Whilst Udinese’s delicious brand of attacking football has captivated an Italian nation and rid the country of clichés regarding calcio’s defensive nature, the manner in which they have pummelled opponents recently, albeit dazzling, lacks a human quality. Udinese are indeed a far cry from last season’s fourth place winners. Sampdoria, by contrast, fought until the final match of the season to seal their position in the league last year. They transported the fans on a journey filled with highs and lows, tears and laughter. They suffered through it all – the dressing room problems, the fracas between the Coach and his star players, the admission of a crisis and the loss of morale. They were a ‘labour of love’ in its truest form – a team that survived the journey and achieved its objectives through hard work and determination. As a reward, they were offered a chance to partake in Europe’s most prestigious tournament – the Champions League.
Fast forward to this season and the club is going through a collapse of Herculean proportions. Sitting only three points above the relegation zone, they are in real danger of plunging further down the league and much of it is down to an impotent attack bereft of ideas and technical quality. With the fans holding up a banner in the match against Parma that read ‘Garrone Vaff…’ it is easy to understand who the fans blame for this crisis.
Having failed to score in 17 matches this season, conceding on average just over a goal a match and now left without their two star players, this team is clearly in crisis. Mimmo Di Carlo was tactically not up for the job and the team’s performances were indicative of an unreceptive dressing room. Riccardo Garrone had no option but to change Coaches in order to inject some passion and confidence back into the squad.
Recent results imply Alberto Cavasin is perhaps not the ideal replacement. Remembered for his disastrous spell with Bellinzona last year, the Coach has failed at and been fired by several clubs throughout his career. His only notable success came in 1999 when he was awarded the Golden Bench award for his progress with Lecce. Since then, he has taken on a handful of modest jobs with little success, only enjoying a good spell with Frosinone. Needless to say, he is a Coach more apt at taking charge of Serie B sides.
With Sampdoria looking like a wounded animal and having only managed three wins since the start of the New Year, they needed a Coach who could jolt them back to life and secure their safety. Cavasin did as he has always done and delivered grand speeches in which he cited his ambition to deploy a team full of ‘character and determination’ that would fight until the last moment. However, one look at Massimo Maccarone’s trembling legs as he prepared to take the penalty on Sunday and one can deduce his plan is not working.
The match against Parma was agonising to watch. Having decided to opt for a 4-3-3 formation at the last minute, the players looked both lost and nervous as they marched on to the field. Whilst Cavasin has attempted to tinker with the players’ positioning such as moving Reto Ziegler further into midfield, the team is clearly suffering from tactical and technical problems and are in desperate need of proper strategizing. The first half was filled with fouls and long balls and Sampdoria only had one shot at goal. Whilst they improved in the second half, Maccarone’s penalty miss and ensuing crowd silence reveal just how big of a problem the new Coach is facing. Is he the right man for the job? Right now Sampdoria are hoping those teams sitting just below them continue to sink to allow them a chance to float.