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Chievo grounded after flying start

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By Will Cook

Friday 28 October 2011

Four games into the season and Chievo were in the top half of Serie A with seven points. The Flying Donkeys had won two successive games against unlikely opponents in Napoli and Genoa, ending both sides' respective unbeaten starts to the season. This came after conceding an 85th minute equaliser at home to Serie A new boys Novara on the first day of the new campaign and succumbing to a very late winner at Parma a week later.

Such a promising couple of games went against the thoughts of many who feared that Chievo would struggle, weakened by the departures of Coach Stefano Pioli, who had led them to an 11th place finish in Serie A, and an exodus of players including Kevin Constant and Andrea Mantovani. Twelve months earlier, Mimmo Di Carlo had left the Verona club for Sampdoria, but he found himself back on the Gialloblu bench as Coach to begin the campaign with a completely new look midfield, a new set of tactics and without adding another striker of real pedigree to curb the team’s chronic over-reliance on Sergio Pellissier.

Those fears may be starting to resurface though as Chievo are now winless in a month and haven’t scored a goal in their last four games. The run has seen the Flying Donkeys slip to a home defeat to lowly Bologna on Wednesday night, a loss at Inter last weekend and two goalless draws against Juventus and Cesena respectively.

Laying a finger on what exactly has changed for Chievo in recent weeks isn’t easy. The club’s strikers have been goal-shy but they aren’t conceding many either and the all new (typical starting) midfield of Michael Bradley, Perparim Hetemaj, Paolo Sammarco and Luca Rigoni appears to have gelled quickly. Di Carlo’s favoured 4-3-1-2 formation has also worked well to beat Napoli and Genoa, as well as muzzle Juventus, who could have been Gialloblu’s third high-profile scalp but for a dubious disallowed Cyril Thereau goal.

Some could argue that Chievo’s two victories were flukes as both came courtesy of late goals scored by substitute Davide Moscardelli and that the Gialloblu’s current position in the Serie A table is a more realistic picture of where the squad will be throughout the season. The lack of flair in midfield though after Constant’s departure is the likeliest cause of the problem, with the burden of creativity falling mainly on Luca Rigoni with aid from other midfielders such as Sammarco, Bradley and another new recruit in Rinaldo Cruzado.

Di Carlo can take some comfort in the knowledge that all six of Chievo’s goals have been scored by strikers at the club. Perhaps with more playing time offered to Thereau this season, the addition of Alberto Paloschi to the squad and the use of Moscardelli as an impact substitute, Chievo are beginning to find a way to alleviate the pressure on Pellissier’s shoulders to find goals.

The last time the Flying Donkeys netted an average of more than one goal a game throughout a season was pre-Calciopoli, so recent history suggests that goals will remain hard to come by. With a combative rather than creative looking midfield this year and a focus on keeping things tighter at the back, Verona might not be the place for exciting Serie A football this season. If Chievo continue to struggle, it might not be the place for Serie A football at all next year either.

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