Serie A Preview – Is Bari in Relegation Danger?
In mid-July, I posted a story on this site proposing that Bari, if they played their cards right, could be poised for a top six finish. In the intervening four weeks, they lost a top-flight defender and whiffed on a major signing, leaving the club in worse position than they were just a month ago. Bari rode its superb defending to a top-ten finish last season, but with the loss of its two star defenders, Bari fans have to wonder if this club could be in danger of playing next year in Serie B.
The organization: At the end of the 2009-2010 season, sports director Giorgio Perinetti, who had guided the club to Serie A the prior season, left to take a similar position with Siena. In his place is Guido Angelozzi, a veteran front-office man with experience mostly in Serie B clubs including most recently Lecce. It’s too early to judge the impact of this change, but Bari’s ill-fated courting of Sebastian Giovinco must concern Galletti fans that he is unable to be an effective Serie A director.
Bari brought back Giampiero Ventura as manager after a very successful first season at the helm of the club. Ventura replaced the popular Antonio Conte after the latter’s acrimonious departure from the club in June 2009. Ventura proved his tactical skills by guiding the club to excellent results against Inter, Milan, and Juventus.
Defenders: As I mentioned above, the defense was the strength of this club last year, conceding 49 goals all season. The Galletti captain, Jean-Francois Gillet, is a major reason for this. The Belgian national keeper is one of the best at his position in Serie A, and certainly one of the least talked about. As long as he remains healthy, the club has no concerns between the posts.
The concern for this year however is in front of Gillet. Last year, breakout stars Andrea Ranocchia and Leonard Bonucci became two of the rising stars in Italian soccer with their play for Bari. Both are now gone – Bonucci is now with Juventus and Ranocchia is co-owned by Genoa and Inter. Returning are Cristian Stellini and Salvatore Masiello, both quality defenders. Filling out the backline could be former Sampdorian Marco Rossi and Alessandro Parisi, or a newcomer like Felice Pepe.
Midfield: A major reason for i Galletti‘s success last season was the emergence of some quality midfielders. Edgar Alvarez scored three goals and was a mainstay in the center of the pitch. Other returning starters include Sergio Almiron (5 goals) and Massimo Donati, an early-season pick-up from Celtic. One of Bari’s biggest additions was midfielder Nico Pulzetti from Livorno, a starter last year for a poor team looking to live up to his potential.
Forwards: Bari’s biggest move this offseason may have been a player it kept. Management negotiated a co-ownership deal with Udinese to keep Vito Barreto, Bari’s leading scorer last season. The move will help the club’s sometimes suspect attack at the very least remain potentially potent. Joining Barreto up front could be new acquisition and Algerian World Cup player Abdelkader Ghezzal, acquired from Siena after scoring six goals last season. Other potential starters include Vitaly Kutuzov and perennial underachiever Ferdinando Sforzini.
Predicted Lineup:Gillet (GK), Stellini, Masiello, Rossi, Parisi (D), Almiron, Alvarez, Pulzetti, Gazzi (M), Barreto, Ghezzal (F)
Outlook: Last season, Bari took Serie A by storm and finished a strong tenth just a year after being promoted. Their season included two draws with Inter and a win over Juventus. Losing Ranocchia and Bonucci will be a major impediment for this club, and leaves Bari with some concerns on the backline. If they can find a consistent goal scorer to go with Barreto and play some solid defense, they are a mid-table type of club. If they cannot, they will be on relegation watch every week.