Sampdoria's 3-2 defeat to Cesena has probably cost Mimmo Di Carlo his job but, as Rob Paton reports, the writing was on the wall
The message from the fans couldn't have been clearer. As Mimmo Di Carlo worked with the players on shooting practice in training amid promises his team would capitalise when in the ascendancy in matches, fans unveiled a banner at Gloriano Mugnaini – Cesena is a must win game.
The Coach reverted to a 4-4-2 with Massimo Maccarone and Jonathan Biabiany in attack, ditching a 3-5-1-1 experimented against Fiorentina and Inter, as much for having not scored using that formation amid struggles to keep possession, as for protagonist Andrea Poli's absence.
Despite a bright start, the failure to convert chances again proved crucial as Cesena punished them with a three-goal blitz either side of half-time that the Blucerchiati's late surge failed to answer. The Cavallucci Marini's goals provided another example for Samp of what they miss themselves in attack, and indeed how susceptible their back-line has become in recent weeks.
The early season organisation that yielded six clean sheets in the opening 12 rounds has seemingly abandoned the team, with just two recorded from the last 13 games. Combined with the season-long predictability in a now weakened front-line, anxiety surrounds the direction the team are heading in.
The defeat leaves Samp three points off the relegation zone, but crucially, their form coupled with the upcoming run of fixtures, has put pressure on the club and its management to respond amid panic of a relegation fight. The loss confirms their worst run of home form for five years and since mid-December they have picked up eight points from a possible 39, falling from 6th to 14th in the table.
During the game fans displayed a banner protesting against Di Carlo, whilst chants and whistles were again directed at Riccardo Garrone. Dissent became even more vocal at 0-3, whilst a large group of supporters stayed behind after the final whistle to protest as close to the players' dressing room as the police would let them get.
Whilst it is clear fans no longer believed in Di Carlo's methods, doubts can also be raised of how much influence he held over the players. Up until December 12's defeat to Brescia, in the five games Samp had fallen behind in, they had managed to pick up a result on three occasions. However, since December 12, the team have lost all but one of the 10 games they have fallen behind in. Whilst lacking the sharpness in attack is one aspect to overcome, the pattern of conceding first and losing is most dangerous to take into a relegation fight, and reflective of an unresponsive dressing room.
Sporting Director Doriano Tosi took the post-match Press conference, confirming the club's consideration of a replacement – thought to be Alberto Cavasin – and tellingly suggesting any new man would need 'enthusiasm'. Positive effects new Coaches at Cagliari, Genoa and Catania have had this season will also have played in their minds.
The decision to sack Di Carlo may seem reactionary, especially when considering how three points this weekend would have changed the scenario. However, concern remained that under Di Carlo, just as performances on the pitch foretold, everyone could see exactly where Sampdoria were going.