What we’ve learned from De Rossi’s first games as a coach

As 2006 Italy World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro and Daniele De Rossi prepare to meet for the first time on the touchline, Giancarlo Rinaldi analyses the first matches of the ex-Roma midfielder in charge of SPAL.

Italy’s second division is no respecter of reputations. It already boasted three World Cup winning players – Fabio Cannavaro, Pippo Inzaghi and Fabio Grosso – battling it out with mixed results as coaches when a fourth one entered the fray last month. Nobody has been in any mood to roll out the red carpet for Daniele De Rossi’s SPAL.

In truth, the Roma legend will have expected nothing different than the rather combative clash which welcomed him to the bench against Cittadella in his debut game. Despite enjoying a man advantage for the entire second half and the home team even going down to nine men with a horror challenge in the dying moments, his new side struggled to trouble Elhan Kastrati in the home goal. One shot on target from 66% possession might not tell the entire story of the game but it certainly gives you some indication of a pretty sterile performance. In the old football joke, it was a 0-0 draw where his team was lucky to get nil.

The man himself was full of respectful comments in his post-match interview after his first match in charge – both for his players and the new reality in which he has just immersed himself. Cittadella, in many ways, were a typical second division side with the kind of rugged and robust attitude that is unlikely to just lie down and accept defeat no matter how big the reputation of the opposition coach. A quick call to his old pals Grosso, Inzaghi and Cannavaro could have confirmed that fact.

No goals and no emotions were how one reporter described that first game but that seemed a little harsh, at least on the second count. Fans appeared to be buzzing to have De Rossi in charge and he showed that, as a player, he was never one to shy away from a battle. Those qualities will need to be in good supply in future as he tries to help his undoubtedly ambitious employers clamber up the table.

A narrow Coppa Italia defeat to Genoa in his second match in charge will have been the source of some frustration but his charges at least managed to cut loose in their following game. A 5-0 thrashing of Cosenza started to show how he wanted his team to play as virtually every shot they had on target found the net. In the space of one match, Spal increased their Serie B goals tally by 50%.

If he thought he had the division cracked, though, he was in for a rude awakening in the games which followed. Despite grabbing an early lead at home to stuffy Sudtirol, they came away with only a draw in another clash where their fellow midtable visitors managed to trouble the goalkeeper more than they did. It was a step backwards for a man who never knew the ignominy of Serie B in his playing days.

Another tough day at the office followed with an away trip to high-flying Ternana, currently coached by Livorno legend Cristiano Lucarelli. It was a return to form with the stats showing no shots on target despite a slight dominance in terms of possession. Although a point on the road to a side which is vying for promotion was no disgrace, it was surely not the immediate impact De Rossi was hoping for.

Of course, nobody has a managerial magic wand and one of the most famous beards in Italian football will have been left scratching his chin over how to sort his side’s lack of goal threat. They have one of the highest ratings for possession but are in the bottom half in terms of shots on goal. There is also an underlying issue with discipline with their total cards record, one of the worst of all sides in Serie B. Their coach, to be fair, was no stranger to the odd booking or sending off in his day.

This weekend, he goes head to head with another Azzurri legend in need of a boost when SPAL face Fabio Cannavaro’s Benevento. Four points only separate the sides in the bottom half of the table and defeat could leave De Rossi’s team firmly in the relegation mix.

In their playing days, both men were renowned for their determination and drive and they will need all those qualities for this encounter. With Inzaghi’s Reggina and Grosso’s Frosinone both flying pretty high, they will both have their work cut out if they ever hope to have bragging rights when those four World Cup stars in Serie B meet up for a pizza in future.


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