It has been a Jekyll and Hyde season so far for Cagliari. Last week saw Davide Ballardini’s men claim a deserved victory against Roma (a side who then dismantled Inter Milan at the weekend) which illustrates the magnitude of Cagliari’s feat. Such has been Cagliari’s season that they managed to follow up on their victory against the Romans with a goalless draw against Novara – on paper the perfect opposition to build some momentum and add more points on the board.
Against Roma, Coach Ballardini opted for an offensive style of play and it was a gamble which paid off, scoring four goals for the first time this season. The Coach opted to play a higher line and play more expansively than the game against Fiorentina, where he chose to play a rigid style which meant the team were one paced and easy to defend to against. Cagliari looked dangerous, especially on the counter as they pounced and were incredibly clinical. And to have achieved this feat without their most effective forward Victor Ibarbo, as he started on the bench, spoke volumes.
On loan signing Mauricio Pinilla started and made an immediate impression, linking up brilliantly with the talismanic Andrea Cossu and Thiago Ribeiro, who started his first game since the resumption of the season. Indeed, the Brazilian forward repaid Ballardini’s faith in him by bagging an excellent brace against the Giallorossi and captured the man of the match award for the first time since arriving in Italy. Many of the best betting sites backed it, and Pinilla did mark his debut with a goal with Ibarbo sealing the victory for the Isolani.
Yet this was the same system Ballardini operated against Fiorentina in the prior home game but managed to come away with an uninspiring goalless draw. Hitherto, the Rossoblu have managed to score three goals or more goals twice. If the side’s holding midfielder (Daniele Conti) is the side’s joint top scorer with a paltry sum of three, it highlights the lack of striking depth within the squad.
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Certainly a goalless draw against the bottom side in the league could also prove that point. Cagliari have failed to score nine times in the league. The inability to score against Parma, Fiorentina and Novara, teams who the Sardinian side should be beating, has meant the team is floating in mid-table. To illustrate how much of a difference a goal would have made in those games, Cagliari would be in seventh spot, three points off a Europa League spot.
In that sense, the club had to do some business in January to help bolster their attack line. Bringing in Pinilla, from Palermo on loan, helps with options higher up the pitch and the Chilean will feel he will have a point to prove to his parent club. Daniele Dessena returned to the club after signing on loan from Sampdoria offering familiarity and discipline in the midfield area for the attack to flourish and prosper. Retaining the services of the talented Radja Nainggolan was a great way to end the window.
Whereas last season losing Alessandro Matri to Juventus meant the Sardinians claimed only 4 wins in 16 after the striker moved to the north. This season’s window could prove the catalyst for the side to progress higher up the table. Producing more performances like the side did against Roma on a consistent basis can see the Sardinians push up the league and achieve higher than 9th, their highest finish since promotion into Serie A. It’s a matter for Ballardini to realise the potential of his attacking talent and trusting them to deliver on the pitch.