Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bourne's Transfer Review

A few months ago, I ran my thoughts on Toro’s 2012-13 season and what needed to be done position-by-position over the summer. Although the transfer market still has a few weeks to run, a few thoughts on the status quo with the season opener against Sassuolo just days away. 
 
Goalkeepers 
In: Padelli (Udinese) 
Out: Gillet (suspended for 43 months), A. Gomis (Crotone, loan), Coppola (released) 
My feeling was that very few changes needed to be made in this position with the small caveat being the potential suspension hanging over first choice ‘keeper Jean Francois-Gillet. The club were confident that the Belgian would escape any wrongdoing. Therefore the 43-month sentence handed to the former Bari man has hit the club’s plans hard. One could argue that signing a player (relatively expensively) with this cloud already hanging over him was not necessarily the most pragmatic move.  Petrachi and Cairo have taken their time to act. The suspicion is that they were hoping that new signing Daniele Padelli (bought in as number 2) could make the step up but an unconvincing performance in the Coppa Italia defeat by Pescara has caused a dramatic rethink. With so many excellent keepers available (Pegolo, Sorrentino, Viviano) it’s likely that the club will now move fast. Pegolo is not my preferred choice but seems the most like-for-like in regards to Gillet. In the event of a new arrival my other wish - that Lys Gomis moves out on loan - should come to fruition. 
Overall: Short-term weaker than last season. Even if Gillet’s eventual replacement is of a better quality and that Padelli is a step-up from Coppola, not having decided on a first choice goalkeeper during pre-season is ill-advised. 
 
Full-backs 
In:
Out: Caceres (released) 
Ventura will switch to a 3-5-2 this season meaning less need for wingers, greater reliance on wing-backs. On the right side the impressive Matteo Darmian and Danilo D’Ambrosio will again contend for the role although D’Ambrosio can cover other positions. My sensation is D’Ambrosio is more suited to an attacking role and Darmian may start more games against the top sides. Worryingly though D’Ambrosio’s contract has less than 12 months to run and neither party seems close to a deal. The left-side is still a chronic problem. Throughout last season it was plugged by stop-gaps or inadequate players. For Mesbah last season read Ghoulam this year. Toro have concentrated all their efforts on an Algerian left-back. Mesbah never arrived, for the Saint-Etienne player there is still hope. Otherwise Toro will be forced to field the frankly average Salvatore Masiello (given a new one year deal), shift Emiliano Moretti from centre-back or D’Ambrosio across to his least preferred side. 
Overall: Although no great personnel change, I’d argue this position is weaker given the need for players who can attack with greater purpose. Final verdict will come from the quality of left-sided player introduced.
  
Centre-backs 
In: Bovo (Genoa), Maksimovic (Red Star), Moretti (Genoa) 
Out: Di Cesare (Brescia), Ogbonna (Juventus) 
Ogbonna has left. It was inevitable as was that Juventus were almost the only Serie A side to cough up the cash. Fortunately, the deal was concluded relatively quickly. The price, in the 11-13 million euro range, reflects the player’s value. Until now, not much of it has been reinvested. Ogbonna’s departure has upset a large section of the tifoseria, more for his cold pursuit of the transfer rather than his decision to move across the city. Kamil Glik has been appointed as captain to widespread euphoria. I’m still to be convinced he was the right choice. From 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, Glik will marshal a new-look defence both tactically and in terms of personnel. The signings are relatively solid and the team seem well-stocked in central defenders. Guillermo Rodriguez has been retained and will vie for the role of sweeper with the injury-prone Cesare Bovo who begins his second spell at the club following a difficult time at Genoa. Moretti brings experience and tactical versatility while the young Serb Nikola Maksimovic arrives with plenty of potential. Valerio di Cesare returns to Serie B, in my opinion his level. 
Overall: Despite loss of Ogbonna, it is more adaption to the system than personnel that worries me. A lack of pace may be a concern as will the tendency of Glik in particular to dive in. 
 
Midfield 
In: Bellomo (Bari), El Kaddouri (Napoli), Farnerud (Young Boys) 
Out: Bakic (Fiorentina), Birsa (Genoa), Santana (Genoa), Stevanovic (Palermo), Verdi (Empoli) 
Chronically understaffed last season, the midfield has enjoyed something of a revamp. The departures of Birsa, Santana, Stevanovic and Verdi (non of whom replaced) reflects Ventura’s desire to be rid of wingers. Therefore the club are stocked with central midfielders. Matteo Brighi and Alessandro Gazzi, the best of last year’s crop, have been retained although Brighi is injury-prone and Gazzi faces a 6-game ban. Mijgen Basha and Giuseppe Vives are also still in the squad although the latter may be a Serie B player by September 2. The three new signings are all hungry to make an impression in Serie A. I was impressed with the capture of youngster Nicola Bellomo who demonstrated promise at Bari. Likewise Omar El Kaddouri brings youth and the promise of goals. At 29 and following a few decent years in Switzerland, Alexander Farnerud seems more of a gamble. His pre-season has not been particularly encouraging and only eight caps for Sweden suggest some limitations. 
Overall: Still lacking a regista to dictate play – even more important in a 3-5-2 line-up which points more to possession than counter-attack. Genuinely the team looks stronger here although slight loss of penetration with departures of wing talent. Will be interesting to witness evolution.

Attack 
In: Immobile (Genoa), Larrondo (Siena) 
Out: Bianchi (Bologna), Diop (Juve Stabia), Jonathas (Pescara)  
As expected @torinoblogger favourite Rolando Bianchi has left after 5 years and 73 goals. The team needed to move on, the question was how good the replacement would be. The jury is still out. Ciro Immobile looks like an assured acquisition but too young to carry the entire weight of the attack. In addition, I’d like to see the remainder of his contract bought out from Juventus which had been the original promise. A more direct replacement for Bianchi is Siena’s Argentine Marcelo Larrondo. Much promise but very few career goals. The two have linked up well in pre-season but my feeling another addition is required. Pursuits of Maxi Lopez (thankfully) and Eren Derdiyok have so far come too nothing. Completing the roster are Paulo Barreto and Riccardo Meggiorini. Like Gazzi, Barreto will miss the first six weeks and this seems to have affected his morale and pre-season. The Brazilian showed enough last season to suggest he could come on strong in 2013-14. The much-maligned Riccardo Meggiorini is still in the squad. The change in formation is unlikely to benefit the Ventura favourite as the need for a forward who tracks back less crucial in a 3-5-2. Meggiorini is likely to make way for the fourth forward. And completing the roster is the team’s star man: Alessio Cerci. Devastating last year and in World Cup year likely to be highly-motivated, the club did well to retain his services. However, it remains unclear as to where Ventura will fit in his wide man in the change of formation.  
Verdict: Potentially stronger if a fourth forward replaces Meggiorini and Cerci is given room to shine.  
 
General verdict: Perhaps slightly stronger than last season but the change in system is a gamble. It suggests Ventura realises the team was over-run last year. A more conservative Toro is likely. A great reliance on playing through the midfield rather than width seems the plan. My worry is the team could be incredibly predictable and static and the young forwards will struggle under the weight of expectation. A goalkeeper, left back, a regista and another attacking option are needed. Two of these positions have been vacant now for a few years. 
 
Probable line-up based on current squad: 
PADELLI; Glik, Rodriguez, MORETTI; Darmian, BELLOMO, Brighi, Gazzi, D’AMBROSIO; Cerci, IMMOBILE 
 
My preferred line-up: 
VIVIANO; D’Ambrosio, Glik, Rodriguez, GHOULAM; BELLOMO, Brighi (or new regista), Gazzi; EL KADDOURI (or new forward), IMMOBILE, Cerci

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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