With Champions League qualifiers just around the corner, Sampdoria Coach Domenico Di Carlo has set out his objectives for the club’s European season. Having succeeded in holding the core of the squad together, Di Carlo revealed that: “Our objective is to get past the first stage. We have lots of motivation to do well.”
Progression beyond the group stage of the Champions League would represent a significant achievement for Sampdoria. In order to achieve this, Di Carlo has suggested that he will deviate from the 4-4-2 favoured last season by Luigi Del Neri and adopt a new approach. As well as allowing him to make his mark on the side straight away, the change of formation will bring Sampdoria up to date with the recent trends of European football.
Di Carlo has already identified a model for his new system: “I would like our side to play a similar style of football to Germany.” The Germans play a variant of the 4-5-1 with two holding midfielders behind an attacking quartet. Many top European sides play their own versions of this formation, most notably Inter in their Champions League winning campaign last season. Other successful examples include Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, all of whom have employed various evolutions of the system.
Encouragingly, i Blucerchiati possess many of the components necessary to make Di Carlo’s formation work. Key to the success of the system is a strong defensive unit, something that Sampdoria certainly possess. They conceded only 41 goals in Serie A last season, the third best record in the league, and have strengthened their defence with the acquisition of Gianluca Curci from Siena.
The former Roma ‘keeper is a relative youngster at 25 but has a smattering of European and international experience to add to his consistently excellent performances for Siena. He has not been called up for Italy since late 2008 and will be looking to win a recall to la Nazionale by impressing in Europe as well as at home. Having been something of a one-man army at the back for Siena, Curci will appreciate the protection offered by Daniele Gastaldello, Pietro Accardi and Stefano Lucchini in defence.
The back four will be ably protected by the midfield pairing of Angelo Palombo and Andrea Poli, a partnership that really took shape and began to blossom towards the end of last season. Both are tenacious and strong in the tackle, will attempt to shut down the space for the opposition and look to build quick counter attacks when in possession.
Ahead of them, the attacking quartet will be tasked with providing goals for a side that were anything but free scoring last season. Through the middle of the pitch they will again look to Giampaolo Pazzini to provide the goals with supply coming from the craft and guile of Antonio Cassano in a slightly deeper role and both wings. Daniele Mannini was a revelation under Del Neri last season and will likely start on the right wing. His pace, ability on the ball, and eye for goal make him well suited to fill the role and he will relish the opportunity to better last season’s tally of five goals from a more advanced position.
With the left wing spot still up for grabs, rumours regarding a move for Lukas Podolski may resurface. While Sergio Gasparini has already denied that the club were interested, a series of strong performances at the World Cup and Podolski’s obvious preference for Di Carlo’s proposed formation may lead them to reconsider. Should no new winger arrive, Reto Ziegler could be pushed up from his position at left back to fill the role or the responsibility could be given to youngster Vladimir Koman.
One issue that could prove problematic for i Blucerchiati is that of squad depth. While Nicola Pozzi and Fernando Tissone are solid back up players, there are relatively few others in the Samp squad and, should a key player like Cassano suffer an injury, there is no high quality replacement waiting in the wings.
The importance of squad depth cannot be underestimated, especially when the likes of Juventus are spending wildly in their bid to reclaim fourth place. It seems inevitable that more new signings will follow Curci into the club before the season begins and their success could well define this season. For now, with their new formation and new goalkeeper, it is safe to say that things are looking promising for Sampdoria.