Monday, December 29 th, 2014
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Torino, is there still life beyond Cerci and Immobile?
Having sold both halves of the excellent attacking duo that served them so well last season, Torino are placing their hopes in the hands of new signings Amauri and Fabio Quagliarella. But how will the team cope?
by Jack Atkinson
Scoring 35 goals between them in the league last season – more than four clubs managed between the whole squad - Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile lifted Torino from 16th place in 2012-13 to 7th place and European football, after Parma were expelled by UEFA for failing to pay a tax bill on time. Such form was always going to attract attention from big European clubs, and Immobile moved to Borussia Dortmund early in the summer, while Cerci moved to La Liga champions and Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid on transfer deadline day.

Torino president Urbano Cairo expressed his desire to keep hold of Immobile (who was Serie A top scorer in the 2013-2014 with 22 goals), blaming the co-ownership of the player by Juventus and Torino’s lack of financial clout for his transfer, though the lure of Champions League football obviously played its part. Quagliarella was brought in from Juventus for €3.5m, having sat on the bench for most of last season, and Amauri came in for free as Cerci departed, having left Parma at the end of the previous season.

Manager Giampiero Ventura had the sense to omit Cerci from the pre-season games in order to plan for the eventuality of life without him, giving Argentine Marcelo Larrondo and Quagliarella the chance to prove themselves up front, though Amauri’s late arrival will have given him something to think about. Immobile was able to find the net frequently last season thanks to his excellent running on and off the ball, coupled with great technique in the shot.

Both he and Cerci scored some wonderful goals from well outside the box for Torino, meaning they were a threat to defenders whenever they got on the ball. They usually played as the two forwards for the team, Cerci able to set up or score from his right-sided position, and Immobile more for the scoring, to be found in the centre or on the left. Cerci was also a rapid runner, and the both were able to launch a devastating counter attack – Cerci putting the ball across for Immobile to score was an all too familiar sight last season.

That side of their game will be missed this season – while Quagliarella is capable of losing his man, Amauri is one of the slower forwards in the league, and will struggle to break from the halfway line without being caught by a defender. They won’t be able to do as much just between the two of them, and will need their team mates to take more responsibility for the build-up play. What they do offer, however, is consistency and poaching ability – Quagliarella has scored 2 of Torino’s 3 league goals this season, one from a simple free kick routine that left him an easy finish, the other an off balance finish through a crowded box.

Amauri has yet to score for Torino, but possesses a similar ability to finish within the box. He also scores a lot of headed goals, rising high above defenders to power the ball into the net. The two forwards are immensely experienced, at 31 (Quagliarella) and 34 (Amauri), and their teammates must now find a way to get the ball to them in the box – whether it’s a pull back for Fabio or a high cross for Amauri. It represents more of a challenge for the midfield, as they can no longer pass the ball to Immobile or Cerci and let them do their work, but should they continue to get the balls in, you can rely on these two to finish a fair amount of them.

One more forward player to watch for Torino this season is Marcelo Larrondo. Thanks to a combination of injury and the obvious competition for places, he rarely appeared for Torino last season, but featured a lot during pre-season and made a good impression. Though he saw a poor penalty saved vs Inter in the first game of the season, he could prove a good third option up front for Torino. 

So how are the team managing so far? Well, after 5 league games they are on 5 points, conceding a modest 5 goals but scoring just 3. It’s a similar story in their Europa League campaign – they beat Croatian side RNK Split thanks to two clean sheets and a penalty, and recorded another 0-0 at Club Brugge in the group stage, followed by a 1-0 win thanks to another penalty. The 7-0 aggregate win against Swedish side Brommapojkarna in the 3rd qualifying round makes for impressive reading, but in reality the club is coming to the end of a nightmare season in their league, on just 9 points from 26 games and certain for relegation, so the tie was never going to be competitive for the Granata.

When it comes to the Europa League, progression beyond the round of 16 would be a great result. Fabio Quagliarella, scoring 3 in his last 3 games (including one penalty), has looked impressive so far, and could be their new talisman – at 31 he brings experience and has a lot left to give, and could be a great signing at €3.5m. At 34, Amauri was lucky to be given a 2 year contract, but is a good option in attack.

Given more time to adjust, Torino should manage to score more goals, and if they keep up the solid defence, could even find themselves challenging for Europe once more – though it seems more likely their new recruits won’t quite be able to replace the thrilling duo of Cerci and Immobile.

Saturday, October 4 th, 2014
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