The scoreless draw played out between Sampdoria and Udinese on Sunday leaves the Blucerchiati in an interesting predicament. While Samp have only tasted defeat once, losing to a late Napoli fight back, they have also not recorded a victory since the opening round of fixtures. With their record for the season currently reading one win, one loss, four draws, judgement on whether their start has been positive or negative is still being withheld pending further results.
There are certainly positives to be found in the way Sampdoria have played so far this campaign, perhaps the most obvious of which has been the side’s defensive improvement. In five league games, the Blucerchiati have conceded only five goals, three of which came in one game against Juventus. The defence has improved consistently since then, keeping two clean sheets in the last two games. The partnership of Daniele Gastaldello and Stefano Lucchini seems as strong as ever, Reto Ziegler is an excellent option at left-back and Luciano Zauri is solid if somewhat uninspiring on the other flank.
Behind the defence, ‘keeper Gianluca Curci is proving to be an inspired signing. The former Siena custodian has more than filled to boots of the departed Marco Storari and continues to impress with every game. Curci is an excellent shot stopper, controls his penalty area superbly and seems to have successfully cut out the mistakes that marred his early career. The understanding between Curci and the back four also seems strong, which can only help promote defensive solidarity.
It seems, too, that Domenico Di Carlo’s policy of squad rotation is not harming his side’s results. This weekend it was the turn of Reto Ziegler to sit out with Zauri switching to left back and Fabrizio Cacciatore coming in on the right. While Cacciatore will not be challenging for a first-team place any time soon, he managed to keep Kwadwo Asamoah relatively quiet on Sunday and looks to be an adequate back-up option.
Along with the positives, though, come negatives. While the defence is performing admirably, the Sampdoria attack has failed to really fire in their last three games, scoring only once thanks to an Antonio Cassano penalty. Last season’s goal machine Giampaolo Pazzini is yet to register a goal in the league this campaign. Pazzini has not looked his clinical best since returning from the back injury that kept him out of the 3-3 draw with Juventus and the Blucerchiati sorely miss his goal threat. Failing to score in their last two games means Samp have been unable to take advantage of their strong defensive performances by claiming all three points and, if they are to turn this string of results into a positive one, this must be addressed.
There is also a worrying lack of attacking threat coming from the Sampdoria midfield so far this season. With only one goal coming from midfield so far, Stefano Guberti’s strike against Lazio, they could be accused of being over reliant on their all-star strike force. On their day, there are very few partnerships more dangerous than Cassano and Pazzini, but it is important that the side do not suddenly become toothless should neither of their forwards find the target. Another negative aspect of Samp’s start to the season has been Di Carlo’s reluctance to drop or replace players who are clearly underperforming. On Sunday, the Coach waited until the dying minutes of the game to replace the unimpressive Pazzini with Nicola Pozzi, a player who has looked dangerous every time he has taken the field this season. Another example is Di Carlo’s persistence in selecting Franco Semioli ahead of Daniele Mannini. The former Chievo man somehow finds himself in the starting XI week after week despite being a long way out of form this season while the dangerous Mannini is forced to watch from the bench. Mannini brings pace and a goal threat, both things that are sorely lacking in Semioli’s game.
The final judgement on Sampdoria’s start to their first campaign under Di Carlo must be withheld for at least another two games. A convincing win against Debrecen in the Europa League followed by victory against Bologna would stand them in excellent stead for the tougher series of fixtures that wait just around the corner. On the other hand, defeat in either game would leave the Blucerchiati struggling for form going into difficult games against Fiorentina and Inter. Whatever the outcome, much depends on the next few games for the young tactician and his side.