Mid-Table Cagliari Can Punch Above Their Weight Next Season

Cagliari spent over €42 million ahead of the 2019-20 Serie A season. The Isolani spent lavishly on Nahitan Nandez and Alberto Cerri. The services of Radja Nainggolan on loan from Inter were also secured as Nicoló Barella was sold to the Nerazzurri.

Coach Rolando Maran was given a competitive side that should have overachieved to mark their centenary year. But, it did not go according to the plan. Neither at the start of the campaign nor at the end.

Cagliari began the Italian top-flight season with a defeat to Brescia.  Alfredo Donnarumma failed once but scored again from the spot to mark their first of fifteen league defeats. It was Inter next and, under Antonio Conte, they do not need to be invited twice to heap misery on rivals.

They were eighteenth in the table and the pressure was building on Maran. An emphatic response was received as Cagliari trounced Parma 1-3 on the road. They went on a run of 13 games unbeaten to prove their mettle.

Champions League qualification was in their crosshairs as Milan and Napoli struggled. Atalanta were scoring freely but had yet to showcase their prolific form. Cagliari now seemed the surprise package of the season.

That would be their greatest hurrah. The Sardegna Arena-based entity saw their form fizzle out and they struggled to meet their expectations. Rolando Maran was sacked and Walter Zenga brought in to arrest their slide. But even the great Italy goalkeeper was powerless as Cagliari finished 14th, closer to relegation than the Champions League qualifying slots.

Their centenary was celebrated without much aplomb, the coronavirus pandemic ensured that. That is in the past now. Like every season, everyone starts at the same level and are masters of their destiny. Cagliari have shown that they can reach dizzying heights, but lack confidence and depth to realize their dreams.

President Tommaso Giulini has appointed Eusebio Di Francesco as the new coach. Zenga has been replaced by the former Sampdoria coach, who presents a more current approach to football. Eusebio impressed in the dugout with Sassuolo and Roma. He might be the catalyst to take them forward.

Eusebio Di Francesco was appointed the new coach of Cagliari by President Tommaso Giulini. Di Francesco comes from a dreadful experience at Sampdoria but has already proved himself during his Sassuolo and Roma stints

However, the squad needs a major overhaul. Alongside Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone, Radja Nainggolan was their best player on the pitch. Cagliari are secure in attack with Joao Pedro and Simeone, but Nainggolan’s possible return to Inter further diminishes their midfield prospects. The Belgian’s departure would severely handicap them and his return should be sought from the Nerazzurri.

The current midfield was overrun time and again, with only an aging Luca Cigarini giving a good account of himself. This shows how poor the overall makeup was. But even with Cigarini and Nainggolan playing, the Isolani failed to keep possession with meaningful intent. They need a reliable midfielder that can take the ball from the dependable Marko Rog and send the ball forward.

Alessandro Deiola should have recovered from his injury concerns, while Christian Olivia should be given more chances. Fans would love to see Federico Marigosu and Riccardo Ladinetti given more chances in the first-team fold.

The defense is Cagliari’s biggest issue. Numerous different pairing were tried by Maran and Zenga, but none were able to stem the flow of goals. Cagliari have been vocal in their pursuit of Juan Jesus but his addition will be a moot point. He is far too inconsistent and injury-prone to add any value.

The likes of Andrea Cistana of Brescia would be available on the cheap and prove to be an inspired addition. He is a reliable presence at the back, does not dive into tackles, and is strong aerially. Cistana’s pairing alongside either Luca Ceppitelli or Sebastian Walukiewicz should improve their overall defensive record.

The left-back area is of concern. Luca Pellegrini’s return to Juventus leaves them short-handed and has left a void. The Isolani were linked with Alessandro Florenzi and Nicola Murru to reinforce the left flank. However, they have gone with Lennart Czyborra from Atalanta. The Berlin native struggled in Bergamo and would be looking to resurrect his career in Sardinia.

Still, the Sardegna Stadium can be the place to be at in 2020-21. With the right weapons at his disposal, Di Francesco can definitely improve on their 14th place finish. The squad ran into the ground last season and it is hoped they improve despite their modest means. Given the attacking talents at their disposal, Europa League is definitely achievable.

But first, they will have to negotiate the new normal. The club saw their campaign fizzle away post coronavirus lockdown and they are not in the clear yet. A few players and staff tested positive for the virus which will impact their preparations physically as well as mentally. Here is to hoping the situation does not deteriorate further and Cagliari can focus on their tasks ahead.