Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Since Empoli's return to Serie A two years ago they have surprised many people with their impressive performances and attractive style of play. However now in their third season in Serie A and under their third manager in three years, Giovanni Martusciello, Empoli seem to be struggling to maintain their excellent form of the past two years under Maurizio Sarri and Marco Giampaolo. They currently sit in 19th place with just four points, coach Martusciello is already under pressure and according to the Italian press he has two games to save his job. However Martusciello alone cannot be blamed for Empoli’s struggles this season.
This summer’s transfer campaign saw Empoli lose key players such as Mario Rui, Leandro Parades, Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Tonelli. Losing these players has had a huge impact on Empoli this season. Parades and Zielinski were both crucial players for the Tuscan outfit last season and they have been sorely missed in midfield. That spark of creativity that Parades and Zielinski provided is now missing from their midfield and Martusciello is struggling to continue Sarri’s philosophy without the creative midfielders. Tonelli and Mario Rui are also big losses in the defense, especially Tonelli, who over the past two years has been a real leader in Empoli’s backline and is proving hard to replace. Empoli have already conceded eleven goals this year in just seven games. While the loss of players over the summer transfer window has affected Empoli, their new signings have also failed to deliver so far. Veseli, Mauri, Pasqual and Gilardino haven’t exactly set the world alight with their performances and Matrusciello will surely be expecting to see more convincing performances from them on the pitch.
Losing two managers in two years has also not helped Empoli and this year Martusciello is struggling to repeat the wonderful work that both Sarri and Giampaolo did with the Tuscan side. Sarri brought Empoli to 15th in his debut Serie A season and landed himself a job with Napoli thanks to his great work at Empoli. Giampaolo who was Sarri’s assistant the previous season then stepped up to the plate and finished in a highly credible 10th place. Giampaolo was highly sought-after with rumors linking him to the Milan job; eventually he ended up taking the reigns at Sampdoria to replace Montella who became A.C. Milan manager. Losing two excellent managers in two years has not helped Empoli and while they don't have as big a budget as most teams in Serie A, one would have to question the owner’s ambition. Especially in allowing to Giampaolo to move to a team that the Tuscan side finished above last season, even if Sampdoria are a bigger team historically it was a clear lack of ambition shown from Empoli’s owners.
Martusciello was upgraded from assistant to head coach just as Giampaolo was Sarri left for Napoli. However this time it seems unlikely that Martusciello will better Empoli’s position in the table. The next two games are crucial for both Martusciello and Empoli’s season. The Tuscan outfit will face a tough test away to high flying Genoa and the fixtures don’t get any easier with a home match against in-form Chievo after the Genoa match. Martusciello will need to see better performances and pick up some points in these matches if he is to reignite the spark in Empoli’s form and save his own job as well.