Undefeated in their last 15 Serie A matches and fighting to secure their place in Europe next season, Parma are the team to appreciate this season. They may not possess the individual talent they once boasted in the mid-1990s but they can instead rely on the value of a team unit to climb the ladder of success. A harmonious group that understand the Coach’s tactical schemes, they work relentlessly and sacrifice incessantly, giving their all for the club to achieve victories.
In Roberto Donadoni, the Ducali have met their match. An ambitious tactician eager to scale new heights, he has grown along with the young squad he manages, developing his ideas and methods to create a tactically intelligent and mentally strong side. “As with Juventus and Antonio Conte and Roma with Rudi Garcia, our strength is the mentality of a group that unitedly follows the ideas of their Coach,” Marco Parolo recently explained.
It took some time for Parma to find their feet earlier this season, defensively vulnerable and lacking in leadership on the pitch - Donadoni has since worked on highlighting the characteristics of his players and introducing discipline to their game. They now lie sixth in the Serie A table boasting the third best defence.
Blessed with pace and tactical intelligence, Parma are a side that excel in space, work well between the lines and most importantly, know how to suffer before grinding out a result.
Asked whether he might consider relying solely on 3-5-2 again after switching to that shape in the second half of the match against Chievo in mid-January, Donadoni was dismissive. The 50-year-old, whose side have focused on the 4-3-3 system since their match against Bologna in late November, is eager to point out formations are not important. What is vital is that his players can adapt to different shapes and ideas on the pitch whilst still maintaining the fluidity of their play. This allows them to be better prepared in their matches and capable of neutralising the strengths of their opponents.
Privileged in possessing a solid spine, Gabriel Paletta may be the hero of the group with his impressive defensive displays, but it is his partner, Alessandro Lucarelli that statistics place as Serie A’s best player. Ahead of them they have benefited from Parolo’s creativity, Jonathan Biabiany’s pace and most importantly, Antonio Cassano’s vision and ability to create space for his teammates to exploit up top.
Yet whilst individual talent is important, it is what these players have achieved collectively that deserves a symphony of compliments. This is by no means, an easy feat at a club like Parma that sees hundreds of players walk through its doors. Consider this - by the start of this summer, the Ducali will have taken part in over 450 player transactions over the year. This involves purchases, loans, co-ownership and the sale of players, 222 of which are considered ‘arrivals’ for €8.3 m and 228 ‘departures’ for €16.3m making the club only a small yet incredibly valid profit.
Selecting the men he wished to go forward with and developing them into a mature group that consistently collect points whilst keeping their feet planted firmly on the ground is a testament to Donadoni and his players. Together and united, the Crociati can continue to realise their domestic dreams and perhaps even their European ones next season.