Can Lecce’s woes be turned into wins?

Last weekend’s 3-0 thumping at newly-promoted Siena has capped a fairly miserable opening four league games for Lecce. Bar a surprise 2-0 victory in Bologna in week two, the Puglians have lost at home to Udinese and another newly-promoted team in Atalanta, scoring just three goals while conceding seven in the process.
The results will make grim reading for rookie Serie A Coach Eusebio Di Francesco who has been given the monumental task of keeping the Salentini in Serie A for a second season after the miracles worked by Luigi De Canio in the last campaign.
Lecce didn’t lose a home game last season until November 21st when a spectacular hat-trick from Giampaolo Pazzini gave Sampdoria a 3-2 victory. The two home league defeats already this season have left the Puglians hovering precariously above the relegation zone, propped up by the three Emilian clubs Parma, Bologna and Cesena, and they are also out of the Coppa Italia after a shock loss at the Stadio Via Del Mare in August to Serie B strugglers Crotone.
On top of issues regarding home form, Di Francesco also has to find a way for his strikers to find the net. Lecce’s three goals have come from midfielders Djamel Mesbah, Guillermo Giaccomazzi and Carlos Grossmüller while the club’s three main strikers in David Di Michele, Daniele Corvia and Cristian Pasquato have just one assist among them.
While a lack of goals may be costing his side points, Di Francesco’s men are also lacking in discipline. Averaging two yellow cards a game isn’t unreasonable, however the two red cards his side have been issued have contributed to defeat in games against Siena and Atalanta, both probably marked as winnable or at the very least where a result was possible. Grossmüller’s two yellow cards in a minute epitomise this best, when with half an hour to go and Lecce trailing 2-1 to the Bergamaschi, he received his marching orders for dissent following a needless foul in midfield.
Despite the doom and gloom, Di Francesco does have crumbs of comfort to work with. In every game Lecce have played this season they have had more possession than the opposition and are creating the opportunities to score. The Roman tactician has young talent at his disposal, notably Rodney Strasser and Manuel Giandonato, and has been flexible with his formation too, varying from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1, but ultimately failing to find the right formula consistently so far.
His team have a chance to bounce back at home to a resurgent Cagliari at the weekend. There is optimism in the Puglian camp too, with Ignacio Piatti quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport as saying “if we continue like this then sooner or later the results will come” and Christian Obodo adding “after three consecutive defeats in our stadium, it’s time to give the fans a smile.”
Di Francesco knows a team effort was key to the Giallorossi’s survival last season and will be looking for his side to gel and form and understanding with one another sooner rather than later. If that doesn’t happen however, Lecce, already isolated geographically on Italy’s heel, could find themselves in a similar position at the bottom of Serie A as well. The Salentini’s season could be a long and lonely one.

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