After taking over the team in January, Mihajlovic started a little revolution at Bologna. Mihajlovic found Bologna in the relegation zone, and the team wasn’t looking good. Led by Inzaghi, they only collected 14 points at the halfway point of the season. When Mihajlovic took over, things took 180-degree turn. The team started flying on the pitch, winning impressive 30 points in the remaining 17 games, which meant that Bologna finished the season well-secured from relegation at the number 10 spot.
At the end of 2018/19 season, the atmosphere at the club was a thrilling one. Fans and the board were optimistic that they can achieve a lot with some serious investments into the squad and Mihajlovic in charge. The owners didn’t hesitate to spend, splashing €67 million on new players, followed by selling only as much as €27 million. This disbalance of incoming and outcoming transfers clearly shows great ambition by the board.
Having finished the last season with such success, Bologna primarily focused on singing their loanees on permanent deals. Especially important was securing the services of Riccardo Orsolini. The 22-year old Italian managed to score six goals in the final 11 games of the season, securing the mid-table spot for Bologna. After a season-long loan, Orsolini was bought from Juventus for €15 million, making him the record signing for Bologna.
In pursuit of young talent, Bologna added their second-biggest transfer ever by bringing in Takehiro Tomiyashu, the talented centre-back from Sint-Truiden. This is a rather risky investment, with Tomiyashu still being unproven 20-year old talent from Belgium. Japenese talent can also be utilized at the right-back position, further adding to his value.
Villareal duo on loan, Sansone, and Soriano were also signed on permanent deals for €7.5 and €7 million respectively.
Bologna’s summer moves look to be a step in the right direction. The big advantage for this team is that the players learned to play together, as most of their incoming transfers were actually loanees who already spent a season at the club.
Mihajlovic realized that he can only unleash the full potential of his squad by playing attacking, aggressive football with the intent to score. The change was obvious right from the get-go with Bologna dominating the possession in both of their Serie A matches. This approach goes hand-in-hand with spending big money primarily on offensive players.
Despite having the previous reputation as a motivator who lifts the team up for short bursts, Mihajlovic is showing some signs of serious tactical improvements in his second stint at the club. The team is set up in a way that the players always have an available passing option. This is achieved by playing three at the back in the build-up with one of the full-backs dropping as an additional outlet in the possession and the other going further up the field to stretch the opposition horizontally. In the rebranded Bologna, Orsolini is used as the main creative outlet on the right, and for a good reason. The talented Italian proved to be a menace when given the chance to attack one-on-one as his combination of speed and flair is difficult to stop for the opposing full-backs.
When Bologna does lose the ball, the idea isn’t to drop back in the zone as quickly as possible, it’s rather to employ high-pressure by surrounding the opposition player with the ball in possession. Watching Bologna this season is great entertainment, and it should look better and better as the team gels with the season moving forward. It’s refreshing to see such a positive and proactive attitude, knowing that most of Serie A’s mid and lower-table teams opt to play reactive football, going the safer route instead.
Getting many expensive and high-quality players isn’t enough in itself. The team needed a great leader, and luckily for them, Mihajlovic fits the role perfectly. With his non-compromise approach, both as a player and a manager, Mihajlovic brings energy and motivation to his players. Fortune didn’t favor Bologna, as their manager was diagnosed with leukemia mid-July. When he did get diagnosed, Mihajlovic promised his team that he would be back in the dugout for the first match of the league. Just as expected from a big warrior like himself, MIhajlovic delivered, showing up for the season opener and impressing the world of football.
Bologna is must-watch television for any Serie A fan this season as they look to break the stereotypical image of boring and uncreative mid-table Serie A team. Early signs are great and Bologna’s development should be entertaining to follow as the season goes on. Bologna isn’t the only Serie A team looking for tactical and technical improvements, as I already wrote about Inter’s new era with Conte in charge.