Club Focus – Sampdoria – Sterile attack without Cassano

Another week, another 0-0 draw, another abject performance from Sampdoria. Against Chievo i Blucerchiati failed to score for a fourth consecutive game in all competitions and underperformed against mediocre opposition. Coach Domenico Di Carlo was quick to dismiss suggestions of a crisis after the game, claiming that his side were unlucky and that the recent results have not been a fair reflection on performances. On yesterday’s evidence, however, it is difficult to agree with the young boss.

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Three weeks ago, Sampdoria would have been expected to dominate a Chievo side that appears destined for a season of mid table mediocrity. Samp, though, were comprehensively outplayed by their less heralded opponents. Chievo took the lion’s share of possession, had more shots at goal and boasted a better pass completion ratio. They battled harder all over the pitch and left Sampdoria looking distinctly average.
In short, Samp are a side lacking in confidence and a star player. Since the 1-1 draw with Inter, their performances have steadily got worse as their lack of real ingenuity and flair in the attacking third has resulted in an inability to find the back of the net. Without Antonio Cassano, i Blucerchiati rely too heavily on their wingers to create chances. This hangover from the management of Luigi Del Neri would be less of an issue were the wide men in good form, but only Stefano Guberti can claim to be on any kind of a hot streak and his tendency to disappear for long periods of games means he cannot be relied upon alone. Franco Semioli and Daniele Mannini are both yet to return to first team action, but neither has turned in a good performance since last season. Having failed to score owing to an over reliance on out of form wingers, Samp have been shown up as one dimensional without il Talentino in attack.
While there are many negatives to discuss, some time must be spent extracting the positives from recent displays. Despite a misfiring attack, i Blucerchiati have managed to only concede three times in their last six league games, scoring four times in the same period. For a Coach who stressed the importance of defensive strength throughout preseason this statistic must be particularly pleasing. In fact, it could be the only thing keeping Sampdoria from becoming the latest ‘crisis club’. At the heart of this defensive success has been the impressive form of goalkeeper Gianluca Curci. Signed as a replacement for the outgoing Marco Storari, the former Siena man has been a revelation between the sticks. Gone are the costly errors that haunted his spell at Roma and cost him his place in la Nazionale, a return to the national fold cannot be far off should his form continue. Having matured at Siena, Curci has developed an ability to command his box and breathe confidence into his defence. As well as this, he remains an excellent shot stopper who is able to cope well under intense pressure. For an example of his prowess, look no further than his display against Inter at the San Siro. Up until his withdrawal with injury, he was something of a one man wall, keeping his team in front with a string of superb saves.
Ahead of Curci, the back four are also performing admirably. The central defensive partnership of Daniele Gastaldello and Stefano Lucchini looks stronger every game and Reto Ziegler and Luciano Zauri continue to impress in the full back roles. The club will be looking to secure the futures of the two full backs as Zauri is currently on loan from Lazio and Ziegler is coming to the end of his contract. It would be folly to break up such a strong defensive unit and the club will do everything in its power to hold onto the cogs that make up the back line.
With his defence performing well, Di Carlo is free to focus all his attention on his problems in attack. Cassano looks more and more likely to have played his last game for Samp and so the Coach must find a way to get his team scoring again. Considering the options available, it is not as if Di Carlo is short on quality in attack and it seems that a change of system must be the way to go for the Coach. However, until he finds a way to compensate for the loss of Cassano, his side will continue to be afflicted with what club President Riccardo Garrone eloquently described as ‘Cassano disease’.
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