Empoli return to Serie A after a short period away, but it’s been two decades since we saw either Salernitana or Venezia in the top flight, so here is a quick introduction to the newly-promoted outfits.
It was Empoli who won the Serie B title at a canter last term, dominating pretty much from start to finish under exciting new boss Alessio Dionisi. His style had been compared to that of Roberto De Zerbi, which is why he was poached by Sassuolo following promotion. Aurelio Andreazzoli returned for a third spell at the Stadio Castellani after 2018 and 2019, hoping this will finally be the season he makes it in Serie A.
Leonardo Mancuso was by far their top scorer with 23 goals, but couldn’t continue shouldering all the pressure, so Patrick Cutrone has been brought in on loan from Wolves and more forwards are expected before the summer is out. Empoli are a real yo-yo club, tending not to stay in Serie A for very long, but getting right back up there within two or three seasons, their last appearance being in 2018-19. This is often a breeding ground for promising talents to go on and flourish elsewhere, so keep an eye on the stars of the future.
Salernitana finished Serie B in second place last season, pipping star-studded Monza and Lecce to the post for automatic promotion. They haven’t tasted Serie A football since the 1998-99 campaign, when they had names like David Di Michele and Ighli Vannucchi leading the way. A lot has happened since then, most notably bankruptcy in 2005 and rebuilding under Lazio President Claudio Lotito following another crash in 2011. He seemed to have less faith in their promotion than most, waiting until the last second to file the necessary paperwork that put the club into a blind trust, as rules forbid one person from running two sides in the same division.
The Granata did at least keep coach Fabrizio Castori, who had already been on the Stadio Arechi bench in 2008-09. Top scorer Gennaro Tutino was only on loan from Napoli, but they’ve replaced him with ex-Crotone hitman Nwanwko Simy and Federico Bonazzoli on loan from Sampdoria. They’ll need to be clinical, because this is a safety-first team, keeping a clean sheet for 637 minutes in Serie B and only the ninth top scorers in the division.
Venezia are also back in Serie A after 19 years, a far cry from the entertaining chaos of then-patron Maurizio Zamparini, who of course went on to a similarly ill-advised tenure at Palermo. Joe Tacopina had originally run the group of investors who revived the Lagunari in 2015 after bankruptcy, earning back-to-back promotions, but that final step proved tougher than expected.
Another American group, led by Duncan Niederauer, took over in 2019, bringing in local flavour with club icons Mattia Collauto and Paolo Poggi as directors, and Paolo Zanetti as their coach. Again, promotion seemed to be slipping out of their grasp after finishing fifth and reaching the play-off final, only to go a man and a goal down to Cittadella. Remarkably, Venezia clung on at the Stadio Penzo and even scored the decider in stoppages on the counter-attack through Riccardo Bocalon, a man born a stone’s throw from the arena.
Venezia waited this long to get into Serie A and have no intention of letting it go easily, investing in buckets of both new and experienced talent. They include two MLS players, Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann, Club Brugge striker David Okereke, Iceland international midfielder Arnor Sigurdsson and Milan defender Mattia Caldara. More importantly, Zanetti remains as coach, with top scorers Francesco Forte and Mattia Aramu still in place. There are few clubs more glamorous than Venezia, with their stadium only reached by boat, and their marketing team are pushing hard for popularity, but it’ll mean little if they can’t retain that Serie A status come next season.
Football Italia’s club-by-club preview will be published once the transfer window closes.