Benevento 2020-21 season review

by | May 27, 2021 12:11

Benevento crest

P18th (WD12 L19 GF40 GA75 Pts33)

Coppa Italia: Third Round Team rating: 3/10 Top scorer: Gianluca Lapadula (8) Europe: N/A

Benevento had the ultimate season of two halves in 2020-21, as they were 10th midway through only to plummet back into Serie B after an ill-advised change of tactics, writes Susy Campanale

Stregoni magic wears off

There were two very distinct seasons for Benevento following their triumphant promotion from Serie B under coach Filippo Inzaghi. The first saw them reach the midway stage comfortably in 10th place, praised for their proactive style of football and refusing to just sit back and defend. They opened with a shock 3-2 win away to Sampdoria, gave Inter and Roma a run for their money before eventually losing both games 5-2, holding Juventus and Lazio to 1-1 home draws. They were taking the game to their opponents, no matter how prestigious, and tried to focus on possession football.

The other season began in January 2021 with a 4-1 defeat to Atalanta. From that moment on, it was a slow, ugly descent towards eventual relegation. Their once courageous approach had vanished, replaced by a defend and counter tactic that was not only negative, but also very poorly-executed. Goals were the real problem, the inability to score them and keep a clean sheet.

Their collapse was told in the story of the statistics, one win in their final 22 rounds. That was a fairly inexplicable 1-0 result away to Juventus on March 21, which if anything just made their other setbacks look even worse by comparison. How do you go from becoming one of the only clubs to win at the Allianz Juventus Stadium since its inception to picking up one point from two games against Crotone?

Benevento's Fabio Depaoli and Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli

It is often said the mistake newly-promoted teams make is to completely revolutionise the squad, bringing in more experienced old hands who aren’t particularly invested in the club or prepared to scrap for safety. That was arguably the case for Benevento, although the excellent first half to the season really does raise some big questions about what went so wrong, so very quickly.

Some of it doesn’t even make much sense. Nicolas Viola was so essential to their fortunes in Serie B and did eventually score five goals with three assists, but he was injured for the entire first half of the campaign and things started going badly wrong when he became available in January. Adolfo Gaich was meant to bring a spark of stardom to their front line when moving from CSKA Moscow on loan in late January, but gave precious little contribution. At least Gianluca Lapadula put himself about a bit and tried to look as if he was working for the team, even when missing open goals. One feels what this Benevento really needed was a goal poacher who could finish off those half-chances. They needed a SuperPippo Inzaghi on the pitch rather than on the bench. And now, after the coach quit at the end of the season, they don’t have him at all.

Benevento coach Pippo Inzaghi gestures during his team's game with Milan

The coach – Pippo Inzaghi                 

He had revitalised his career with the promotion from Serie B and strong start to this campaign, but their collapse only highlighted how much Pippo still has to learn about the role of a coach and the tactical aspect of the game, even years after the Milan and Bologna experiences. Someone else will be tasked with taking Benevento back into Serie A.

Player of the Year – Gaetano Letizia

Pin-pointing what went wrong in January is tricky, but Letizia’s injury may well be a good place to start. The right-back had scored three Serie A goals in 2020, including a volley in the draw with Juventus, but made only a few brief appearances from then on due to fitness issues.

Defining Moment – Crotone draw

A win against already-relegated Crotone would set up a tense final showdown with Torino. Benevento were 1-0 up through Gianluca Lapadula’s strike and the Squali down to 10 men for well over an hour following Vladimir Golemic’s red card. Throwing this gift away would mean they thoroughly deserved relegation and it ended 1-1.

Did You Know..?

In the second half of the season, Benevento scored only 16 goals and won one game, fewer than any other club.

Read the full 2020-21 Serie A season review here.

Benevento's Gaetano Letizia

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