Monday, 27 May 2013

Bourne's Season Review Part Five : Wingers

Part Five : Wingers

Valter Birsa, 17 appearances, 2 goals, vote 6.5 
One of the few players Toro fans would have liked to have seen more of. Arriving from Genoa in the final days of the summer transfer window, the Slovenian took a while to overcome injuries before becoming a regular in the squad in the run up to Christmas. His arrival was something of a gamble. In his first year in Serie A with the Rossoblu, Birsa had failed to show the form that made him a consistent performer in Ligue 1 with Auxerre. The 26-year old is a different style of winger to Santana and Cerci, less mobile but with a crafted left foot and the most accurate crosser on the club’s books. Of the Toro widemen he most suited the aerial game of Rolando Bianchi. While not a classic Ventura player, Birsa provided a quality alternative to the club’s first choice wingers.

Verdict: Unlikely to be retained by Genoa, Toro should tie up Birsa’s services for next season.

Alessio Cerci, 35 appearances, 8 goals, vote 8
Angelo Ogbonna started the season as Toro’s marquee player, Alessio Cerci finished it. Far and away, the Granata’s most important and decisive player, Cerci’s contribution offered the side a rare slice of quality in the final third. His first few months of the season were relatively uninspiring before a goal against his former club Fiorentina galvanised the Roman and he never looked back. A further seven goals, countless assists and some virtuoso performances inspired Toro to a good run of form in the early months of 2013. His form didn’t drop in the final weeks when all around him seemed to lose energy and motivation. An international call up arrived in the spring as did the predictable interest from the top clubs. Toro must regret not buying out his entire contract from Fiorentina last summer. A bidding war is now set and the pessimist tells me Cairo won’t deliver the funds to secure Cerci’s signing. Much will depend on the player too. His relationship with Ventura is excellent, we’ve seen none of the bad behaviour and indiscipline that characterised his time in Florence and another full season as the main man at Toro – ahead of a World Cup year – could be an attractive proposal. The only negative side to his game were a number of invisible performances against the very top sides, a sign that Toro need more attacking options to take the pressure off their 26-year old winger who became easy to nullify.

Verdict: A combination of the player’s motivation and Cairo’s budget will determine whether Cerci stays. Will be very hard to replace.

Dolly Menga, 1 appearance, 0 goal, no vote
Belgian U-21 international signed from Lierse in January. Has apparently convinced Ventura with his impact in training and performances with the youth team. Would have been given more first-team space had the team secured survival earlier. As it stands, a five-minute substitute appearance in a kamikaze away game at Cagliari is his only first-team action.

Verdict: One for the future. The club will evaluate over the summer whether he provides back up in Serie A next year or moves out on loan.  Current stories suggest Cairo/Petrachi are making hard work out of completing his signing from Lierse.

Mario Santana, 27 appearances, 4 goals, vote 6.5
Former Argentine international with nearly a decade of Serie A football behind him, the 31-year old signed on loan from Napoli was another calculated gamble. Injuries have disrupted his career and rumours from pre-season training suggested his career in Granata may not decoll. They proved untrue. Santana quickly cemented himself as first choice on the left-flank with licence to cut in on his preferred right foot. On his day, direct, tricky and capable of carrying the game to the opposition, there were also too many anonymous performances. Injuries disrupted his season – missing six games – and he tended to look better playing on the break away from home. However, in the attacking third he was one of Toro’s most promising performers.

Verdict: His situation is similar to Matteo Brighi’s. Toro have to decide whether to turn a loan move for an early 30 something into a permanent deal. Santana probably deserves the opportunity to continue in Turin although the arrival of younger players is more probable.

Alen Stevanovic, 15 appearances, 2 goals, vote 5
A mainstay of Ventura’s promotion team where he was the Cerci-figure, a marauding, sometimes genius, often unpredictable outlet on the right flank. His form tailed off at the end of last season and his non-appearance at the club’s promotion party seemed to signal the end of his stay in Turin. During the summer, the club renewed their faith in the young Swiss-born Serbian international who featured in the first ten games of the season. After which just five appearances and none since early March. Goals in away games at Atalanta and Cagliari and a call-up to the Serbian national team offered brief but false dawns. On the field he displayed non of the occasional verve of his performances in Serie B, and long periods out of the team suggest a questionable application in training.

Verdict: Of undoubted potential but in danger of seeing his career slide. A loan move either to Serie B or abroad may be the most attractive outlet. The club may wonder whether it would have been better off retaining the interesting Nnamdi Oduamadi last summer.

Simone Verdi, 4 appearances, 0 goals, no vote
The 20-year old featured only occasionally in Toro’s promotion season and it was something of a surprise he wasn’t loaned out last summer. Featured sporadically before making a welcome loan move to Juve Stabia. Part-owned by Milan, it remains to be seen whether the former star of the Rossoneri Primavera team has shown the credentials to become a Serie A player.

Verdict: Like Menga may have pre-season to convince the club he doesn’t need a spell in Serie B.

Overall verdict: If Ventura moves to a 3-5-2, wide-men may find themselves surplus to requirements aside from providing tactical flexibility from the bench. If Cerci stays he may switch to play as a seconda punta. Of the others, the future is unclear as none are accustomed to play as wingbacks. 

Peter is the author of the outstanding Torino book 'Passion in the Piazza' which is available on Amazon, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

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