Time for serious concern at Sassuolo: Rotten run of form has threat of relegation looming large

It's time to start worrying about Sassuolo. They're without a win since October in Serie A, they're not scoring goals like they used to, and they're slipping ever closer to the bottom three...

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Sassuolo players protest referee Pairetto's decision to award Lazio a penalty. (Photo: Getty)

MAPEI STADIUM (Reggio Emilia) – It’s not like Sassuolo to find themselves facing a genuine battle against relegation as the Serie A season reaches it’s midway point, but that’s exactly the position Alessio Dionisi’s side are in with 18 games played. Their 2-0 defeat against Lazio on Sunday again showed signs of their quality, but equally exposed where they are still lacking.

The Neroverdi started well at the Mapei and Armand Lauriente went close early on a couple of occasions, winning a corner and threatening again inside five minutes. Lazio were clearly concerned by his presence, as was made evident when Nicolo Casale dragged him back in as blatant a professional foul as you’re likely to see just as he looked to set off down the left wing. 

But for all Lauriente’s ability to spark into life in a flash, Domenico Berardi’s consistency season after season, and having some really high-level midfielders in Maxime Lopez and Davide Frattesi behind them, Sassuolo are still left wanting when it comes to having somebody to finish chances. 

A no.9-shaped hole

It can be quite a lazy thing to say about a side lacking in goals, but Sassuolo are calling out for a striker in their team, and one that does little other than finish. Ciccio Caputo was that until his sale to Sampdoria in 2021/22, and they’ve not quite had the same edge in attack since. Giacomo Raspadori and even Gianluca Scamacca offered a lot the same season before being sold in the summer, but that Caputo-style forward was still something you felt they could do with. 

With just 17 goals scored in Serie A this season, only Sampdoria are considerably less threatening in front of goal. Agustin Alvarez is a player with lovely feet, but he is yet to show that he can carry the Neroverdi’s goalscoring load, and Andrea Pinamonti still has questions hanging over his ability to be the go-to guy for goals in a Serie A side. 

Davide Frattesi in preseason training for Sassuolo (@SassuoloUS)

There have only been three games this season wherein they’ve scored more than once – against Spezia, Salernitana and Hellas Verona, whereas in previous seasons it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see Roberto De Zerbi’s side, and then Dionisi’s, regularly score two, three or four. 

Replacing Raspadori and Scamacca was never likely to be easy, but it might just be the earlier sale of Caputo that Sassuolo regret more, especially given his sale was done to make room for the younger two only for them to move on nine months later themselves. 

Struggling for goals, without a win in seven since beating Verona in October, and sitting closer to the bottom three than ever before at this stage of a season, questions of Sassuolo’s ability to negotiate their way out of a survival scrap won’t be long in coming if they can’t pick up a win soon.

With AC Milan, Atalanta, Udinese and Napoli up in the next few weeks, their trip to face Monza in Matchday 19 has the feel of a must-win game for Dionisi’s Neroverdi.

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