Toothless Parma head towards the Serie A trapdoor

Ten games into last season, Parma were considered one of the biggest surprises of Serie A. This season, however, they are one of the biggest disappointments and look odds-on favourites to be relegated once more. So what has gone wrong for the Ducali?
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When Parma were relegated to Serie B at the end of the 2007-08 season, few expected them to come back the way they did under Francesco Guidolin. For a good part of the early exchanges, the team played extremely well and dreams of challenging for Europa League places were being nurtured at the Tardini. Guidolin had managed to assemble a squad full of new faces eager to prove themselves, alongside older campaigners who added experience and stability to the side. The formula was hugely successful and the team sat in joint fourth place when the winter break arrived. They faded a little but still ended up eighth, just three points shy of the final spot in the Europa League.
The close season saw Guidolin leave for Udinese and Pasquale Marino arrive at the Club in the hope of building on his predecessor’s success. However, Marino’s start to the season has been disastrous and Parma have now gone nine games without a win. Unsurprisingly there are serious concerns about the team’s future in Serie A. The arrival of Juventus starlet Sebastian Giovinco was supposed to herald a new dawn for the Gialloblu but instead the team have failed miserably to match the expectations of their supporters. They have scored a paltry six goals in this campaign so far, the worst in Serie A, and the defeat to Napoli at the weekend condemned them to their fourth loss of the season.
Marino faced similar problems last year at Udinese, where, Antonio Di Natale apart, his team struggled to find any form. The Zebrette fired him in December before reappointing him in February. The summer move to Parma seems to have done the Coach no good. Following the opening day victory against Brescia, his new Club have utterly struggled to find their feet.
On the plus side (loosely speaking), the goals-against column isn’t too alarming. At the time of writing it stands at 10, less than many teams above them, including Juventus and Napoli. Marino’s side have rarely been comprehensively outplayed but crucially they haven’t imposed themselves in any fashion.
The recent games against Roma and Napoli epitomised these types of insipid performance. The Gialloblu had their Roman rivals under the cosh for much of the game but ultimately failed to convert their chances and had to settle for a goalless draw. It was the same story against Napoli at the weekend, when the team again failed to create scoring opportunities and had only six shots on goal in the entire game despite sharing the possession equally.
Herein lies Parma’s greatest problem at the moment – they don’t quite know what to do with the ball once they have it in the final third. Last season the team excelled on the flanks and Jonathan Biabiany provided the pace needed to drive the team forward. This time around there isn’t anyone capable of directing play in a similar manner. Giovinco was expected to break through this season with more first-team opportunities but his performances have suggested Juventus may have been correct in not banking on the youngster.
The way things stand, Parma are rooted in the relegation zone. With games against Sampdoria, Lazio, Inter, Palermo and Juventus on the way, they may find themselves getting acquainted with the survival dogfight once more. Until the Gialloblu learn to be more ruthless in attack, opposition teams will continue to punish their bluntness at the other end. Marino needs inspiration and goals from his team, and fast.

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