Parma all but secured their Serie A status this weekend with a third consecutive surprise win. Rob Paton writes on their remarkable turnaround in form
Parma recorded their third consecutive win to further extend the gap from the relegation zone and confirm Franco Colomba's appointment as a key turning point to their season.
Colomba's arrival came off the back of the side recording just one win from 10, and seven points from a possible 30. More than that, Pasquale Marino's era had ended with a confidence-destroying home defeat to now-relegated Bari, and the team were on a dangerous slide down the table.
However, inside four games, journeyman Coach Colomba has seemingly turned things around. After impressive and surprise wins over Inter, Udinese and Palermo, Parma sit 13th, six points above the relegation zone, with less-challenging games in their remaining fixtures re-energising their Serie A survival bid. It is also the best run of consecutive victories the team have recorded in a single season in Serie A in over four years.
Tactically, Colomba has abandoned the full-back reliant 4-3-3 shape in favour of a more solid 4-4-1-1 system that also looks to get the best out of Sebastian Giovinco's creativity, and the side's attacking strengths of a target-man – Amauri preferred.
Colomba's first game saw the formation's introduction, but the subsequent 2-0 defeat to Lazio saw very little response from his players, and plenty of speculation, including from President Tommaso Ghiradi, of a 4-3-1-2 shape coming into play. However – and despite training with this tactic briefly – he has since stuck with a four-man midfield and the players have since grown into it.
Where one goal conceded in the past three games speak volumes of the adjustments at one end, so too does the three goals Amauri has netted in two of those games, and the team's subsequent ability to net three in his absence against Palermo.
Whilst there is a noticeably more aggressive nature to their defending, there is also a newfound cutting edge in attack, with their last seven goals coming from just 11 attempts on target, even as in all three games they have seen half as much possession as their opponents.
Whilst tactics have played their part, Colomba has been quick to talk of the fact that arriving with six remaining fixtures to work with the squad, his main goal has been shifting their psychological focus. He has said where there is little space for inventing new approaches on the field, he has insisted giving them a greater sense of confidence in their ability would unlock stronger performances.
Where this has seen an improved level of consistency from the likes of Amauri and Giovinco in attack, it has also seen key contributions made from the likes of Antonio Candreva and young full-back Rolf Feltscher.
What is most crucial for the team as a whole too is as the relegation battle enters the final three rounds, Parma's run of results has been fully merited. Whilst providing stand-out surprises in consecutive weeks, it is down to their hard work and new-found determination under Colomba that they are currently clear of the drop-zone.
It is with some irony then that survival can be guaranteed next week against Bologna. Sacking Colomba 24 hours before the season began, as the Rossoblu look down the table after five consecutive defeats, it is Colomba's Parma they see charging up.