Despite being a founding member of the Serie A—not to mention seven-time league champions—Bologna FC have been relegated from Italy’s top flight football division many times over the years. Where top clubs like Internazionale, Juventus, Roma, and AC Milan have spent 82, 83, or 84 seasons in the league, Bologna are clocking their 70th with the 2015 – 2016 campaign. The question is, will Bologna FC return to the Serie A produce a good enough finish this year to avoid relegation? Or will they continue their recent trend of ping-ponging between the first and second tiers of Italian soccer?
Bologna’s Recent “Rise and Fall” Trend
Fans in the Bologna home jersey 2015 – 2016 have experienced something of an up and down rollercoaster of emotions over the past few years. A series of sales, acquisitions, and takeovers have
created a lack of consistency at Bologna and have actually put the football club in financial danger on numerous occasions.
All of the tumult at Bologna FC has been evident in the level of play that the team puts forth on the field. While Bologna have won seven Serie A titles in their history—the sixth highest tally of any club—their last victory came all the way back in 1964. In recent years, it looked as if the Greyhounds were improving and pushing toward a return to the top of the table, only to tumble down it again.
Indeed, in 2007 – 2008, Bologna competed in Serie B but won promotion back into the top-flight thanks to a strong second place finish. For the next three seasons, the soccer squad put fans in a stressful situation, always coming very close to relegation, but never slipping over the edge. (2009, 2010, and 2011 saw the Greyhounds finishing 17th, 17th, and 16th, respectively.)
Then, during the 2011 – 2012 season, Bologna’s players seemed to find the spark again. They jumped from 16th place all the way up to ninth, winning the same number of games (13) as they lost. It still wasn’t an ideal season for the Greyhounds: they started the year with a new coach, Pierpaolo Bisoli, but sacked him after losing four of their first five matches. Bisoli’s replacement, Stefano Pioli, helped turn things around and put Bologna in the top 10 for the first time in years.
Between Pioli’s coaching style and a strong 10-goal performance from team captain Marco Di Valo, it seemed as if the Greyhounds had finally found their groove. But Di Valo left Italy during the summer of 2012, transferring to the Montreal Impact for the final years of his football career.
The blow of Di Valo’s departure was dampened somewhat by the arrival of Alberto Gilardino, a single-season loaner from Genoa. But even with Gilardino scoring 13 goals during the 2012 – 2013 campaign, the spark of the previous season seemed all but gone. Bologna won 11 games, but lost 16, falling to 13th place on the Serie A standings table.
Pioli avoided sacking despite the four-place drop, but his tenure at Bologna was on life-support after that. A dreadful start to the 2013 – 2014 campaign (eight losses by Christmas) led to Pioli’s dismissal. Unfortunately, his replacement, Davide Ballardini, couldn’t fix things. The Greyhounds ended the season in 19th place, with a dismal record of five wins, 14 draws, and 19 losses.
Just like that, with the promise of the 2011 – 2012 season thoroughly squandered, Bologna were relegated from Serie A.
The 2015 – 2016 Campaign
Now, following a fourth-place finish in Serie B and a strong performance in the promotion playoffs, Bologna FC are back for their 70th season in the top-flight. But will they be able to hold on, or even potentially score a top 10 finish?
So far, things aren’t looking promising for the Greyhounds. In the first month of competition, they lost four games and managed a victory in just one. Worse, the one team that Bologna beat—Frosinone Calcio—was a fellow Serie B squad last season. Shutout losses against Lazio, Sassuolo, Sampdoria, and Fiorentina suggest that the football club might not be quite ready to compete on a Serie A level just yet.