Stefano Pioli takes charge of Chievo for the first time in a fortnight with one word on his mind. Stability.
The new Coach of ‘The Flying Donkeys’ made the step up in the summer from Serie B side Sassuolo, whom he brilliantly led to the play-offs before a defeat to Torino. This means that the new Coach returns to the club where he once ran the youth team eight years ago.
Pioli realises that this is a massive chance for him to redeem his Serie A coaching career. His last attempt at his hometown club of Parma, ended just two thirds of the way into the season with his team slumping into 19th place in the table. It also signalled the revival of another Italian tactician’s career, as Pioli was replaced at the helm by the original ‘tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri. Not only did Ranieri perform miracles in keeping Parma up he went on to coach some one of the country’s top clubs with Juventus and then his hometown club of Roma.
Pioli realises that the bar has been raised at ‘The Flying Donkeys’ by two of the clubs previous Coaches. He replaces Domenico Di Carlo on the bench who left in the summer to take over at Sampdoria and is now looking forward to a season of Champions League football. Di Carlo replaced at Sampdoria Gigi Del Neri, a man who is a living legend at the Stadio Bentegodi for being the only man to guide ‘The Flying Donkeys’ into European football in two separate seasons.
The main focus for the incoming coach was to keep hold of the clubs best players. These included goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, defender Andrea Mantovani and striker, talisman and club legend Sergio Pellissier.
At 31, Pellissier is by far the clubs most successful striker with close to 100 goals for ‘The Gialloblu’. Added to this is his one solitary international cap for the Azzurri which also included an international goal. Sorrentino and Mantovani have both been subject to continued speculation over moves to some of the more fancied sides such as Napoli and Genoa, but Pioli has thus far managed to fend off any advances.
The club did however lose one of their most consistent performers in Columbian international defender Mario Yepes on a free transfer to Milan. At 36 however it could be said that his best days are behind him.
The main area of concern for Pioli is to get some much needed support to star man and club captain Pellissier in attack. Last season the side had Torino front man Elvis Abbruscato on loan and took a chance on Albanian international striker Erjon Bogdani. However with just a return of two goals in 15 games, Abbruscato was sent back to Turin, whist after a strike rate of two goals in 21 games, Bogdani has been moved onto Serie A newcomers Cesena.
Indeed Pioli has returned to the division he knows best for what he hopes will be the answer to the problem. The new Coach has signed Serie B striker Davide Moscardelli from Piacenza. Moscardelli is a name that fans of Serie B sides will be familiar with as he is regularly on the score sheet at that level, but he is untried in Serie A. Pioli will be hoping that his new strike force gels quickly if he is to emulate the clubs last two finishes of 14th place.
With regular gates of just 10 to 11,000 people, ‘The Gialloblu’ are always going to be struggling against the rest of the division when it comes to finance. The attendance only gets bolstered when the bigger clubs such as Juve, Roma, Milan and Inter come to town.
Unfortunately survival will always be the name of the game for Chievo. The past two seasons have seen the club survive with minimal games to spare. For ‘The Gialloblu’ they dream of a season when they don’t need to be looking over their shoulders, like they used to with Del Neri in charge.
When Pioli steps out at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi on August 29th for the opening fixture against Catania, he may just be stepping out to resurrect his top flight coaching career. If he fails with ‘The Flying Donkeys’ it might be a while before he gets another chance.
They say in football that a week is a long time. For Pioli, it has been four long years since he was last in this postion.