Genoa: Taking the next step
Genoa have weathered the storm, and now it is time for Alberto Gilardino’s men to show just how good they can be.
Eight points from their first nine games may be unremarkable, even for a newly promoted side, but Genoa’s run of fixtures to start this season would stress every side in Serie A. Fiorentina, Lazio, Torino, Napoli, Lecce, Roma, Udinese, Milan and Atalanta, in that order. Facing five of last season’s top six by the middle of October; the fixture computer must have something against the Grifoni.
After a 4-1 home thumping by Fiorentina on the opening day, you could have forgiven Genoa for allowing themselves to be consumed by the pressure of Serie A; especially having to go to the Olimpico to face Lazio. A header from Mateo Retegui gave Genoa an extremely impressive 1-0 win to kickstart their season. Retegui, a summer signing from Tigre, has settled into Serie A nicely, scoring three times already and looking like a player that very few promoted sides in the past twenty years have been able to call upon.
Genoa's relegation in 2022 did wonders for them.
I was there on that beautiful Saturday afternoon in May when Genoa were promoted back to Serie A at the first attempt. You could have been convinced they had been away for two decades, such were the celebrations, but it was merely a celebration of the pride they have for their club and their city; and that they had bounced back so quickly.
In a way that could only make sense in football, Genoa’s relegation in 2022 did wonders for them. It allowed them to blood players like Albert Gudmundsson and Morten Frendrup, who arrived amid a failed relegation battle, but thrived in Serie B; which has perhaps allowed them to hit the ground running this season. It is a lot easier to come into Serie A off the back of a strong Serie B campaign, rather than arriving and being asked to save the club from its fate.
Last season also gave Radu Dragusin a chance to play a full season of first team football, having arrived on loan from Juventus. He played every game as Genoa went up and has even been rumoured to have attracted interest from Newcastle, though I would recommend staying in Genoa. Even on a basic level: fresh focaccia > Greggs.
Sacking Alexander Blessin for Alberto Gilardino last December was another great decision, one that ended with promotion and could prove to be the season that forged Gilardino the Coach. Managing a side expected to win each week comes with its own pressures, but it’s certainly preferable to struggling for survival when you’re in your first coaching role outside of Serie C. Gilardino thrived in making his team the protagonist, starving the lesser opponents of space and using Gudmundsson’s combination with Massimo Coda to create goals.
The underlying numbers paint a brighter picture than 15th.
While their owners, US-based private investment firm 777 Partners are busy trying to buy Everton, the Grifoni will just hope that the good times have returned permanently. 777’s tenure at Genoa has been a welcome change of pace to the Preziosi years, at least the latter years, but it has not been all plain sailing for 777 in their pursuit of a football empire, with allegations of fraud, illegal loans and failure to satisfy agreements, as well as failure to provide basic financial documents to support their attempted takeover of Everton.
Back on the pitch, where football is all that matters, Genoa have reasons to be cheerful going forward. Their underlying numbers paint the picture of a side better than 15th, while their run of fixtures across the next six weeks are favourable.
The time is now. Genoa have a squad capable of pushing towards mid-table, spearheaded by Retegui and carefully guided by the ever-improving Gilardino. They have taken the punches from the big boys, and now it is time for them to dish out some punishment of their own.