The Sampdoria attack has undergone quite a change since the start of the season. Antonio Cassano, Guido Marilungo and Giampaolo Pazzini have left, while Massimo Maccarone and Federico Macheda have arrived, joined by Jonathan Biabiany as part of the Pazzini deal with Inter. The only constant throughout this period has been Nicola Pozzi. It’s no surprise that such a turnover has impacted on the club’s record in front of goal.
Although he only officially left in January, Cassano was excluded from the team in October. Naturally, it is his absence that has caused Samp the most problems. Most teams in Serie A would miss a player of his ability, but the Blucerchiati were hit particularly hard as none of the other strikers in the squad were comfortable slotting into a similar attacking role.
Sampdoria scored a total of 17 goals in the 12 matches Cassano was involved in, and since his last appearance, it has been a real struggle to find the back of the net. They have played 18 times, scoring only 14 goals – and as if that statistic needed compounding further, they have failed to score in 10 of those games.
As good a player as Cassano is, his departure isn’t the sole reason for the difficulties in front of goal. The squad is ultimately missing a seconda punta and the set of skills a player of this type brings, the most basic of which is the ability to drop off and find space between the lines. Cassano, like any seconda punta, is adept at finding the space. The difference between the better ones and the rest is how devastatingly they can use it to hurt the opposition.
Unfortunately for Sampdoria, Cassano was the only striker who could drop off, and without a suitable back-up in the squad, it left them having to trudge through until the January transfer window attempting to find a suitable solution with the rest of the strikers available at the time (Pozzi and the now departed Marilungo and Pazzini). None of these are seconde punte – they all prefer to work in and around the penalty area.
Coach Domenico Di Carlo decided Marilungo was best suited to playing off another striker, but he has assisted only three times all season and his sub-par performances suggested he was not entirely comfortable with that sort of role.
The other option explored has been to simply not operate with a fixed seconda punta and instead allow one of the strikers to drop off into space when possible. Unfortunately it has led to a broken attacking game and genuine difficulty posing a threat to the opponent’s goal, as demonstrated by the team’s failure to score in over half of their fixtures since Cassano’s exclusion.
The arrivals of Macheda – clearly a prima punta – and Maccarone have not really helped matters. In his two appearances so far, the latter has shown himself to be far better than any of his colleagues at pulling wide and finding space, but he is the best of a bad bunch in this respect.
Nevertheless, it is not all doom and gloom. In Biabiany, Sampdoria may finally have come across the man they need to help alleviate their current plight. He is a natural second striker so he will not have to adapt his game in any way, shape or form. He was frequently used out wide at both Inter and last season at Parma, so he is comfortable working the channels. Biabiany is no Cassano, but he might just be able to piece the team’s forward play back together again.