Sampdoria are in a dreadful run of form, one reminiscent of a few seasons ago, writes Rob Paton.
Since December 12, Sampdoria have been the most out-of-form team in Serie A, losing six, failing to score in seven and collecting the same number of points as basement boys Bari, whilst dropping from Week 15's 6th place to Week 24's 14th.
Indeed, only the Galletti have failed to score in more than the 12 games Sampdoria have this term, whilst Samp's last four ties have seen 35 goal attempts yield only six on target, four of those in their last outing against Udinese. Pitted in the last seven games against six of the current top seven, Samp have failed to score against five of them, criticised again as predictable, both in terms of lacking attacking inspiration and of a 4-4-2 system that, as Bari are also showing, has been worked out by opposition.
The lack of productivity in attack is reflective of losing Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini's two-year 72 goal partnership and, in director general Sergio Gasparin's resignation, failing to arguably adequately replace them in January with the inexperienced Federico Macheda and the unproven Massimo Maccarone.
In fact, as Samp continue to slide, memories are flicking back to Walter Novellino's era. After 2004's promotion and 2005's fifth place and UEFA Cup qualification, the team suffered a similar decline, flirting with relegation in 2005-06.
A mid-season collapse hit when after Week 20's January win over Fiorentina left them in 7th place, looking likely to once again push for European qualification, the Blucerchiati went the remaining 18 rounds with just one win, collecting 10 points as they slipped to 15th.
This was attributed to factors that eerily mirror today's side. The Coach was deprived of both his main strikers whilst the transfer policy was highly criticised. With Fabio Bazzani and Emiliano Bonazzoli out injured for extended periods of the season, the team agreed to the January sale of Marco Borriello to Treviso, without bringing in a suitable replacement.
Corrado Colombo was recalled from his loan at Ascoli and featured as the side's main striker, but in 12 appearances failed to score. The nucleus of the side was strong, but shorn of potency in attack, the team failed to score in seven of their 18 remaining games, with only bottom side Treviso registering fewer points and goals than the Blucerchiati in the same period.
This season, the Champions League qualifying defeat to Werder Bremen looks significant, as without the extra funding the club was again only able to maintain the previous term's squad instead of improving it in the transfer window. Pre-season 2005 saw a similar situation with minimal transfer activity in the summer, and in both instances circumstances look to have caught the Blucerchiati out up front.
As pressure builds on Mimmo Di Carlo, it is worth mentioning an exceptional start up until Week 15 this season saw the side lose just twice, record the most clean sheets and the joint best defence, providing statistics reflective not only of the emphasis on defence sans Cassano, but of Di Carlo's organisational capacity as a Coach.
Novellino kept his job for another season before restoring the team to a respectable mid-table standing. However, the key difference was his star strikers returned from injury to enable things to then turn around. For Di Carlo, panic is surrounding the run of results as this selection of players available is as good as it gets going forward.