MAPEI STADIUM (REGGIO EMILIA) – The Serie A seasons change, his Sassuolo teammates change, the number on his back has changed too, but Domenico Berardi remains a guarantee for the Neroverdi.
The recently-turned 28-year-old netted the game’s only goal as the Neroverdi secured a 1-0 win over Lecce at the Mapei on Saturday evening, meaning he’s scored in each of the last 10 Serie A seasons, becoming the second Italian to boast that record after Giacomo Bonaventura.
And what a goal it was too. The Calabrian-born forward produced the sweetest of volleys from outside the area as a cross was headed up and away before landing on his left foot as it fell from the clear night sky. Showing his usual and excellent technique, Berardi managed to keep his effort low and sent it straight into the bottom corner.
Sassuolo need Berardi’s brilliance more than ever this season
As much as it felt as though nothing had changed when Berardi fired in that volley, the truth is that this season is likely to present him with a very different challenge in Emilia-Romagna.
Looking around, there’s no longer a Filip Djuricic, a Jeremie Boga, nor a Giacomo Rapsadori to help him carry the creative load. Even Hamed Traore was missing on Saturday.
To be completely truthful, it told. Giorgios Kyriakopoulos isn’t able to do anything near what the aforementioned four player could in a creative sense, as functional as he can be a little further back on the left.
It’s clear that Alessio Dionisi is having to try out some different things this year, and some familiar faces are having slightly adapted roles as a result. Berardi remains out on the right with the license to roam and drift in, but there’s clearly been more responsibly given to Maxime Lopez to get things going.
In possession, nine of Sassuolo’s 10 outfield players form a huge circle around Lopez, and he’s responsible for seemingly every other pass in any given piece of build-up play.
Alongside Lopez, Davide Frattesi still has that same permission to venture forward to join the attack, and his presence up there will likely be more important this year than last.
A curious figure to keep an eye on with Sassuolo this year though is Matheus Henrique. The no.7 is likely to be the one tasked with replacing Raspadori and Djuricic in the side, and those boots aren’t easily filled. He got an hour under his belt on Saturday before being replaced by Kristian Thorstvedt.
Things won’t be easy for Dionisi in Emilia this season, but if he has Berardi continuing to perform at the level we all know he’s capable of, that will go a long way to aiding Sassuolo as they hope to remain as contenders for top-half finishes in Serie A.