Sassuolo’s Rise Toward the Top of Serie A Under Roberto De Zerbi

De Zerbi

2020 has been a truly remarkable year.

As if to support that point, Sassuolo are almost the perfect footballing metaphor.

After eight games of the 2020/21 Serie A campaign, the Neroverdi are experiencing something of a Black and Green nosebleed.

Approaching a potentially pivotal game at home to Inter Milan this weekend, Sassuolo sit second in the table.

Last Sunday, temporarily, Sassuolo went top following their latest impressive win, away to a stubborn Verona.

This small-town club is changing the landscape of Italian football.

Sassuolo’s Rise Driven by Roberto De Zerbi

De Zerbi Influence

A commune in Emilia-Romagna with a population of around 40,000 people, it is, however, a son of neighbouring Lombardy, that is putting Sassuolo on the map.

Enter Roberto De Zerbi.

After two years in charge of a club celebrating its centenary year this season, the 41-year-old former AC Milan midfielder, is raising more than a few eyebrows.

Despite his recent success, however, De Zerbi has seen both sides of fortune.

A former boss of both Palermo and Benevento, the latter were relegated back down to Serie B under his guidance in 2018.

But his methods of possession-based play – and also his transfer business concluded – had already caught the eye.

Taking charge of the Neroverdi shortly after that season ended, all eyes now gaze to Sassuolo.

Neroverdi Rise

With just seven years in Serie A under their belts, Sassuolo have already dipped their toes in the Europa League pool during 2016.

The past two seasons, however, have seen the Italian outfit not only rise the standings but do so in an exuberant manner.

Housed within Reggio Emilia’s MAPEI Stadium, Sassuolo have built on the strides made by Atalanta in recent years.

Finishing 11th in their first season under De Zerbi – like the 2017/18 campaign – it was last term where the seeds of transformation began to bloom.

Caputo Arrival

With an existing attack fronted by Domenico Berardi, De Zerbi eyed the perfect additions.

Namely, the frugal recruitment of Chelsea‘s Jeremie Boga and Filip Djuricic from Sampdoria.

It was, however, the arrival from Empoli of veteran Francesco Caputo in July 2019, that has made Sassuolo a force.

Holding Juventus to draws both home and away last term, De Zerbi’s men were becoming prolific in front of goal.

His side scored 69 goals in that campaign.

In Caputo, not only did the striker finish the campaign with 21 goals, but both Boga and Berardi also produced double-figure tallies.

On the back of an eighth-placed finish last season, this term has been the platform for a surprise attempt on the summit.

Goals and Grit

The new season has brought an unprecedented unbeaten run for Sassuolo.

Not only that, but the goals have continued to flow, with all three of Berardi, Caputo and Djuricic regulars on the score-sheet.

Berardi in particular, in his eighth year with the club, is enjoying his best form of his career.

Caputo meanwhile has earned his first caps for Italy.

Such as Sassuolo become the great entertainers this term, La Dea’s mantle looks to have been handed over.

Following the damage left by Covid-19 pandemic in Emilia-Romagna, Sassuolo have looked a different and more resilient side.

Though just four strikes have come in the last three, a superbly masterminded 2-0 win away to Napoli by De Zerbi, highlighted his growing credentials.

The case was similar in Verona this past weekend, winning by the same scoreline.

Now not only has the attack been a case for the defence, but for De Zerbi, his back line also.

Most notably, Kaan Ayhan, who has been a shrewd addition from relegated Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Strong Test to Come

This season, Sassuolo have become the toast of the continent, but now starts the hard work.

Under-fire Antonio Conte’s Inter step up as the latest obstacle this weekend in a mouth-watering clash.

Even after that, however, a trip to Rome and then plucky Benevento lie ahead in the coming month, before a potential blockbuster with AC Milan on December 20, 2020.

For a club of such relative humble roots, the move toward the top of the Serie A standings has been nothing short of a revelation.


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