Kilmarnock: How has Angelo Alessio turned around the club's Scottish Premiership form?

By Stefan Bienkowski BBC Sport Scotland
Angelo Alessio's side have only lost one of their last seven league games
Angelo Alessio's side have only lost one of their last seven league games

Despite a stuttering start to life in Ayrshire, Angelo Alessio has turned Kilmarnock's form around and is dragging the club back up the Scottish Premiership table.

The Rugby Park side have lost just one of their last seven league games, winning four, and victory over St Mirren can move Kilmarnock in to third place.

It is a swift turnaround from the Italian, who began his tenure with an embarrassing Europa League qualifying exit to Welsh part-timers Connah's Quay Nomdads.

So what has former Italy and Chelsea assistant manager Alessio done to steady the ship and get his new club back to winning ways? BBC Scotland takes a look.

Rebuilding a strong defence

Although Alessio would have presumably preferred to build on the defensive foundations Steve Clarke left behind, he instead had to immediately deal with notable departures.

Greg Taylor left Rugby Park in a deadline-day move to Celtic after the club had already lost central defenders Scott Boyd and Kirk Broadfoot as well as goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.

Alessio opted to plug the holes with like-for-like replacements such as Niko Hamalainen, Dario Del Fabro and Laurentiu Branescu. And for the most part they've stepped in and performed admirably.

So far this season Alessio's side have conceded on average 0.89 goals per match. Although that figure isn't as low as last term's 0.82, it's still an impressive record. And notably lower than the 1.24 goals Kilmarnock conceded per league game in Clarke's first campaign at the club.

It's also better than the defensive record of the majority of the top flight - only Celtic and Rangers are currently averaging fewer goals conceded per game. Alessio's side sit fifth in the division for the number of shots they concede per game, and fourth for expected goals against - i.e the number of chances other teams have created against them.

As such, it should come as little surprise to find that since they lost their first two league games, Kilmarnock have kept clean sheets in five of their seven league outings and lost just one.

Plugging holes in midfield

It isn't just Stuart Findlay and his new colleagues in defence who have allowed Alessio to settle into life in Ayshire - the midfielders have also helped.

Gary Dicker and Alan Power are currently fourth and seventh respectively when it comes to most interceptions per 90 minutes for midfielders who have played in at least half the league games so far.

Top interceptions in the Premiership who have played at least 50% of possible games

Alessio has again blended Clarke's old guard with his own new signings, with Mohamed El Makrini quickly settling in as part of a formidable trio in the middle of the park.

The Dutchman is sixth in the division for tackles per match and alongside Power and Dicker provides a huge amount of defensive cover for Alessio's backline.

'A few little tweaks and it's all falling in to place'

Kilmarnock midfielder Alan Power speaking ahead of Saturday's clash with St Mirren

"We've been working hard on our shape and how we go about our business. The lads have really come together and stuck together. We knew what we were capable of and what we could do from last year. It was just about getting back in to the swing of things. There have been a few little tweaks from the gaffer as well and hopefully it is all falling in to place.

"I think we had to let the new boys know what we were good at last year as well. We wanted to let them know how we train. We're intense every day if we can be. I don't think we're a team that can just rely on our football, we work hard for each other to get results and everyone is buying into that.

"Of course the manager wants to put his own stamp on stuff but I think he appreciates what we achieved last year. So it is hard to change a whole lot but the tweaks have been good and are working well for the team. Our results have picked up and long may it continue."

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