Could Pecchia be the first Serie A’s casualty?

Manager Analysis
Michele Tossani

Michele Tossani


Frank de Boer was the first EPL casualty this week as Crystal palace sacked the Dutch following a poor start of this campaign that left the Eagles pointless and goalless. It put an end to de Boer’s 77-day stint the South London club which means former Ajax boss recorded the briefest gig any Premier League manager.

Sooner or later, changes will come in Serie A too. Calcio is tough and relentless and managers are the easy scapegoat for fans and owners. The smallest sign of weakness is enough to make a manager serving as a casualty.

So, who’s Serie A’s favourite for the sack? The first coach who probably won’t make it through to May is Hellas Verona head coach Fabio Pecchia.

A Rafa Benitez protégé, Pecchia was an assistant coach for the Spaniard both a Napoli and Real Madrid. He led Verona back into the elite last season but Gialloblù failed to adjust to a higher level.

Fiorentina’s five goals blitz at the Bentegodi exposed the broken relationship between fans and manager and Pecchia is now on hot seat with the ownership thinking about a change.

Verona’s start of campaign is cause for concerns as they have lost all but one of their opening Serie A fixtures.

His team’s last performance against Fiorentina was an embarrassing one with Pecchia’s side that lacking presence and attitude. Hosts’ forwards looked too fluid and too strong to be limited. Verona had been overrun in midfield and Pecchia was outcoached by Fiorentina manager Stefano Pioli.

Sure, owner Maurizio Setti struggled to provide Pecchia a strong roster to face the challenge of Serie A as this summer recruitment process looks insufficient. Goalkeeper and defence was called into question after their heavy loss by Fiorentina.

But the manager didn’t show a willingness to adapt his football beliefs to a league that presumably will see Verona fight against relegation.

Some of Pecchia tactical decisions were naïve and unsuitable for the squad at his disposal. Since this summer the manager made it clear that he wanted Verona playing in a 4-3-3, proactive shape. Pecchia lined up Verona this way throughout preseason, and then in the club’s first three league games. But the team looked uncomfortable.

An initial defeat to Napoli was acceptable due to the difference between the two teams but Pecchia persisted with his tactical thoughts, although in a more defensive display against Crotone. The final 0-0 against the Pitagorici have been seen as unacceptable for ownership and fans as Crotone was perceived as a weaker side and also because Verona’s display was far from brilliant.

Both games also were highly scrutinised with Pecchi’s decision to leave Giampaolo Pazzini – the team’s only forward with Serie A goals under his belt – out of his starting XI that raised eyebrows.

The home game against Fiorentina should have been a point of change. But it was not as Fiorentina dominated the midfield enjoying 57% of the possession. Jordan Veretout and Milan Badelj protected the backline. Marco Benassi, Cyril Thereau and Federico Chiesa provided their side depth and width, shuffling and moving from side to side in order to support Giovanni Simeone up front.

Above all, Fiorentina were left feeling as a stable, organized team in which every player knew what to do. Verona didn’t look the same: they looked more like a disconnected mass of single players, lacking a true game plan.

This time Pecchia inserted Pazzini into the starting lineup but former Milan striker made no great impact in the game.

Defensively the game was a mess with Brazilian goalkeeper Nicolas arguably the worst player on the field. Nicolas poorly deflected Benassi’s shot on Fiorentina’s first goal, and he inexplicably left his position to come off the goal line committing a foul on Simeone that led Thereaux to score Fiorentina’s second from the spot. That were not the first Nicolas’ mistake this season as you can see taking a look to the following gif.

That said the whole team defended badly with defenders often caught out of position. Verona’s tactical weakness was highlighted by Pecchia’s attempt to play risky tactics and to move players into undetermined roles.

It doesn’t mean Verona have a roster that could force their opponents work hard but surely – despite the inadequate recruitment campaign – they still have some good players as an experienced defender (Uruguayan Martin Caceres), a blue-collar Brazilian (Romulo), a quality midfielder (Daniel Bessa) and a striker who is one of the best between teams looking destined to fight to avoid the three spots at the bottom of the table.


Pecchia is stuck with current 4-3-3 but his side wasn’t productive when in possession while looked broken and lost in transition as you see on the below gif.

So, people around the club are asking for a more comfortable system, which could end up experimenting with a three-man defence more suited to cover team’s defensive variability.

What get so angry board of directors, local media and fans was Pecchia’s naivety relatively to the high demands of the Serie A, as the manager would still train at Napoli and Madrid as Benitez’s assistant coach. Instead, the common Serie A creed is that the starting basis for any kind of success in Calcio goes through building is a solid backline: be tough to score against first, then build counterattacking play from this. This way seems to oppose Pecchia’s principles, his resume as player and assistant coach, and his faith in a game plan based on buildup from the back and possession.

These principles worked last season, but players looked confused now that the manager asked them to reply this approach upstairs. Verona resembled a team worried to maintain possession but they have lacked to support their target man up front and their buildup play also were forgettable.

We are still at the start of this campaign but improvements are needed if Verona hopes to have some chances to thrive in order to stay up in Serie A.

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