Stefano Pioli has transformed a Bologna side bereft of ideas under previous coach Pierpaolo Bisoli. Currently sitting in 13th position, Pioli’s tactics may not be the free-flowing style some would wish for, his pragmatic approach has delivered vital results.
Pioli arrived at Bologna on the 4th of October after previous incumbent Bisoli struggled to implement his ideas on his Rossoblu squad, much like his spell at Cagliari the previous season. Four defeats from five games, which followed a run at the end of last season under Alberto Malesani which stood at six defeats from the final nine matches meant that Bologna president Albano Guaraldi was perhaps understandably anxious to stop the rot. The Rossoblu had shipped ten goals in Bisoli’s five games so when the former Cesena boss left, the most obvious solution was Stenfao Pioli, a man renowned in Calcio for his defensive principles, earned mainly from his spell at Chievo.
Pioli’s impact was instantaneous. Three wins from his first four games on the bench ensured Bologna had a platform to spring up the table. A more difficult run of fixtures, in which Bologna won only one game from seven (but also including a 2-2 draw with champions Milan) put the Emilia-Romagna side back in the relegation mix. But it was this tough period that saw Pioli create his Bolognese masterpiece. Following a home defeat to Roma, Pioli decided to try a three man defence, and the Renato Dall’Ara side haven’t looked back. First used against Catania (2-0), Bologna have been nothing short of superb. Following their victory over the Sicilians, have only lost one game from the next nine, including draws away at Napoli and Roma and holding Juventus at home. They also beat Inter 3-0 at San Siro, putting Pioli’s men firmly into mid-table.
But what is behind the recent lift? Bologna commit to the second most tackles per game in Serie A (24.9) and also make the 5th most interceptions (20.6) indicating defensive discipline within the side. Their possession average is low (44.4%) which would hint that the Rossoblu are stronger when defending. Although they are only the fifth highest scorers in the league with 26, they have only conceded 30, less than Roma, Lazio and Inter. Pioli is a man who likes his teams to play to their strengths.
So where now for Bologna? Their next fixtures offer hope for even further progress up the table, as after Lazio at the Olimpico, the Rossoblu face Chievo, Atalanta, Palermo and Cesena, all of which could be deemed winnable by Pioli. With his defence being credited with the steady ascent of Serie A, following the draw with Juventus, the silver haired tactician was keen to point out the work of his forward line, stating ‘We have players of great quality in attack, but who also they have great generosity and helpfulness. The spirit is there, even the will, and we now look to the next game.’ Marco Di Vaio continues to find the net, finding the goal nine times this season (including a strike against former side Juve on Thursday) and is key if Bologna are to stay away from the drop-zone.
Confidence has returned to Bologna, and with their lofty league position, fans are even dreaming of gate-crashing the top half of the table. Whilst expectations rise, there will be one man in the old town who will keep his feet firmly on the ground, and that man is Stefano Pioli.