P: 12th (W10 D11 L17 GF51 GA65 Pts41)
Coppa Italia: Fourth Round Team rating: 6/10 Top scorer: Roberto Soriano (9) Europe: N/A
Bologna battled through the ill-health of Sinisa Mihajlovic but the best that be said about events on the pitch is they were never in danger in a season a lot like the one before, writes Fabio De Dominicis…
Déjà vu for the Rossoblu
It was yet another mediocre season for an inconsistent Bologna, who are still lacking in their attempts to elevate themselves from a perennial mid-table team. “We could’ve done more this season, but we also could’ve done much worse. We have never really been in danger of relegation,” said head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic ahead of one of his side’s last fixtures of the 2020-21 Serie A campaign, and his comments perfectly encapsulated the Rossoblu’s season.
Ending last season in an unexceptional 12th place, there was an air of optimism surrounding the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara as Mihajlovic, in his second full year at the helm on his return to the Emilia-Romagna club, looked to build on the foundations laid down the previous year. Yet in all honesty, the season never really took off for I Veltri. They lost four of their opening five league fixtures, leaving them in 18th place just a month into the new campaign and set the tone for another challenging season ahead.
To their credit, match day five was the last time they would flirt with the relegation zone as they inched their way back up to mid-table, yet 10th after matchday 10 would be the peak of their achievements for the season as consistently inconsistent results hampered their progress.
The side was not helped by unwanted distractions off the field, as Mihajlovic’s expletive-ridden press conference in early December made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the Serbian suspecting a mole within the club was leaking his team’s tactics to the media. That internal distrust was certainly reflected in the team’s performances on the field: following the public outburst, Bologna would go eight matches without victory, their longest stretch over the entire campaign, before finally securing their first three points of 2021 in a narrow 1-0 win over Hellas Verona.
On the flip side, however, that eight-match winless run included five consecutive draws, simultaneously making it the team’s longest unbeaten run of the season, clearly depicting the mediocre level which the team finds itself at present.
Bologna recorded back-to-back victories just twice all season, and sat at either 11th or 12th on the table – no higher, nor any lower – from mid-February until the end of the campaign, failing to capitalise on opportunities to crack a top-half finish for just the second time in eight seasons.
Their attempts at a top 10 berth faded with their inability to win any of their last seven fixtures of the season, compounded by an embarrassing 5-0 drubbing at the hands of merciless Atalanta. That disappointing run somewhat clouded veteran striker Rodrigo Palacio’s impressive feat as he became the oldest player to score a Serie A hat-trick on Matchday 34, albeit in a 3-3 draw with Fiorentina. It was therefore another mid-table end to the Rossoblu’s campaign, and with their fourth round Coppa Italia extra-time defeat to Spezia, the 37-year wait for a trophy continues.
The coach – Sinisa Mihajlovic
After bravely fighting through his battle with leukaemia, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s 2020-21 campaign began in the worst-possible fashion after contracting COVID-19, which he later described as a cool drink of water’ in comparison to his previous devastating health problems. Considering the resources available, with a young squad in an abnormal season, the Serbian safely avoided relegation, yet simultaneously disappointed in the club’s quest for improvement.
He did however continue his philosophy of putting faith in youth, handing debuts to no less than seven players under the age of 20. In seeing out the 2020-21 campaign, Mihajlovic has remained in charge at one club for the longest period in his seven-club Serie A managerial career so far.
Player of the Year – Musa Barrow
Despite impressive contributions from Roberto Soriano in midfield and ever-improving Italy youth international Riccardo Orsolini in attack, few can deny that Bologna’s stand-out player for the season was Gambian starlet Musa Barrow.
Continuing from where he left off last season, where he netted an impressive nine goals despite only arriving in January, Barrow contributed to 16 goals this campaign, including eight goals and eight assists/ Of players younger than him, only Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho had more goal contributions across Europe’s top five leagues this season.
With his mesmerising dribbling skills, the 22-year-old has enjoyed success in various positions in the Bologna attack, linking up well both Palacios and Soriano, with whom he enjoyed the most game-time under Mihajlovic’s watch.
Defining Moment – Amey makes history
While Palacio’s record-breaking, age-defying hat-trick deserves praise, it’s at the other end of the spectrum where Bologna made history this campaign as Wisdom Amey became the youngest Serie A debutant, taking to the field against Genoa in May aged 15 years and 274 days.
The Rossoblu had the fourth-youngest average aged Serie A squad of the 2020-21 campaign, with Amey – a central defender brought in from Vicenza – a sure illustration of the faith put into youngsters in the Bologna set-up, and no doubt illustrating a bright future ahead for him and several of his young teammates.
Did you know?
Wisdom Amey’s debut broke a record that had stood since 1937. The previous youngest-ever player in Serie A was Roma legend Amedeo Amadei, who was 15 years and 280 days old when he debuted against Fiorentina, as was Pietro Pellegri when he made his bow for Genoa in 2016 – Amey was six days younger.