Italian side SPAL have begun the new Serie A season in determined style, shaking of their early tag of relegation candidates.
Back-to-back 1-0 wins over Bologna and Parma, has given them a 100% start, sitting in third, behind Napoli and Juventus.
The Ferrara-based side returned to the Italian top flight in 2017, for the first time since 1968, however they struggled to establish themselves, finishing 17th and just three points off relegation.
However they have began their second season in Serie A in stark contrast, picking up from the late season form, that ultimately saved them from the drop.
Three wins in their final four Serie A games of 2017-18 meant it was Crotone that fell through the trap door to Serie B, and SPAL have reacted positively ahead of the new campaign.
The club have kept faith with manager Leonardo Semplici, who guided them to two promotions into Serie A, and steadied the ship last season.
His brief in the close season was clear, avoid a relegation battle at all costs, particularly with the division being further strengthened by the returns of Empoli and Parma.
They have also backed him in the transfer market providing funds for players, to help stabilise the club.
Alfred Gomis, Simone Missiroli, Mohamed Fares, Andrea Petagna and Jasmin Kurtic all joined in the summer and have started both Serie A games of the season, with the latter two scoring in Coppa and Serie A action respectively.
Whilst their start to the season has not exactly been thrilling, with three 1-0 league and cup wins, it has been solid and consistent – exactly what they were not at the start of the 2017-18 season, where they lost eight of their first 11 Serie A games.
Formulating a greater defensive organisation and a stronger spine was the key to Semplici’s transfer moves.
He has also switched from a back four to a defensive trio, of players already at the club, but with a structure that protects them.
The experienced Missiroli works to shield the defence, whilst the other three midfielders will operate deeper, to provide additional support, leaving the attacking to be done by a revamped front three.
Semplici has looked to create a balance in attack, between the intelligence of Mirco Antenuccci and the pace of Fares, either side of Peagna – and so far it is working.
SPAL are not going to reinvent the wheel this season, but their start will give them a foundation, however practical it is, to build on for a long season ahead.
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