Spezia 2020-21 season review

by | May 27, 2021 12:36

Spezia crest

P15th (W9 D12 L17 GF52 GA72 Pts39)

Coppa Italia: Quarter-Finals Team rating: 7/10 Top scorer: M’Bala Nzola (9) Europe: N/A

Spezia earned Serie A survival in their first ever Serie A campaign and Michelle Osei Bonsu reckons coach Vincenzo Italiano deserves much praise for what he’s achieved…

Spezia survive in style

Founded in 1906, Spezia’s journey to Italian football’s upper echelon has been a long, and arguably dramatic one. In short, it would be great content for a documentary to be streamed on one of the various platforms available, especially during COVID-19 lockdowns.

In any case, the Aquilotti finally were able to soar into Serie A for the first time in their history for the 2020-21 season. Although predictably, it’s been a real battle. But Vincenzo Italiano ensured that they won’t be a one-season wonder as his team managed to avoid relegation and played some good football too.

The season didn’t start off well, though, as Spezia were thrashed 4-1 by Sassuolo. Not too long ago, the Neroverdi were in the same boat as the Aquilotti, having secured their top-flight status as recently as 2013. Bulgaria international Andrey Galabinov’s goal ended up being a mere consolation, but he will have something to tell his descendants about as he’s the first player to score a goal for Spezia in Serie A in the club’s history.

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Despite a shocking start, Italiano’s ambitious side didn’t have to wait long to pick up their first victory. On September 30, they secured a hard-fought 2-0 win over Udinese. Once again, Galabinov was among the protagonists, this time scoring both goals.

By Christmas, Italiano’s men were sitting in 17th place, a position they’d have been happy with at the end of the season, but 2021 brought them better fortunes. When the New Year came, they managed to string together back-to-back wins by first pulling off an impressive 2-1 road win over Napoli, followed by another victory in the Liguria derby against Sampdoria.

Spezia successfully got revenge on both Sassuolo and Milan for their earlier losses, defeating both the Neroverdi and Rossoneri. They also managed to nick a point off Scudetto winners Inter in April, and had essentially done enough to confirm a sophomore campaign in Serie A with a few weeks to spare. It was nevertheless something of a season of two halves as they hovered dangerously close to the drop zone in 2020, but pulled away impressively in 2021. Which Spezia turns up in 2021-22 will be interesting to discover. With new American owners – Robert Platek took over from Gabriele Volpi in February – this could be the start of something.

Spezia coach Vincenzo Italiano

The coach – Vincenzo Italiano

The 43-year-old, who was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, has a bit of experience in guiding teams to the next level. Prior to landing his current gig, Italiano coached Trapani, and successfully led them from Serie C to Serie B during the 2018-19 campaign. Naturally, though, this has been his biggest assignment yet – and so far, he’s passed with flying colours. There are lingering questions as to whether he’ll be with the team beyond this summer as he’s been reportedly linked with a possible move to Napoli or Sassuolo.

Player of the year – M’Bala Nzola

Although Bulgaria international Galabinov hit the ground running early, this special honour really deserves to go to M’Bala Nzola. The 24-year-old Angolan striker and Italiano are no strangers to each other, as they first linked up at Trapani. Nzola played a vital role in Trapani securing promotion to Serie B, and now has also played his part in Spezia staying afloat in Serie A.

Defining moment – Big sides shocked

Arguably, their stunning 4-2 round of 16 win over Roma in the Coppa Italia. It must have felt like a horrible case of déjà vu for Giallorossi fans, except, unlike in 2015-16, Spezia beat Roma 4-2 in extra time instead of on penalties. The match eventually went down as a 3-0 Spezia win after Roma were punished further for fielding six subs instead of the allowed five. Spezia also beat Milan and Napoli securing some vital points for Serie A survival, but wins against fellow strugglers Crotone and Cagliari in the second part of the campaign were even more crucial for the Aquilotti.

Did you know?

Gabriele Volpi bought the club in 2008, when Spezia were playing in Serie D. He brought the Aquilotti from non-professional football to Italy’s top flight in 13 years.

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

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