Monday, 23 June 2014

Bourne's Player Review : Attackers

In order to celebrate what has been an excellent season, I invited Torino fan Peter Bourne to discuss each member of the member, with a focus on which players should be retained for next season.

Paulo Barreto (BRA, 28), 11 appearances (NO GOALS), vote 5
A player Toro pursued for over a year before landing him from Udinese last January, and one who has never justified the courting. In the second half of last season he was returning to full fitness and showed some flashes of the talent he displayed at Treviso and Bari. In theory, mobile and a clinical finisher, he was expected to kick on. His 7 game calcioscommesse ban (see Gazzi) seemed to knock his confidence and maybe motivation in pre-season. On his return, he featured in four games and then (like Gazzi) disappeared. Only five starts, no goals, one assist (v Lazio), and a cursed penalty won (away at Fiorentina), the biggest criticism of Barreto is his lack of presence and physical fragility.
Verdict: Has not justified Ventura’s faith; is one of the few signings not to have come off and is apparently keen on returning to Udinese and then moving on somewhere new. The arrival of Josef Martinez suggests Barreto’s time has come.

Alessio Cerci (ITA, 26), 37 appearances (13 goal), vote 8
Toro’s talisman going into the season following an excellent end to his debut season in Turin. Eight goals and some virtuoso performances earned him a non-playing role in Italy’s Confederations Cup squad. Cerci was perhaps the player most forced to adapt in Ventura’s new 5-3-2 system. No longer could he hug the right flank and cut in on his left side. So it seemed. His first goal of the season in the 2-0 win over Sassuolo saw him do exactly that.  In the first third of the campaign he scored most of his 13 goals; against Milan, Verona and Roma he produced genuine centre forward finishes. Then Ciro Immobile hit form and Cerci found himself in a support role. His assist tally began to multiply as the goals dried up. The Cerci-Immobile partnership defined Toro’s season and while they could be scintillating, it was Immobile who benefited most. I sometimes felt Cerci suffered not being the main man. For example, when Immobile was suspended against Cagliari, Cerci gave one of his best performances in the second half of the season.  His season ended in tears with that poorly hit penalty in Florence which seemed to end hopes of Europa League football. He deserved better but his penalty taking generally was weak. Ventura has really got the best out of the player, he has improved his final ball, consistency and discipline.
Verdict: Does he need to move on, to make the next step? Perhaps. However, Europa League football and the bond created with the tifosi following his penalty miss may play a part in seeing him stay another season. Will Ventura again reinvent a role for Cerci? Remains at his best out wide and running into space.

Ciro Immobile (ITA, 24), 33 appearances (22 goal), vote 8,5
Without wishing to sound wise after the event, he was always going to be a good signing. He looked great at Pescara and his failed season at Genoa always looked like as case of being mistreated at the wrong club. Immobile took a while to shine but once he scored his first goal in week 7 at Sampdoria, he practically scored every week, and everyway: bullet headers, close range, volleys, opportunistic strikes, breakaway finishes and no penalties. Almost everything he touched came off. Mobile (not going to make a pun), energetic, hardworking and not scared to fail, he became the first Toro player to top the Serie A scoring chart since Paolo Pulici in 1977. There was the odd horrific miss and a touch of overconfidence plus (read Cerci) his season ended in a unjust manner with the sending off at home to Parma. It will turn out to be his last appearance in a Toro shirt. His goal away at Roma will live with me for a long time.
Verdict: Not much of one as Immobile has already signed for Borussia Dortmund. I still don’t understand why the club didn’t buy out his entire contract from Juventus last summer (as was promised) and consequently Toro were victims of Juve’s desire to sell Immobile on the relative cheap before the World Cup (a strange idea). In the end Toro get a mere 10 million euros for a player who scored 22 goals, is 24 years old and now an Italian international. They won’t replace him easily with that sort of money.

Marcelo Larrondo (ARG, 25), 5 appearances (1 goal), vote 6
223 minutes of football, just one start and unavailable for 28 weeks of the season due to injury, it is hard to pass judgement on Marcelo Larrondo, signed on loan from Siena. His one start witnessed some wayward finishing in the defeat at Atalanta before a week later the unfortunate foot injury sustained in injury time in the ill-fated draw with Milan effectively ended his season. Larrondo’s only notable contribution thereafter was a goal in the final week draw in Florence. We’ve seen too little of Larrondo to pass judgement.
Verdict: Seems the club may be interested in taking a closer look. Larrondo may add an aerial presence and fresh legs in three competitions next year.

Riccardo Meggiorini (ITA, 28), 34 appearances (NO GOALS), vote 6
3 goals in 31 appearances last season; 0 in 34 this campaign; 7 in 85 appearances for the Granata. Pretty poor stats for a full-back, woeful for a striker. Meggiorini’s teammates call him ‘palo’ such is his talent for hitting the woodwork, or indeed anything rather than the back of the net. A couple of caveats. Meggiorini only started 7 matches this season, a fair share of his substitute appearances were with matches already won; and despite his tag as ‘forward’, Meggiorini is often used by Ventura as the first line of defence, harassing the opposition playmaker or centre backs, creating space for his teammates. Often he has featured against the better teams for this reason. That’s not to defend his stats, he has had plenty of opportunities to break his duck, but has been denied by a mix of wonderful goalkeeping (home v Roma) and awful finishing (away v Chievo). The fact remains that Meggiorini is barely at home in Serie A and on the one occasion when he needed to start as a forward (away at Fiorentina), he was found wanting. Has caught as many headlines this season for his frequent Twitter outbursts (notably his lament about Stefano Mauri of Lazio)
Verdict: Has been a loyal disciple of Ventura and often tactically useful. However, out of contract and with the team taking on a new dimension, its time for Meggio to move on. Chievo are knocking on the door.

Overall Verdict: Unlikely the club will find another Immobile in a hurry so the goals need to be spread more evenly (including from midfield). There are few guarantees beyond Cerci if he stays. Barreto and Meggiorini will move on, Larrondo may be back up and nothing else. Josef Martinez has arrived from Young Boys but is likely to need a season to settle. The two strikers coming in need to be capable of 12-15 goals each.

For more from Peter you can follow him on Twitter here and his book about his experiences following Torino can still be purchased from Amazon here.

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