Spal Season Preview: Tougher times ahead without Lazzari
Andrea Petagna keeping the ball well against Udinese (Getty Images/Alessandro Sabattini)

The team from Ferrara finished 13th last season, after playing attractive, attacking football at times. Coach Leonardo Semplici had his team playing a possession-based style which made his side difficult to dispossess. Still, question marks exist as they have not improved much in the transfer market in contrast to other clubs in the bottom half of the table.

Transfer Business Overview

Last season’s loanee and top scorer Andrea Petagna has been retained from Atalanta for €12 million. This was agreed upon when the loan-deal was first created but is nevertheless an important piece of business for the club.

Spal have also acquired Alessandro Murgia from Lazio for €3.5 million after having had him on loan last season. An interesting, young midfielder who played 16 league matches last season, and who will most likely take further steps this season.

Other transfers include Igor, Mattia Valoti, Lorenzo Dickmann, Mohamed Fares, Davide Mazzocco and Gabriele Moncini on permanent transfers, whilst Marco D’Alessandro, Etrit Berisha and Federico Di Francesco have all joined on loan.

The biggest loss for the club this summer is undoubtedly that of Manuel Lazzari. The right wing-back had been with the club since 2013 and provided the team with width and eight assists last season. Lazzari has now joined up with Lazio, a team which should fit him well.

Other departures include Mirco Antenucci, Mattia Finotto, Pasquale Schiattarella and Filippo Costa. They have also lost Kevin Bonifazi who they had on loan last season.

The Manager

Leonardo Semplici joined the club in December 2014 after having coached Fiorentina’s Primavera side. The club were in Serie C at the time, but two consecutive promotions later, Spal found themselves in the top level of Italian football. Two years after that, the club is now about to start their third consecutive season in Serie A.

Whilst Semplici’s team is hard to face as they are very compact in defence, with their tactical discipline and impressive work-rate, they also bolster an impressive attacking threat. Semplici favours a 3-5-2 formation, using the wing-backs to stretch the opposition. With a wish to keep the ball in the team, the team most often use short, quick passes.

Player to Watch

This up-coming season one should expect Andrea Petagna to continue his form from last season. He scored 17 goals, and similar numbers are expected from him this year if Spal are to do as well as last season. The former Atalanta-striker proved essential last year in Semplici’s quick-passing 3-5-2 system. He can remind you of Olivier Giroud in the way he plays with his back against the goal, trying to include other players in the game.

One for the Future

There is a vast Lazzari-shaped hole on the right side of the pitch for Spal, and that may well be filled by Lorenzo Dickmann. The former Novara player was on loan last season but joined permanently this summer. The 22-year-old has decent pace, is a good crosser and can defend well. Whether or not he will get the nod and become the first-choice right wing-back remains to be seen, but he provides Semplici with a very good option.

Predicted Finish

It is difficult to see Spal improve on last season’s 13th place. They have not improved the team in the transfer market, nor are they yet to replace Lazzari with a player of the same quality. Given that a lot of teams will be involved in the relegation battle this year like last, and that most of them have strengthened themselves considerably, one should expect Spal to be among those teams. They are very reliant on Petagna’s goals, and a finish around 15th would therefore not be surprising.