Parma Club Focus: Are the Gialloblu feeling Zaccardo’s departure?
Cristian Zaccardo was always going to be missed at the Tardini. So proudly namedropped as a World Cup winner in the Crociati ranks, he came to mean a lot to the supporters, and vice versa.
Zaccardo was nailed on to take the captain’s armband when Stefano Morrone eventually departed or retired. Unfortunately, that all ended when the lure of AC Milan proved too great for the 31-year-old. It was his first opportunity to join one of Italy’s biggest clubs, and would probably be his last.
So, the Emilian-born Zaccardo left with no hard feelings from the tifosi Gialloblu, having led and played with the utmost professionalism and spirit since joining from Wolfsburg in 2009.
While he was a high-quality defender – second only to Gabriel Paletta on the squadsheet – his was a departure which wasn’t overly concerning. There were players who seemed like they could fill his boots. Alessandro Lucarelli is old and inconsistent, but Fabiano Santacroce is a capable and usually reliable centre-back. Similarly, while Yohan Benalouane occasionally defends like a headless chicken, he’s still a reasonable stand-in.
But, perhaps he isn’t so easily replaced, after all. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that Zaccardo’s departure has coincided with a dramatic downturn in form. It’s almost certainly not coincidental, that since he has left Parma’s defence has gone from being the one of the strongest units in the division to a weak spot in a side which hasn’t won in its last seven matches.
Signed on loan as a direct replacement for Zaccardo in January, ex-Udinese centre-back Andrea Coda has started the last few matches alongside Paletta, and appears to be the man who Roberto Donadoni is trying to pair with the Argentine for the time being, at least. While he’s done a reasonable job so far, he hasn’t yet provided Zaccardo levels of security, and the usually so reliable Paletta has been unusually shaky.
This can probably be simply explained as a gelling period; one in which the duo just have to become accustomed to working with each other, with Coda having to assimilate himself mid-season into the Donadoni system. However, as recent results have shown, it is a period which is having serious ramifications on Parma’s form, and possible effects on league position.
It hasn’t all been the fault of the centre-backs. Aleandro Rosi’s defensive positioning at right-back was long a problem at Roma, and manifested itself in Parma’s defeat to Catania last weekend. The Emiliani are now down to 11th in the table, and a victory away at Sampdoria next weekend looks extremely important.
Perhaps, while the defence isn’t still completely watertight, Donadoni would do well to revert to his traditional 3-5-2 rather than the 4-3-3 preferred in recent weeks. It provides more defensive cover in the event of any individual mistakes from the centre-backs, and means Rosi’s ventures up the right flank come with fewer risks than when he’s playing as a full-back, leaving space in behind.
With an undoubtedly high-quality squad, Parma will get back on track before the season is out. But, in order to do so as quickly as possible, Donadoni needs to adapt and ensure that Cristian Zaccardo’s departure isn’t any more painful than it needs to be.