In a season unlike any other, Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo has taken Serie A by storm, throwing their name into the title race. The Neroverdi are unbeaten after eight games, recording five wins, and currently sit just two points back of Milan in first place. While cinderella stories in Serie A are few and far between, excluding Atalanta, there is reason to believe Sassuolo’s recent success is sustainable.
De Zerbi’s men have put in place a clear system over the years and have continuously gotten better. As an intriguing matchup with Inter awaits them in matchday nine, here are three reasons why Sassuolo’s hot start might just continue.
1) Boga-Caputo-Berardi is all the firepower they need.
Few frontlines in Italy have as good an understanding as Sassuolo’s devastating trio. Whether it’s intricate movements, inch-perfect passes or the ability to beat their men one-on-one, Sassuolo’s attack has fired them to new heights this season. In fact, no side has scored more than the Neroverdi this season, with Sassuolo scoring 20 goals in their first eight games. Francesco Caputo has picked up exactly from where he left off last season, registering five goals and two assists in just six starts.
Club captain and all-time goalscorer – Domenico Berardi – has established himself as an elite creative threat in the final third, kicking off the season in fine form. Beyond his productive start, the winger was most recently called up to the national team and played an integral role in Gli Azzurri punching their ticket into the UEFA Nations League final four. Berardi found the back of the net in consecutive games, staking a claim for a starting position.
If Sassuolo’s dynamic attack keeps producing, nothing is stopping them from pulling an Atalanta and breaking into Italy’s top four.
2) Manuel Locatelli.
The former Milan man has kicked into another gear this season and has undisputedly taken the next step in his career, establishing himself as one of Italy’s premier midfielders. Locatelli has since attracted interest from across Italy, with Juventus emerging as the favorites for his signature. Much like Berardi, Locatelli used the latest slate of international fixtures to make a name for himself and emerge as a crucial piece to Mancini’s setup.
Locatelli plays an extremely important role in De Zerbi’s setup and is largely tasked with dictating the proceedings in the middle of the park. The 22-year-old feeds Sassuolo’s dynamic attack and relays possession diligently, offering some much-needed balance in the midfield. Sassuolo may just possess the most in-form midfielder in Italy at the moment in Locatelli. Provided his recent ascent continues, the Neroverdi can keep dreaming.
3) Sassuolo’s underrated squad players.
Locatelli, Boga, Caputo, and Berardi may steal all the spotlight, but that shouldn’t take away from Sassuolo’s underrated squad players. Filip Djuricic plays an important role as the side’s number ten, linking the midfield to attack, while Vlad Chiriches and Gian Marco Ferrari offer stability from the back.
In many ways, Sassuolo’s strength lies in their ‘next man up’ mentality and self-belief. When the side was missing Berardi and Caputo against Napoli, they did not panic. De Zerbi altered his setup to a back three and put faith in his squad players. Sassuolo did not disappoint, emerging 2-0 winners. Summer arrival Maxime Lopez opened his account on the season and is yet another budding young talent to watch out for.
As the season wears on, these squad players will have to demonstrate they can contribute when called upon, as they have done in the early goings of the season. If they can continue delivering, there is no reason why Sassuolo can’t aim for top four – at the very least.
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