Serie A 2011-2012 Preview: Cesena, The Exception That Proves Many Rules

CESENA ITALY - FEBRUARY 02: Luis Antonio Jimenez and Erjon Bogdani of Cesena celebrate after soring the goal 1-1 during the Serie A match between AC Cesena and Catania Calcio at Dino Manuzzi Stadium on February 2 2011 in Cesena Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

SB Nation Italy welcomes a new voice for our Cesena preview. More than a mere tifosi, Adam Digby is one of the most knowledgeable sources to be found on Italian football. Adam contributes to IBWM, SI.com, Calcio Italia and Beyond the Pitch, and is the co-founder of JuventiKnows.

Cesena are seemingly the answer to almost any criticism of Italian football. All the clubs are poorly run? Look at the Seahorses, who's shrewd financial management has seen them earn two successive promotions, followed by avoiding relegation from Serie A last season. There are no teams playing with width in Italy? Look to the exciting wing play of Emmanuel Giaccherini. Cesena also boast a great stadium, a box-to-box midfielder and a goalkeeper on top form despite the fact he will be 42 years old just a few weeks into the new season.


The work of Sporting Director Lorenzo Minotti must be recognised. The former defender was born in the city, played for the club, represented Italy at the 1994 World Cup and not only has a great ability to sign unrecognised talents, but to also ensure his club receives maximum return when moving them on. Yuto Nagatomo is a prime example, making a huge difference in the first six months, then being loaned to Inter in exchange for Davide Santon before finally being sold for an impressive profit.


There is so much to admire both on and off the field, not least the incredible support at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi. Holding less than 24,000, it still manages to be one of Calcio's most vociferous, thanks to its compact nature and the proximity of the stands to the pitch, a rarity on the peninsula.


Cesena in 2010-11


Not returning immediately to Serie A was an impressive feat, particularly for a club that many had tipped to be relegation candidates almost the moment they secured their escape from Serie B. That they did so by remaining true to the style that brought them into the top flight was even more remarkable, but the loss of coach Massimo Ficcadenti is a serious blow.


Goal Of Last Season


Rather than goal, it has to be miss of the year for Giaccherini who, after rounding Gigi Buffon, probably still has no idea how he managed not to score past Juventus here.

 


Summer Signings


Who's Out?


Davide Santon has returned to Inter, along with Nagatomo, Vasco Regini will spend next season in Serie B with Sampdoria while Alessandro Teodorani has been loaned to SPAL. The loss of Luis Jiménez will be hard to overcome, such was his impact in the central role.


Who's In?


Adrian Mutu is an amazing coup for the club and should replace the departing Jiménez, while Luca Caldirola will be given chances to impress at the back. Gianluca Comotto will look to cover the hole left by Santon and Antonio Candreva will provide much invention in midfield.


What to Expect from 2011-2012


Marco Rossi will undoubtedly be punched by somebody. After that it really is tough to call. A new coach, the uncertainty around star men Mutu and Parolo as well as a large turnover of starting players means Cesena have it all to prove once again, but they have easily enough quality to survive the drop if they can bring all the pieces together.


Key Players


Adrian Mutu may well be the biggest name ever to line-up for the Emilia Romagna side and his form may well have a huge impact on the season ahead, but it is more likely to be the threat posed by Giaccherini that determines how well Cesena fare. The lack of true wingers - and indeed quality left-backs - in the league means with him in form the club has a weapon not many teams are prepared to defend against.


Yet the man on everyone's notepad is Marco Parolo, one of the only true box-to-box midfielders in the league. Just two years ago he was playing in Lega Pro but impressed sufficiently last season to warrant a call up to Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad. What remains to be seen is whether he plays his football in Cesena or elsewhere in the coming season.


Potential Breakout Star


French-born Tunisian Yohan Benalouane is an accomplished central defender and is certainly one to watch closely this term, but he will have serious competition for a place thanks to the arrival of Luca Caldirola on a co-ownership deal with Inter. The Italy U-21 international is a huge prospect and was impressive on loan to Dutch side Vitesse last term.


Prediction


Avoid relegation, thanks to their quality and the number of worse teams in the division.

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