For Eusebio Di Francesco, the international break came at the perfect time. It was a period to reflect and plan ahead as Sampdoria’s start to the season could not have gone any worse. Seven goals conceded in games against Lazio and Sassuolo have only been compounded by the continual rumours that the club will be sold to a consortium led by old favourite, Gianluca Vialli. These are tough times for the Blucerchiati, and the Coach certainly has his work cut out.
Before they visit Napoli on Saturday night, Samp’s official website delivered a message, that neither Di Francesco nor the President would be taking apart in any pre-match Press conferences as they would detract from the club’s preparations. It was then promised that the former Roma boss would talk to the media after the game - a job he probably isn’t looking forward to.
To put it simply, Sampdoria have been atrocious so far this season. The loss of Coach Marco Giampaolo to Milan was softened by the appointment of EDF. Given his reputation as a solid tactician, the Ligurians’ steady rise was expected to continue. Dennis Praet’s move to England and Joachim Andersen’s switch to Olympique Lyonnais were unfortunate, yet few thought they would have such devastating impacts. Indeed, the defeats to both Lazio and Sassuolo showed it was in central midfield and central defence that Samp had been anonymous.
Sampdoria did spend some money, despite the takeover rumours really coming to a head in August. Jeison Murillo arrived from Valencia and did well against Lazio, but he was let down by his partner Omar Colley, who was abysmal in both games, forcing the Colombian to essentially cover both centre-back positions. The full-backs also have been poor, but it was the midfield where the Aquile and Sassuolo found most joy. Ronaldo Vieira was average in the two matches and is now banned, while Albin Ekdal and Karol Linetty have offered nothing offensively or defensively. Now it’s reported Di Francesco will switch to a 3-4-3 for the trip to Naples, in a bid to shore up his team’s weaknesses.
It’s hard for the Sampdoria fan base to take. Neighbours Genoa are also looking to sell up but have hit the ground running and had an impressive transfer window. Nothing gets the Blucerchiati’s blood boiling more than their city rivals. The situation came to ahead on September 4, when President Ferrero was enjoying a meal in a restaurant. Samp ultras proceeded to surround the entrance and urge him to sell up in no uncertain terms. The frustrations stemmed from the fact negotiations with Vialli’s American had reached another impasse. Discussions were heated and the police were called.
While the backdrop is toxic in the port city, the team still have to perform on the pitch and the 50-year-old’s cause won’t be helped by the Press. Astonishingly, there has already been talk that Di Francesco is already under pressure, and with Napoli, an in-form Torino, Fiorentina and Inter all on the horizon, the outlook is bleak. It would, however, be absurd for the powers-that-be to point the finger at the Coach. This may not be the Samp of yesteryear and Fabio Quagliarella isn’t getting any younger, but there is enough in his squad to suggest improvements can be made.
“What I ask for is humility in our work. The club have done well before me and I want to stay on this path,” remarked Di Francesco before the campaign began. “Here I see that something important can be built. It’s not a step backwards.” Sampdori,a however, may have to take one step back before moving forward while he finds a solution. The ownership situation has to be put to one side as all that matters is what happens on the field.
Di Francesco will change tactics against Napoli and the aim will be to tighten the defence, toughen up the midfield and find goals from sources other than Quagliarella. They have the right man; he just needs time.