Whenever Sampdoria have been mentioned in recent weeks it has invariably been to discuss the future of temperamental star player Antonio Cassano. With the attention of the media distracted by the feud between Fantantonio and club President Riccardo Garrone, another of last season’s stars has managed to fly under the radar for much of this campaign. Having suffered a back injury in the opening weeks of the season, Pazzini has struggled badly for form since returning, first being overshadowed by the form of Cassano and then by his temper.
Last season, i Blucerchiati were propelled into the Champions League places by Pazzini’s goals and it is no coincidence that the side have struggled to score when Pazzini has not been hitting the back of the net. Having scored the winner against Cesena in his side’s last victory, Pazzini stepped up again on Sunday to fire his side to victory against Lecce. Domenico Di Carlo will certainly be delighted by his performance, but more than that Pazzini’s goals will have reminded the Coach of how important a player the forward is to his side.
With Cassano apparently on his way out of the club, Di Carlo is clearly in charge of a team in transition. The Coach recently conceded that he was finding life at the club tough without il Talentino as he is being forced to drastically change his side’s style of play. With Cassano out of the picture, Samp’s most potent creative force is certainly their wingers. Stefano Guberti, Vladimir Koman, Franco Semioli and Daniele Mannini are all excellent wide players on Sampdoria’s books, suggesting that Di Carlo possesses both the quality and the strength-in-depth to focus his side’s attacks down the wings.
Should he elect to try this, the form of Pazzini takes on even greater significance. The forward is one of the best headers of the ball in Serie A and strikes a mean volley, suggesting the he would likely benefit from a shift towards wing play. Indeed, much of Pazzini’s success under Luigi Del Neri can be attributed to the latter’s persistent use of out and out wingers in a standard 4-4-2 set up.
Despite rumours of an exit in January surfacing recently, Pazzini’s agent was quick to brand them nothing more than pure speculation, stating that his client is in fact unlikely to leave i Blucerchiati during the winter transfer window. The presence of one of the most clinical finishers in Serie A, if not the world, will certainly be a boost for Coach Di Carlo as he searches for a way to take his side forward.
Meanwhile, the slanting match between the outgoing Cassano and Garrone continues with the President labelling Cassano a delinquent and a gangster. Although it may not be ideal for the image of the club, it is certainly deflecting attention from the problems on the field, something that will not have been missed by Di Carlo. With his side failing to score in four of their last five matches, the media’s obsession with Fantantonio has effectively taken a great deal of pressure off a side that are obviously painfully low on confidence.
The performance against Lecce was certainly not one that will live long in the memory, but it is the result that counts and the result came in the form of a vital three points. Pazzini’s hat trick meant that Samp scored as many against Lecce as they had managed in their last seven competitive outings combined, which is certainly a significant step forwards. While not even the most blindly optimistic of fans would claim i Blucerchiati were anywhere near their best against Lecce, the three goals and three points represent a major step in the right direction. With tough games against AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven to come in the near future, Samp’s mini resurgence will certainly be tested. Progression from the Europa League group phase remains an important goal and requires a result against the Dutch side while Milan currently sit top of Serie A and would represent a significant scalp and a much stronger sign of revival.
For Domenico Di Carlo, coping with the loss of one star striker will be made a great deal easier should his remaining star continue to find the net on a regular basis.