Giampiero Ventura, vote 6.5
The longest serving coach of the Urbano Cairo era and only Toro trainer to complete two full seasons since Emiliano Mondonico left in 2000. In both campaigns ‘Ace’ has delivered the minimum goal: promotion to Serie A, followed by a (relatively) comfortable top-flight finish.
The positives: the team has a set identity and almost always has a clear tactical plan. Against poorer sides, Ventura likes his sides to build play from the back, maintain possession and draw the opposition in. Against more technical players and quality teams, he relies more on a submissive, counter-attacking approach. There have been very few games over the two years where Toro have been either comprehensively outplayed or not in the match during the final stages. He has got the best out of almost all the players, often by virtue of having a block of players from his Pisa and Bari days, one of few coaches in Italian football to have a direct influence on the transfer policy. Team spirit is solid: rare have been fallings out, talk of a rotten spogliatoio - so common at the club over the past two decades – has never surfaced and the team possesses resilience, notable in the comeback from 3-0 down away at Fiorentina late in the season.
The negatives: Not all the block of players Ventura has insisted on signing from his former clubs have been a success. The continued deployment of two – Riccardo Meggiorini and Salvatore Masiello – has bewildered many fans (more on those two in another section). Ventura must also take a share of the blame for the team’s inability to hold on to leads and the huge amount of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes of matches (lack of physical preparation, poor concentration or untimely substitutions?). The team’s results have also been kamikaze, demonstrating a tactical immaturity. The first half of the season saw a long unbeaten stretch away from home where the defence excelled and counterattacking football reaped rewards (albeit most results were draws). The team scored few goals, collected an unwanted amount of 0-0 scorelines and struggled to break down teams at home. Come the second half of the season, the team improved at home, playing entertaining football in a serious of schizophrenic matches (Siena and Napoli at home; Cagliari and Fiorentina away come to mind). A total of eight victories is relatively meagre as is the prolonged lack of success against a good team. The win over Lazio came against a depleted side playing with 10 men. The 16 draws are a European record the Granata share – fittingly – with Bordeaux. The side sometimes lacked conviction and confidence, respecting reputations too highly. His experiment at playing 3-5-2 in the final weeks of the season could be an interesting nod to a tactical change for next year. The 4-2-4 formation saw the side regularly overrun and become increasingly predictable to play against.
Verdict: The next stage for the club is to settle itself as a top-flight side, finish in the top half of the table and experience no relegation worries. The pressure is more on Cairo & Petrachi to deliver a financial commitment and the right signings. Coaches tend to have a limited shelf-life in Italian football. I’d be happy to see Ventura stay providing he still feels in control of the ‘project’ and continues to have an influence on transfer policy. He deserves a third season.