Club Focus – Sampdoria – Coping without Cassano

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Despite registering their second 0-0 draw in less than a week, things are far from dull at Sampdoria. With the confusion regarding the future if Antonio Cassano continuing to dominate headlines, the side’s performances on the pitch have taken something of a back seat. I Blucerchiati secured a vital point against Metalist in their quest for qualification in the Europa League but Domenico Di Carlo will be much less satisfied with his side’s toothless display at home to Catania on Sunday.
While the third consecutive clean sheet and another impressive defensive performance will please the coach greatly, his side’s apparent inability to turn possession and dominance into goals must be concerning. Against Catania Samp completely controlled the game, enjoying 61% of possession and boasting an impressive pass completion ratio of over 80%. For all their dominance, Sampdoria could only muster four shots in the entire 90 minutes.
From these statistics, it could easily be suggested i Blucerchiati are missing their creator-in-chief Antonio Cassano. The central midfield pairing of Angelo Palombo and Fernando Tissone is predominantly a defensive one and, for all their talents, Stefano Guberti and Vladimir Koman are far too inconsistent to be relied on to create chances week in week out.
If one is to write off completely the possibility of a first team return for Fantantonio, a question immediately arises as to where the chances are going to come from in future. It is at times like these Sampdoria’s squad begins to look paper-thin. In the entire squad there are only two real options to take over from Cassano.
The first possible solution to the glaring lack of creativity is Daniele Dessena. The former Parma midfielder was a mainstay in the side early in the season when Tissone and Andrea Poli were sidelined by injury and he demonstrated an impressive knack of finding space around the box as well as an intelligent short passing game perfectly suited to the style of football favoured by Di Carlo.
The use of Dessena does, however, require something of a tactical reshuffle. He is very specifically a midfielder and so a change from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 or even 4-3-3 would be required to facilitate his inclusion. Even were Di Carlo to break from his preferred formation, it is far from certain Dessena would be able to perform consistently as the creative hub of the side. While he showed glimpses of his ability early in the season, he also appeared easily bullied and slightly lightweight at times.
The other option available to Di Carlo is provided by Guido Marilungo. The youngster has been a cameo player for most of the season with only one start in Serie A to his name and has been mainly used on the wing, despite preferring to play as a forward. He is wildly inexperienced at the top level with less than 20 Serie A starts to his name and could easily be forgiven for buckling under the pressure of replacing a world class player like Cassano.
On the other hand, Marilungo boasts all the skills required to really excel in the second striker role. The forward played the role exceptionally during last season’s loan spell in Serie B with Lecce. His elusive movement and searing pace make him a handful for any defender and his finishing leaves little to be desired, with a haul of 14 goals in 35 games for Lecce would suggest. The youngster also possesses an eye for a telling pass and has already provided two vital assists this season, setting up Giampaolo Pazzini for the winner against Cesena and laying on Nicola Pozzi’s equaliser against Juventus earlier this year.
While Marilungo is certainly an exceptionally talented player, it would still be a huge risk to throw him in as a direct replacement for Cassano, surely the best player to represent Samp since the great Roberto Mancini. It would represent an incredible gamble from Domenico Di Carlo, but as the coach attempts to address his side’s lack of creativity, it is certainly not out of the question that Marilungo could be asked to play that role in some upcoming fixtures.
Whatever course of action Di Carlo chides, he must do something soon. Without Cassano in the side, Sampdoria look worryingly like a mid table side again. Should their final league position reflect this they would run the risk of their other star players following Fantantonio out of the club in search of European football.
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