Following the introduction of the new look squad in the last post…..
The pre-season matches came and went during July and August. I wont go into any depth other than to say we played seven. Won seven. Toured Denmark (Played four matches and won those).
The first true test would be our opening Serie A fixture of the season. Sunday the 18th August 2024 was a hot and dry day in the Mapei Stadium. We visited Sassuolo. With our new look side playing an updated version of the WM tactic i had implemented last season.
The starting line up would see seven new faces in the side with only Daniele Baselli, Tomy Di Lauro, Massimo Dell’Anna and Captain Santiago Mina to have donned the Maroon of Torino (I Granata) before.
With all of this change I had expected a difficult start to life this season, starting with this trick away fixture in Reggio Emilia. The lads must have thought otherwise, that or the preseason tour in the land of the Vikings did help with team bonding. As start hitman Massimo Dell’Anna scored our opening goal of the season inside 3 minutes. And then one minute later Nicolo Barella would double our lead from a close range strike at goal. The match turned in to a scrappy affair. With Il Toro picking up six yellow cards throughout the match. The get stuck in button really did live up to it’s instruction. The sour news was on the stroke of half time when Massimo limped off after a sprint. We through sixteen year old Davide Benazzi in to the mix for his debut for Il Toro. Davide played reasonably well but questions were now raised whether to rush Simeone Zaza back from the medical room or to place faith and trust this raw kid.
The match finished 2-1 Sassuolo would score from a corner on 39 minutes and then the match became a kick fest. Like I said we picked up 6 yellow cards. Sassuolo would pick up seven yellow cards. Two would be second yellows as they saw out the match with nine men.
Matchday 2 would see a return to the Olimpico Grande Torino. We hosted Bologna. Who were on a high after beating Palermo 3-1 in match day 1. I gave full debuts to Davide Benazzi and Midfield playmaker Leroy Van Den Engel. The opening exchanges were nervy with both sides trying to play short to then spread play more directly. On the 19th minute Nicolo Barella would lose the ball in the bologna half but then fight to win it back. With that momentum he would drive down the left hand side of the pitch to pick a pass to the advancing Benazzi. Benazzi received the ball on the edge of the box, then drive in to the middle of the box and placed a well struck shot past the Bologna keeper. Davide’s promise had come to the for and my dilemma between youth and experience had been answered, well for the short term.
Four minutes later loanee David Taddei (from Empoli) would score a wonderful solo effort. He picked up the ball on the left from a Mina throw in. Taddei then weaved passed the Bologna defence to double our lead. We would go one to win 2-0.
Match day 3 would see Frosinone visit the Olimpico Grande Torino. We would go on to win 2-0 for a second match. This time Davide Benazzi would again go one to open the scoring. This time picking up a tap in opportunity following a corner. Van Den Engel crossed the ball for Mina to head the ball goalward, and in the malley Benazzi pounced. Our second goal would also see us utilise our set pieces. This time Van Den Engel would pick out Di Lauro on the edge of the box for Di Lauro to drill the ball past the opposition keeper.
Matchday 4 would come after the autumn internationals. The big news of this period was the minor injury to Davide Benazzi whilst playing for Italy under 19’s. I made the decision to call up Simone Zaza who had been injured for the previous three matches. We also recalled Massimo Dell’Anna to the match day squad who had just recovered from and injury which had kept him out. We made changes to the front line (Zaza’s inclusion), and down the right at both the right back and right wing positions. De Leonardis would make his first start this campaign at Right back and Michael La Torre would get the nod to start at right wing. The first half would see us take a 2-0 lead through Van Den Engel and Taddei. Genoa then clawed a goal back through Kouame just before the hour mark. Van den Engel would then score a second for Kouame to score immediately after the restart. Barella then scored a very late goal to make the score line look more specacular. We won 4-2. With a few defensive questions now rasied.
Mid week would see Champions League football come to the Olimpico Grande Torino. After our third place finish in Serie A last season. We were drafted in a group with Monaco of France, Benfica of Portugal and RB Leipzig of Germany.
Our first match of the group would see us up against RB Leipzig at home. This was another master class stage for Van Den Engel to prosper. He opened the scoring after 15 minutes. And he provided the corner(cross) on the 66th minute when Mina headed Il Toro into a 2-0 lead. The defence were on fire that match and barely conceded a shot.
Match day 6 would then see the home match against Ernesto Valverde’s Roma side. I anticipated a tough match due top their strength in midfield having players like Alessio Riccardi, Nico Zaniolo and Lucas Torreira. We played a defensive game throughout the first half with little between both sides to find the breakthrough. We then saw Massimo Dell’Anna pull up with a calf injury. We gave Benazzi instructions to play on the shoulder of their defense and look to run the channel when possible. We got our breakthrough on the 54th minute when Benazzi scored after some good build up work. We would see this match out and win 1-0.
The move shows the ball start with Mina (Left Back) who passed back to Izzo, who also passes back to Fruchtl who passes forward to Van den Engel who passes to right winger La Torre. Who recycles back to Van Den Engel who passes to Di Leonardis. Who then recycles back to Van Den Engel. VDE then passes long to Barella (our Mez (Att)). Who then passes on to Benazzi. For the ball to be stuck at goal and scores past the Roma keeper. The positive for me here is how involved my AP (Att) is…VDE is demanding the ball and making positions to receive the ball and be the play maker of the side.
Match Day 7 would see us continue our winning streak this time Sampdoria were our victims. We won 3-0 with two goals from Left winger Alessio Vannini and the other from Zaza (a close range header from a corner.
Mid Week would see us lose our first match of the season. Benfica away would seize on two opportunities then shut up shop. Two early goals from Pedro their Brazian striker would do the damage.
Match day 8 would be a game to shake off the disappointment of defeat. We played a very muted performance with being away to Empoli we huffed and puffed and eventually found an opening in the 38th minute. Di Leonardis with the cross and Wonderkid of the moment Benazzi scoring a close range header. We wnet on to win 1-0.
Match day 9 would come after the October Internationals. Once again Davide Benazzi would return from the Italy under 19 party with a slight knock. I plumped for Zaza to lead the line once again. The match would turn in to a battle of wits. Fiorentina’s Denis Suarez would find the break through in the 68th minute. For defensive midfielder Ganso to equalise two minutes later with a wonderful freekick. Three minutes later Captain Marvel aka Mina would score the winning goal. After staying in and around the box following a few corners. Mina then picked up a spilt clearence, to drive at goal and then blast a shot past the helpless Lafont. We would go on to win 2-1.
Mid Week would once again see another Champions League football match at the Olimpico Grande Torino. Monaco were our guests this time round. And boy did they hit us hard. The won 3-1. We would struggle with some high paced passing and our lack of European experience may have show in the side that was pick. To make matters worse. Michael Mensah our sixteen year old right winger got sent off for a second bookable offence. And the one man deficit would not really change our fortunes in this match. Our second loss in the Champions League would put us third in the standings.
Match day 10 of Serie A would see us visit the San Siro to face AC Milan. Which was not the tonic we needed following defeat against Monaco. Milan got off to a quicker start with a well crafted goal on the break after four minutes from Di Giacoma. We then responded three minutes later with a well struck shot from Vannini, GOAL!!!! Three minutes after that we took the lead through Davide Benazzi. He once again pounced on a deflected shot to slot home himself. We would grind out the game and win 2-1 to make it ten victories on the bounce this season.
Ciao for now, and join me next time when I discuss the changes that have been made from the initial WM formation idea to the current tactic that has propelled Il Toro to ten successive wins in Serie A.