Its been quite a first half of the season for Sassuolo. You haven’t been watching? Its been great, and they’ve been great. Some of the games have been a real pleasure to watch – the 3-3 draw in Bari the other week was wonderful – and, of course, Sassuolo sit top of Serie B, three points ahead of Livorno, a team they visit on Boxing Day.
Sasol (use the hashtag #ForzaSasol if you want to get involved) have been dominant so far, suffering defeats only at Cittadella and Hellas Verona but, perhaps more importantly than that, they have trailed on only four occasions all season – two of those for less than 10 minutes (1 minute at Bari when it was 2-1; and 7 minutes later on in that match, at 3-2).
As such, Sassuolo have scored first in 15 of their 18 games – only Verona (1-0), Cittadella (1-0) and Vicenza (0-0) didn’t concede the first goal against the Neroverde (average first goal time for Sassuolo is 37 minutes – the freakishly low nature of the opposite means their opponents, if they score first, do so after 29.5 minutes).
Its that domination of games that I want to draw on here, though – there’s a graph, and a figure that I think illustrated particularly well how Sassuolo have played this season.
Sasol have been ahead, so far, for 783 minutes of games – only 16 minutes fewer than they have been level. That’s an amazing figure; basically, on average, they score early, and keep the lead for the rest of the game. They’ve trailed for only 129 minutes over 19 games (that’s an average of 6.8 minutes per game). The message is clear. If Sassuolo score against you, you’ll probably lose. If you can prevent it (3 teams have) you have a chance. Only once, when scoring, have they failed to win, and that was the ding-dong in Bari the other week.
It all makes that game with Livorno, who are second as it stands, particularly mouth-watering.
Moving on from that top of the table clash to the dream both are chasing. If Sassuolo complete the unthinkable and become the 63rd Serie A team (the first new one since Treviso, 2005/06, and first new ‘verde’ since Avellino, 1978/79) they are unlikely to be accompanied by any Serie A new boys – certainly not according to current league position. I thought it might be worth seeing how Serie A treating these impostors and have drawn up two graphs demonstrating, firstly, the points per game for debut seasons in Serie A. I have to say, I’m quite impressed. There’s an average (I extrapolated to 3 points for a win throughout, though of course Italy used 2 points for a win for a long time) of 1.08, which is good news, and only 12 of the 44 teams average less than 1 point per game. There also doesn’t seem to be a trend away from performing well though, admittedly, there are fewer and fewer ‘new’ teams in Serie A; the last two who ‘stuck’ were Siena and Chievo (before that, Parma). So there’s a chance for Sassuolo to impress there – get up, stay up and see if they can thrive.
The other graph is the finishing position (it obviously mirrors the points one to a certain extent), which is also quite interesting, if only to see how few teams, when newly promoted, break into the top six (two) and the amount that fall back instantly (10/44). Full credit to the Fiorentina team of 1931/32, then – they remind me I haven’t finished the 1937/38 review, or at least finished typing it onto these pages; there’s a large amount of teams that finish between 10th and 15th, and I think that would be the aim for Sassuolo – Torino and Pescara, of course, both promoted from Serie B last season, have no higher ambition than that and Sampdoria (thought the playoff team) look like they might achieve it.
My advice? Enjoy Sassuolo’s season while it lasts; next season will be a lot harder; hopefully they’ll be doing something they’ve never done before.
Addendum 24-12-12 Sassuolo have now led for 844 minutes of Serie B games this season, been level for 727 and trailed for 129 – leading for more time than you’re level? Impressive.