Bologna season preview: Can the rossoblù step into the top ten?
Riccardo Orsolini during pre season (Getty Images/TF-Images)

Having finished 10th last season in Serie A, one could look at Bologna’s season as progress. However, they could still be relegated until they drew versus Lazio in the second to last round, and they were only looking like a real team after a coaching change in January. With a lot of money invested, owner Joey Saputo wants improvement.

Transfer Business Overview

Bologna have been among the most active clubs in Serie A this summer, bringing in eight new players.

Three of the new players are not new though, as Riccardo Orsolini, Nicola Sansone and Roberto Soriano were all on loan last season. All three contributed heavily in the club’s fight against relegation, and in particular, Orsolini showcased his vast talent in the second half of the season.

Orsolini joined from Juventus for €15 million and was Bologna’s top scorer last season with eight goals as well as contributing with five assists.

The other two joined the club on loan in January from Villarreal in the club’s quest for salvation, and both were outright purchased this summer for €7.5 million each.

But the club has also brought new faces into the squad this summer. Lyanco was a huge part of the squad after coming in on loan from Torino in January, but the club has not been able to keep him. Instead, the new technical director Walter Sabatini has brought in Takehiro Tomiyasu from Sint-Truiden for a reported fee of €9 million, Stefano Denswil from Club Brugge for €6 million and Mattia Bani from Chievo for €2.5 million. Denswil is expected to partner Danilo in central defence, whilst the club has great hopes for the promising Japanese defender Tomiyasu.

Another youth signing the club expects much from is Andreas Skov Olsen. The Danish 19-year-old joined the club from Nordsjaelland for €6 million. Having scored 19 and assisted three last season in the Danish league, the thoughts are that the club has a real gem.

Jerdy Schouten has joined the Rossoblù from Excelsior for €3 million and said in his presentation as a new Bologna player that his greatest idol is Cesc Fabregas. The similarities are there, but the Dutch 22 year old can defend with greater ease than the Spanish international and is more of a box to box player.

The club’s last signing is that of Lassi Lappalainen from HJK Helsinki. The finish winger set the club back €1 million and was sent straight out on loan at Saputo’s other club, Montreal Impact.

The most notable departure this summer is undoubtedly that of Erick Pulgar. The best player of the last two seasons left for bitter rivals Fiorentina for €10 million. A big hole which the club is working hard on filling.

Other departures include Alex Ferrari, Filip Helander, Felipe Avenatti and Adam Nagy, whilst also having cashed in on loan deals from last season in Emil Krafth and Sebastien De Maio.

The Manager

Bologna started last season with new coach Filippo Inzaghi in charge. That did not go as planned though, and the club looked all but relegated in late January. In came saviour and former coach Sinisa Mihajlovic. The Serbian did not waste time and won his first game in charge away against Inter. When the season finished, few clubs could say that they had done as well as him in that period. Finishing 10th, the season looked much better than what had been the case under Inzaghi.

The Serbian was a midfielder of great talent himself and was one of the best free-kick takers in Serie A in his time with clubs like Lazio and Sampdoria. He currently holds the league’s all-time record for goals from free-kicks alongside Andrea Pirlo with 28.

Having managed several teams in Serie A, from his first job at Bologna ten years ago, he has among others managed the likes of Sampdoria, AC Milan and Torino.

Having returned to Bologna, his first head coach job after being the assistant to Roberto Mancini at Inter, Mihajlovic will undoubtedly want to continue the club’s fine form from last season. He will, although, have to divide his time between the team and the hospital. Earlier this summer, he announced to the football world that he has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Being the fighter that he is, he will undoubtedly win that battle.

Player to Watch

The club has several interesting players to watch out for this season, but it is difficult not to mention the Italian attacker Riccardo Orsolini. Top scorer and one of the most important contributors in last season’s great escape, one should expect even greater things from him this season.

One of the biggest questions before this summer was whether or not the club were able to keep him. They had an option to buy him, but Juventus had a counter-option that they were expected to trigger. However, Bologna were able to come to an agreement with the league winners and eventually bought him for a bigger sum than what was originally agreed upon.

The attacker is seen as one of Italy’s most promising youngsters and will be essential if Bologna are to fulfil their ambitions this season.

One for the Future

Orsolini could have ended up in this bracket as well given his talent. However, the club has been working on something of a youth project.

The 20-year-old Swede Mattias Svanberg is one of the most interesting youngsters. Having joined the club for €4.5 million last summer from Malmö, the midfielder showed great promise at times last season, especially under Inzaghi. He was somewhat tossed aside as the club were fighting against relegation towards the latter part of the season though but should contribute more this season.

With Pulgar having left, a midfield spot is up for grabs. Even though the club is working hard on a replacement, Svanberg might be what Mihajlovic is looking for. He possesses great technique, has no trouble finding a killer pass, and does not shy away from contributing in defence. This could well be the year of Svanberg.

Predicted Finish

Last season’s fight against relegation was an anomaly, and not what the owner had in mind when he hired Inzaghi. With Mihajlovic in charge though, the team looked completely different and were a tough challenge for any team. Building on the performances from the latter part of last season, and with several new players having joined the club, they should be able to fight for a finish in the upper half of the table. When Saputo bought the club in 2014, he said that he wanted the club to play in Europe, but that may well be just too soon this season for the club from Emilia-Romagna.