Season preview: Cagliari – Tough test ahead for Ficcadenti

Last Season: Roberto Donadoni could only muster a 14th place finish with Cagliari last season after losing top scorer Alessandro Matri to Juventus in January. Robert Acquafresca, Nene, Andrea Cossu and Daniele Conti were left to carry the team but the Rossoblu still struggled to find the net and Matri remained the club’s highest scorer in Serie A come the end of the campaign with 11 goals, which, combined with the fact that the Isolani won just one of their final ten league matches, explains why the Sardinian club finished so far down the table.
The Squad: President Massimo Cellino has refused to spend big this summer which lead to the club’s failure to land Robert Acquafresca, who opted to join Bologna instead. The biggest change to the team is the departure of manager Roberto Donadoni who was sacked two weeks before the new campaign was set to kick off following a series of fallouts with Cellino. With the poor timing of Donadoni’s sacking, his replacement Massimo Ficcadenti has been left with little time to settle in and prepare his new squad for the coming season.
Cagliari have signed forward Moestafa El Kabir from Mjallby to add some strength up-front to compensate for the loss of both of last season’s top scorers Matri and Acquafresca, whose departures have left Nene as the main goal scorer in the team. The quick and skillful new signing netted five goals in nine Allsvenskan appearances for the Swedish side in the 2011 season.
The Rossoblu have strengthened their midfield with the acquisition of Albin Ekdal. The young Swede is co-owned by Juventus and Cagliari and will spend the next few years with the Sardinian side. The attacking midfielder has a lot of potential and could become a key player for the club.
Defenders Gabriele Perico and Simone Gozzi have joined on co-ownership deals from AlbinoLeffe and Modena, respectively, to bolster the backline which conceded 51 league goals last season. Colombian Victor Ibarbo adds some much needed depth to the Isolani’s midfield which has been left rather thin, especially after Andrea Lazzari’s move to Fiorentina.
Coach – Massimo Ficcadenti: The former Cesena Coach doesn’t have much time to prepare for the coming season. Ficcadenti will be lucky if he can make any major changes to the squad between now and the end of the transfer window. The 43-year-old has a rather thin squad and is in dire need of a clinical goalscorer. However, he has experience in working with limited resources as well as a talent for getting the best out of a small group of players having performed miracles at Fiorenzuola, Pistoiese and most recently Cesena, with whom he finished 15th in their first season back in Serie A for 19 years.
Although Ficcadenti is only 43-years-old he has ten years of experience in management and has worked his way from the bottom up. Many feel he deserves his break in an established Serie A side like Cagliari and even though Cellino has seen a lot of managers come and go since taking over the Rossoblu, they have all been very talented Coaches and there is nothing to suggest Ficcadenti is any different.
Player to look out for: Andrea Cossu – the playmaker was key for the Rossoblu last term and there will be an even higher demand for his creativity this season without Matri and Acquafresca to finish attacks. A fit and consistent Cossu is crucial for the Isolani and if they lose him at any point this season they will be in serious trouble.
Your prediction: Cagliari will be lucky to reach 14th again and may even be battling relegation but the Isolani should still be plying their trade in Serie A come the 2012/13 season.
Probable XI:

Agazzi
Perico – Canini – Astori – Agostini
Biondini – Conti – Nainggolan
Cossu

El Kabir – Nene
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