With Giuseppe Sannino being installed as coach of Watford to replace Gianfranco Zola, his appointment will no doubt be greeted with a deal of head-scratching from the English press.
I can only add my name to that list of people wondering why they’ve gone with Sannino, as there’s better Italocentric coaches out of work (*cough* Zeman *cough*) who would be affordable, but I’m certainly not unfamiliar with the work of Sannino.
His spell at Chievo earlier this season coincided with a time I was asked to write a focus on the Veronese side from which the former Siena man didn’t come out with flying colours – and that before Chievo’s slump had begun in force.
My main problem with Sannino this summer just gone was his low expectations for Chievo. They’re an established Serie A side and, though their budget is small, they’ve been a stepping stone for many players who have gone on to success elsewhere and, equally, have been able to hold on to the likes of Sergio Pellissier and Cyril Théréau, who should be firing them to more success than they’re enjoying this season.
Born to a family who moved to Turin in part of the mass-migration of southern Italians in the 1950s, his work ethic, and that which he tries to instil in his players is harder-running than the Hornets will have enjoyed under Zola and the football his sides play is more functional than aesthetically pleasing.
Success has come either at a lower level or with teams whose expectations were low within their division – keeping Siena in Serie A as he did was a particular triumph, but winning Serie C2 with Varese won’t have come easy, either; so there’s ability there – he can clearly coach a team either in sickness or in health.
Yet, that’s not what Watford really need – their squad is good enough to be challenging around the playoff area, but falling below that level convinced Zola to fall on his sword. Hiring a manager who oversaw a relegation with a (clearly) talented Palermo side doesn’t seem the logical step to me.
Getting underachieving players to maximise their potential hasn’t been high on his recent list of achievements and that is exactly the job that is needed now. Although 21-goal hitman Matej Vydra has gone, the likes of Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri should ensure the Hertfordshire side are higher in the Championship than they are.
All that said, Sannino has been using the 4-4-2 system recently (particularly at Chievo) which is still quite prevalent in England, and certainly holds the view that ‘football is art’; though precious little of it seems to have been played by his teams over the years.
I think its easy to refer to his time at Siena as a reference, and his time there was typified by the Robur becoming difficult to beat, while managing to impress in attack with the likes of Mattia Destro (recently back from injury and amongst the goals at Roma) pulling the strings; and Siena struggled a great deal after he left, being relegated last season along with the Palermo side he left them to join.
So what should they expect at Vicarage Road, then? A bit of a mixed bag, I’d say. Firstly, he’ll impose a work ethic on his side trying to shore up results and stop the inexorable slide down the table the Hornets seem to be on.
If that is successful, he might be able to produce a little of the artistry he promised when Chievo were visiting Cardiff in the summer (they lost 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium on a visit that Sannino seemed to spend time focusing more on the Welsh city’s rugby heritage than their football team who pipped his new charges to promotion last season).
In short, it was always likely that the Pozzo family would hire another coach off the Italian merry-go-round and Sannino’s stock has recently been high. He needs to prove himself anew though. For Watford, that is able to do so is the hope they must have.
He has experience working with sides who don’t spend much money and, in the lower reaches of Serie A players move around as often as Watford fans have become used to, so the job won’t come as a surprise to him.
Giuseppe Sannino, I wish you well. Just make sure you lose in ‘uddersfield.