Cagliari And Genoa Are Relegated As Serie A’s Middle Ground Suddenly Gets Tougher

There is no way of arguing against the idea that Serie A has lost much of the lustre it once held, clearly falling behind the Premier

League and La Liga in the eyes of an impartial global audience.

That is reflected financially too, with not one Italian team making it into the annual Forbes list of the world’s most valuable soccer teams, which you can find here.

But regular watchers of Italian football can still see much of what made it great; the iconic striped shirts of the three biggest clubs and the unique colours of sides like Roma and Fiorentina, the noise and flares of supporters in the Curva, the passion and exuberance that are simply unmatched elsewhere.

Even the once-great stadia like San Siro and Rome’s Stadio Olimpico retain their allure, stages famous across the world that make any match played there immediately feel even more important and significant.

This past season in particular has helped rekindle interest in Italy’s top division, with some impressive campaigns from some unexpected quarters. Vincenzo Italiano transformed Fiorentina into a thorough modern, high octane unit that pressed opponents relentlessly, his exciting brand of football firing La Viola back into a European berth after five years of being closer to the relegation zone.

With Maurizio Sarri making Lazio a thrilling team to watch, Jose Mourinho steering AS Roma into the UEFA

Conference League Final, Atalanta were – despite still being hugely entertaining – pushed down to eighth place.

Behind them, exciting, up-tempo teams like Hellas Verona (9th), Torino (10th) and Sassuolo (11th) added to the feeling that this was definitely a season that saw Serie A take some huge strides forward.

What happened at the top end of the table could only add to that newfound excitement too. After years of watching Juventus seemingly stroll their way to consecutive titles, then seeing Inter do the same last term, it was quite the contrast to see the Nerazzurri and AC Milan battle right to the final weekend of action.

Ultimately it was the red-and-black half of the city that celebrated, and boy did they enjoy it. The Rossoneri hadn’t finished as champions since 2011, and fans poured into Piazza del Duomo in their thousands to congratulate their newest heroes.

However, shortly after the final whistle blew on the 3-0 win over Sassuolo that handed that title to Milan, it was the events of the relegation that soon captured attention. Just like the Scudetto fight, the battle to avoid the drop went to the final day too, and Salernitana escaping an immediate return to the second tier might have a major knock-on effect for Serie A’s wider appeal.

The story of how Davide Nicola masterminded their survival is a story for another time however, as what really matters is the identity of the clubs who weren’t so lucky. Venezia should be excluded from that, and the boys from the Penzo – backed by their American owners – should return swiftly to the top flight.

Instead, what should be a major boost to Serie A is seeing clubs like Cagliari and Genoa drop down, sides who for so long have clogged up the middle of the table without every really making an impression upon it.

Genoa have made 13 managerial changes in the last five years, and won just four matches this past season despite trying four different Head Coaches. They played in front of an average crowd of 12,356 despite the Stadio Luigi Ferraris having a capacity of 36,559, and scored a meagre 27 goals, six fewer than any other side in the division.

Joining them are Cagliari, who sacked Leonardo Semplici after he took one point from the first three games of 2021/22. That change hardly improved the situation as Walter Mazzarri managed just five wins in the next 32 rounds before he too was relieved of his duties as Alessandro Agostini was appointed caretaker boss of the final three matches.

Cagliari’s average attendance was as low as 9,718, and this relegation will be the second time they have been in Serie B since 2004. Since then, they have spent 17 seasons in the top flight and a ninth-placed finish in 2008/09 marks their only finish in the top half of the table during that entire period.

It is a similar story for Genoa who ended more than a decade in Italy’s lower leagues when they earned promotion to Serie A back in 2007. They finished as high fifth (in 2008/09) and sixth (2014/15) but managed only two other top half finishes and narrowly avoided relegation in four of the last five seasons, before finally succumbing to the drop this time around.

That underlines just how stale and stagnant the middle ground of Serie A had become, with far too many teams content to stumble along doing just enough to scrape by. Hopefully seeing two historic teams – both of which have previously been crowned champions of Italy – fall by the wayside will send a signal to others that coasting is no longer an option in Serie A.

Salernitana, Spezia and Empoli have shown that newly promoted sides can carve out a place in the league at the expense of these more established teams, and you can be sure that Lecce and Cremonese – who have already secured promotion – will be taking notes.

The rest of Serie A’s bloated middle ground is on notice; your place at the top table is something you should no longer take for granted.

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