Benching the leading goalscorer – Hernán Crespo the substitute

Parma’s 1-0 win away to Sampdoria on Sunday has provided some much-needed relief from the threat of relegation, while at the same time dragging another team into the mix. It was the club’s first win since January, a run of eight winless games that has closely (but not precisely) coincided with the introduction of Amauri into the first-XI.
More than simply the Brazilian’s arrival into the team, it has meant that Hernán Crespo, who has started less than half of Parma’s games anyway, has found himself sat on the bench with ever increasing regularity. For a team with a goals-to-games ratio of less than one for the season so far, benching your top scorer does not appear to be the smartest of moves.
Coach Pasquale Marino initially believed that both Crespo and Amauri could exist within the same team, and started them up-front together for the trip to San Siro against Milan. The heavy 4-0 defeat suggests it was probably not the best game to start with two strikers, although apportioning responsibility for the defeat purely on the fact that two strikers were on the pitch is perhaps a little harsh. Judging by Marino’s team selections since, it appears that is exactly what he has done.
He was already one of many Coaches jumping on the three-man defence bandwagon, experimenting with 3-5-2 variants on occasions before the Milan game. Since then, he has decided to stick with it permanently, settling on a Napoli-esque 3-4-2-1. It means there is only one slot for a striker, and despite Crespo’s prowess this season (nine goals in 26 appearances), clearly demonstrating he can still cut it in Serie A, Amauri is his preferred choice.
That choice is based on the fact that the team now operates with only one striker, and Amauri has more qualities needed in a lone striker than Crespo. He is younger, slightly more mobile and has a greater physicality needed to lead the line alone. His hard work without the ball can also counterbalance the presence of players like Sebastian Giovinco, who, by his own admission, is not great with that part of the game.
Of course, it helps when you start well at a new club, as Amauri did when he first joined. That will naturally keep him at the top of the pecking order for as long as the good form continues. But for all his attributes, the one aspect of forward play where he will always be behind Crespo is scoring goals. The ex-Milan striker is a master predator, and even at his advanced age he still knows where the net is, as his record shows.
The Brazilian, meanwhile, has three goals in his seven games so far, a reasonable personal tally, but the team has only managed six in total during that same period, and only won their first game with him in the side on Sunday. The player himself may be doing just fine, but the team as a whole are struggling at a time when they cannot afford it.
The points-per-games ratio for both Crespo and Amauri when they start games are remarkably similar, but they win more matches with the former. Considering where Parma is in the table, it might be time to return to the Argentine veteran.

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