5. Not making the most of Serie A status when we had it
When Torino gained promotion to Serie A in 2006, after a three year absence, it should have been the springboard for a prolonged stay in the top division, for a team who had been underachieving for many years. In their first season back, they finished in 16th position, albeit just one point above the relegation places, and in their second season back they improved slightly with a 15th place finish. After consolidating their top division status, the club's hierarchy should have attempted to move the club forward, and whilst contending for European football may have been an unrealistic target, seeking a top 10 finish would have been an achievable aim, if the squad was strengthened accordingly. However, this was not done, and the season ended in disappointment as Torino were once again relegated to Serie B. If one compares Torino to teams with similar histories (Napoli and Genoa) who have also recently been promoted to the top tier, they have managed to build on their respective promotions by gradually improving season on season to become established Serie A sides, culminating in Napoli's qualification for the Champions League this season. Although these teams have spent a significant amount of money, they have made sensible purchases, which Torino failed to do whilst in the top tier, and if they did, they may not be in this current predicament.