When Walter Mazzarri was appointed as Torino boss last January, I Granata were languishing on the outskirts of the mid-table and were a side without a clear identity. Fast forward a year later and Torino have become one of the toughest teams to break down in the peninsula and are now pushing for a spot in next year’s Europa League. While Atalanta have received all the plaudits for their offensive football, Mazzarri’s
side are their antithesis, and sit on 38 points alongside Gli Orobici.
After a failed stint in England that saw his contract terminated at the end of his first season, Mazzarri’s reputation took a hit. Long gone were the memories of his Napoli side that, along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, pushed the envelope beating the likes of Juventus, Inter, and Chelsea in the process. Instead, unsuccessful tenures with Inter and Watford came to define the Italian tactician. That’s why his move to Torino was so important. Back with the familiarity of the Italian mid-table, Mazzarri could finally be himself again after years of trying to be someone he wasn’t.
Since assuming the reigns at the club, Mazzarri has steadied the ship and has made the most of the roster at his disposal. Using his trademark 3-5-2, the former Napoli tactician has transformed Andrea Belotti into a more complete striker, beyond what the stat-sheet might show. At the back, Armando Izzo, who arrived in the summer from Genoa, has been Mazzarri’s undisputed leader and has led by example. Alongside Nkoulou and Moretti, the trio have formed one of the league’s most solid partnerships at the back and have only conceded 22 goals – a feat only bested by the current top four.
In fact, in their last five games I Granata have managed five clean sheets beating the likes of Inter and Atalanta, and held Napoli to a stalemate. Torino also have their keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in large part, as the Italian international has played his best football since his Palermo days. After an inconsistent couple of years in Paris and a few loan moves, Sirigu has once again emerged as one of the nation’s top shot-stoppers and has been in top form this season.
Factor in Chelsea loanee Ola Aina’s industry and creativity from the left wing along with De Silvestri’s experience and veteran leadership, and Torino are one tough side to score on, let alone beat.
Mazzarri’s Torino is very similar to any of his past sides that he’s had success with. A compact trio in the midfield, a dangerous duo up top complimenting each other, all-while relying on a resolute defence. We’ve seen this before. With Tomas Rincon acting as the midfield hard-man, as his ten yellow cards would suggest, Daniele Baselli and Soualiho Meité are able to get forward to supply Iago Falque and Belotti. As a whole, Mazzarri’s Torino come together as a real force, and are proof that the sum could be greater than its parts.
Whether or not they qualify for the Europa League remains to be seen as the competition is fierce, however, if Torino have showed us anything this season, it’s that Walter Mazzarri is truly back at his best and it’s wonderful to see.
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