As of this writing, we are 13 days away from the beginning of Bari’s sixth consecutive season in Serie B. I have mixed feelings looking ahead to this new season. On one hand, the club has had many good chances to win promotion and resume its place in Serie A. On the other, this team which struggled to find competent ownership for so long and almost was bankrupted out of existence is still playing. Looking ahead to the new season, where do they stand?
The first critical question is the new ownership group. As we have covered, it will be interesting to see how much of a financial investment ownership will make to boost the squad, especially if it faces injuries or weakness. Early on, we will be able to see if the club is really pushing for promotion, or simply trying to remain viable both on the pitch and in the banker’s office.
One of the biggest mysteries of Italian football is how much the managers actually matter. In a case like Antonio Conte, the answer is an easy “absolutely it matters”. But for most Italian clubs, the key is to hire someone who can be the right fit at the right moment. There is an immense churn by clubs who replace managers quickly when things start to go south. If you have any doubts, look at the resume of new Italy manager Giampiero Ventura, who by the way was fired by Bari.
All that said, Bari have a relatively new to the profession manager in Roberto Stellone. The Rome native played for a few season as a striker for clubs hovering either at the top of Serie B or lower levels of Serie A. He was not a player of note, but more of a fringe/depth player. After retiring in 2011, he stayed on with his final team – Frosinone – and became their youth team coach. He found success there and was promoted to the managerial vacancy for the 2013-2014 Lega Pro Prima Division season. He led tiny Frosinone to Serie A but was fired as the team was relegated last season.
Stellone likes to play a 4-4-2 formation, and early on in the season, he has shown a mixed bag. In the Italian SuperCup, Bari defeated Cosenza before losing at home this weekend to Palermo. The match was tight throughout but i Galletti lost late in stoppage time. The big question for him is whether he can take some of the success he found at a place where he was comfortable and knew the players/staff/fans, and translate that to a new scenario.
As for the roster, it is stereotypically Serie B Italian. Rather than go in-depth I will simply say there is enough talent on this squad to compete for promotion.
Do I have any predictions for this season? Only that Bari have the infrastructure in place to compete for outright promotion. If Stellone is a good manager and good fit for the club, and the players play as to be expected, this could be the team that breaks back into Serie A. That, however, can be said of many of Bari’s competition.
Next week – what happens we you run into another fan?