Since Roberto De Zerbi’s appointment, Sassuolo has played a scintillating brand of football, predicated on heavy possession and the intricate movement of their front three. The veteran tactician has successfully imparted his footballing philosophy on the Neroverdi in recent years and have since emerged as legitimate contenders for Europa League football. Sassuolo has already picked up seven out of a possible nine points to start the season, recording consecutive 4-1 wins in league play, indicating their European credentials.
While Jeremie Boga has missed his side’s first three games through injury, Sassuolo have not missed a beat. Last season’s standouts – Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo – have picked up from where they left off, scoring goals in their last two games. The latter most recently recorded a brace against Crotone, fresh off receiving yet another Azzurri callup.
Caputo joined Sassuolo last season from a relegated Empoli side for a mere 7.5 million euros and is proving to be the bargain of the summer. The veteran hitman notched a record 21 goals last season, trailing only Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile. Caputo has carved out an important role for himself in De Zerbi’s system, regularly interchanging with Sassuolo’s wingers both in and out of possession.
Caputo has demonstrated his keen eye for goal and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Most recently, Caputo’s deadly finishing was on display after being played through on goal against Crotone. The 33-year-old made no mistake, lobbing the keeper with great aplomb and bringing his tally to three on the season already.
Berardi, on the other hand, opened the scoring against the newly-promoted outfit on Saturday and was dominant throughout. The Sassuolo winger has emerged as one of the league’s most consistent creators from out wide and is coming off a career year, in which he scored 14 goals and registered 10 assists. Berardi is on pace for a similar season already and will surely begin attracting interest from Italy’s top sides.
The 26-year-old has been courted by Italy’s traditional giants in the past but has regularly rejected them in favor of staying with Sassuolo. As De Zerbi’s men look to return to Europe, Berardi may just remain for the long run and establish himself as a club legend.
Beyond Sassuolo’s dynamic frontline, Manuel Locatelli has stood out in the early goings of the season. The former Milan midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Juventus earlier in the summer but has since decided to remain with Sassuolo. Locatelli’s passing range was on display once again against Crotone, delivering an inch-perfect switch of play on the Neroverdi’s first goal. Locatelli was later rewarded for his dominant performance, notching Sassuolo’s fourth and final goal.
De Zerbi relies on Locatelli to dictate the tempo in the middle of the park and supply his front three regularly. The Italian international has demonstrated he’s more than ready to take the next step in his career and dominate the proceedings in the middle of the park, week in, week out. As the season wears on, expect Locatelli’s name to emerge atop many sides’s mercato wishlists.
While Sassuolo’s start is encouraging, it’s important to exhibit caution. After all, they’ve beaten the two newly promoted sides and played out to a draw against Cagliari. Regardless, there is no reason why De Zerbi’s men shouldn’t be aiming for Europa League football at the very minimum and have a talented foundation in place for years to come. It may be early days, but Sassuolo are establishing themselves as the Serie A’s latest darlings and have shown no signs of slowing down.
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