Friday, 24 May 2013

Bourne's Season Review Part Three : Full Backs

Part Three : Full Backs 

Pablo Caceres, 2 appearance, no vote
One of the main failings of last summer’s – and indeed winter’s – transfer  campaign was the non-signing of a quality left-back. The unconvincing Salvatore Masiello was retained and following the club’s failure to sign Djamel Mesbah from Milan – apparently the only target on Petrachi’s list – two free agents were recruited: former Cagliari man Alessandro Agostini and via La Liga, 28-year old Uruguayan Pablo Caceres.
Agostini never played and left for Verona in January, Caceres featured just twice, once during a defensive injury crisis, the second time in the final game of the season. He received a (sympathy) vote of 6 for his performances against Siena and Catania. Ventura never believed in him and despite sitting on the bench for almost every match, Caceres never rocked the boat. A lack of a pre-season and questionable fitness levels proved decisive.

Verdict: Will be released and instantly forgotten

Matteo Darmian, 30 appearances, 0 goals, vote 6.5
One of the players, I tipped for a break-out season. It didn’t quite happen for the 23-year old right back but the foundations have been laid for a stellar 2013-14 campaign. Despite having the equally impressive Danilo D’Ambrosio breathing down his neck, Darmian established himself as Toro’s regular right-back and a favourite of Ventura. Not as impressive going forward as D’Ambrosio nor as dangerous in the opposition box, Darmian is a more grintoso, tactically-sound full-back. At one point in the season he was the player in Europe’s five biggest leagues to have won the most tackles. That aggressive side of his game needs some work as 11 yellow cards and three suspensions testify. Buying out the rest of his contract from Palermo is a key priority. Next season could be his opportunity to force Cesare Prandelli to take a more detailed look. Darmian also has the potential to play at centre-back which could well be his future position, allowing D’Ambrosio to slot in as the permanent right-back.

Verdict: One of the crown jewels of the current team. Young, professional and improving. A player the club needs to hang on to. Darmian will benefit from the learning curve and highs and lows of 2012-13.

Danilo D’Ambrosio, 28 appearances, 2 goals, vote 7
I’m not going to hide it, D’Ambrosio is one of my favourite current Toro players. Now in his fourth season at the club following his arrival from Juve Stabia in 2009, he has rapidly improved under Ventura following a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. The Neapolitan has predominantly alternated between right and left back, although slotted in across midfield as well. The rotation of positions will probably benefit him long-term although his versatility has sometimes cost him a run of games in the same position. D’Ambrosio has always been a threat going forward, very useful in the air and surprisingly adept at delivering a quality ball from the byeline. His partnership with Alessio Cerci also provided one of Toro’s most potent attacking weapons. One of few players 100% owned by the club, the dark cloud is a contract running down in 2014. A future Italian international and potentially club captain in 2013-14.

Verdict: Toro need to tie him to a new deal as interest is building. One of the cornerstones for next year’s team although the club have been careless in not already securing his services.

Salvatore Masiello, 24 appearances, 0 goals, vote 5
Signed in the January 2012 transfer window, Masiello is another member of the Bari clan. Barely featured in the promotion campaign – indeed only once – and due to a piecemeal transfer campaign suddenly found himself as first choice left-back in 2012-13, a position he shared with D’Ambrosio. Naturally left-footed, Masiello’s limitation is that he is neither defensively full-proof nor convincing going forward. Often clumsy in possession, Toro always looked weaker down his flank, something the opposition regularly exploited. Probably enjoyed his best run during the middle of the season but there’s no escaping that if Toro had a better-quality left back, a salto di qualità would have been achieved.

Verdict: Out of contract and should probably be released. The top half of Serie B is more his level. Ventura may see him as a back-up left-back in 2013-14.

Overall verdict: D’Ambrosio and Darmian to be retained although the club need to move fast to retain their services. Two new left-backs needed.

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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