If at the moment Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo is the most talked about club in Serie A, and not only because they doubled their points compared to last season, placing themselves just two points from the leader, AC Milan, but for the quality of the performances showed the team that continues to shine for me the most is Ivan Juric’s Hellas Verona. The Venetian squad faced Sassuolo on the last home gameday of the Italian league, being defeated 2-0 despite offering an objectively better impression than that of the guests, both in terms of scoring attempts (Verona hit the posts 4 times with Ilic, Di Marco, Miguel Veloso and Udogie) and because of the lack of many injuries. In our mind we still have the brave matches provided by Hellas, able to finish unbeaten from the away games against Juventus and AC Milan, only apparently thanks to Silvestri’s amazing saves and the many mistakes of the opponents. It’s no coincidence that Verona are currently have the second best defense in the league (last year they ended eighth).
If in some ways that of Hellas is a confirmation of the exciting route lived last season, it must be considered a bigger challenge because Juric was forced to work with a group mainly revolutionized by transfers (Marash Kumbulla was sold to AS Roma, Amir Rrahmani to Napoli and Sofyan Amrabat to Fiorentina), from the farewells (Matteo Pessina and Valerio Verre were on loan, while Fabio Borini and Gianpaolo Pazzini ended their contract) and from the early season injuries of Marco Benassi, Miguel Veloso, Davide Faraoni and Samuel Di Carmine. Despite this handicap and a very young and inexperienced group, at the same time wide, the Croatian coach immediately found a new asset, choosing to focus immediately on an unknown guy such as Matteo Lovato in the middle of the defense trio as well as on Serbian born in 2001 Ivan Ilic, who arrived on loan from Manchester City. Totally, and we are still in November, Juric has already used 29 different players between the league and the Italian Cup games, demonstrating, if needed, how much confidence he places in his players and how much courage he has in putting them in the starting lineup.
On the other and, the Hellas Verona path should not surprise too much: before the start of 2019/2020 season the gialloblù team was considered by the experts to be the worst equipped team in Serie A (also because the one with the lowest market value), with Juric a coach destined for a early sacking. But the Balkan coach was able to show that he’s a great and modern manager and that he’s not only the Gian Piero Gasperini’s ‘godson’, after many season together (he worked with Gasp as a player with Crotone and Genoa and as assistant coach with Inter and Palermo). His way of deploying the team on the pitch is very reminiscent of that of the current Atalanta manager: three-man defense high positioned, only one offensive pivot, a very rich midfield, great attention paid to the work of the full back and to the midfielders’ entries, man marking in all areas of the pitch and suffocating pressing to recover the ball quickly. Even if according to the numbers, a skill for which the Verona players are truly unsurpassed are the aerial duels won. This scheme is a form that seems to work very well against teams that are not ready for such an aggressive and skilled team, for which individuals play a marginal role.
But in addition to his master Gasperini, this team is very reminiscent of Juric’s first 3-4-3 model used with Crotone, with which he managed to hit an unexpected promotion to Serie A in 2016. This season the Juric squad is just 15th in the Transfermarkt values ranking and yet Verona does not seem at all suffering against more experienced teams and well rated players. In the meantime, the club from Veneto has managed to make big money by prestigious sales, but above all to make the most of some players who seemed destined for an anonymous career and who actually have become absolute leaders, recognized by all: Marco Silvestri has become a great goalkeeper, improving game after game; Davide Faraoni was considered one of the best right-backs of last season; while 25 years old Mattia Zaccagni, in addition to being the protagonist of the 2019 Serie A promotion, has recently managed to receive an incredible call-up to the Italy National team after some excellent performances, as a player of great quality exalted by the team’s rise. I bet that continuing in this way Hellas Verona will prove again to be a very difficult side to beat and will stay always on the left part of the A standings, but will be an original and funny team to watch.
(note: the best teams always aim to end up on the left part and is the goal for many clubs before the start of the season – see below)