Coppa Italia: Round 4 / Team rating: [4/10] / Top scorer: Manolo Gabbiadini and Fabio Quagliarella (11) / Europe: N/A
Sampdoria started with such high hopes, but the Eusebio Di Francesco experiment was a disaster and Claudio Ranieri salved their season, writes Rob Lambert.
It’s been a season to forget for Sampdoria, who completed the 2018-19 campaign with room to grow, but had a disastrous start under new coach Eusebio Di Francesco and called in Claudio Ranieri to steady the sinking ship.
The previous term saw signs of life with the gradual project overseen by Marco Giampaolo, who left for an ill-fated move to Milan, but it had seemed as if it was a coup to hire Di Francesco, a man who had after all only recently taken Roma to the Champions League semi-finals. It was not to be, as he was axed after just one win and six defeats in the opening seven rounds. EDF had seemed somewhat lost, switching from his favoured 4-3-3 to variations of systems with three at the back, never quite getting a handle on the situation.
It was a total reverse on October 7 when sacking Di Francesco to bring in Ranieri, who funnily enough had also replaced this tactician at Roma precisely six months earlier. The nostalgia was impossible to ignore, considering Ranieri’s debut Sampdoria match was a 0-0 draw against the Giallorossi in Week 8.
A safe pair of hands, his first task was to fix the incredibly leaky defence, which had conceded 16 goals, while scoring a pathetic four in seven rounds. Ranieri certainly achieved that, with three clean sheets in his first five games, including against goal-scoring juggernaut Atalanta. Starting in rock bottom place, the veteran steered Samp out of the drop zone with his first win over Udinese in Week 13 and they hovered just above 18th place for months.
Following the lockdown, and the January transfer window which saw Maya Yoshida, Lorenzo Tonelli, Antonino La Gumina and Andrea Bertolacci come in, the Blucerchiati seemed rejuvenated and surged up the standings. It's particularly remarkable considering Samp had so many COVID cases in their ranks. They put together five victories in six rounds, more than any other side in July, to guarantee their Serie A status for another season. Losing the derby to a highly-motivated Genoa was the beginning of the comedown for a team that had achieved its aim and just wanted to go on vacation.
The Coach – Eusebio Di Francesco/Claudio Ranieri
Eusebio Di Francesco will start to get a complex about Claudio Ranieri, following him around like a shadow. Just six months after the veteran stepped in to replace him on the Roma bench, the exact same thing happened at Marassi. Nobody was surprised by Di Francesco’s dismissal this time, as one win and six losses in seven rounds was a dismal return. Ranieri may have won the Premier League at Leicester City, but in Italy he’s still seen as more suited to avoiding the drop.
Player of the year – Fabio Quagliarella
Netting a simply phenomenal 26 league goals last season saw Fabio Quagliarella beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile to the coveted Serie A Capocannoniere crown. Such an achievement gave the 37-year-old the mantle of being Sampdoria’s most vital player, and although he only got 11 this term, that still makes him their most prolific striker alongside Manolo Gabbiadini. Injury held the veteran back, so he achieved that haul in just 28 games compared to Gabbiadini’s 33.
Highlights – Jubilant July
Nobody picked up as many Serie A points as Sampdoria in the first half of July, winning five out of six during a streak that saw them lose only to Atalanta. They were also scoring goals for fun during that spell, finding the net 14 times and conceding six. It proved enough to put them out of the danger zone and able to relax for the final four rounds.
Nightmare – Disastrous Di Francesco
Never before had Sampdoria managed to lose six of their opening seven Serie A games. Nothing was going right for Eusebio Di Francesco, as not only were they leaking goals constantly, the supposed great entertainer tactician only managed to get them to score four. He’d arrived with such lofty ambitions and determination to prove Roma were wrong to sack him.
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