Doomed after a horrendous start to the 2019/20 Serie A season, Sampdoria coach Eusebio Di Francesco had his contract terminated following the Blucerchiati’s 2-0 defeat away to Hellas Verona in early October.
Replacing him after the international break is Claudio Ranieri, the man who also replaced him as coach at Roma for the latter stages of the 2018/19 campaign, and the Tinkerman has already stamped the hallmarks of his coaching on the Blucerchiati squad.
Although he has rapidly rectified Sampdoria’s defensive woes, the 68-year-old now needs to address his team’s inability to score goals.
Avoiding defeat was fundamental for Il Doria, especially after losing six of their first seven league matches as well as sitting at the bottom of the table, and they registered a 0-0 draw at home to Roma on Sunday afternoon, which also happened to be Ranieri’s birthday.
Needless to say, it was a match that lacked spectacle, but it was almost called-off due to severe weather warnings in Genoa. The wet conditions as well as the Giallorossi’s injury woes in the first half with Bryan Cristante and Nikola Kalinic coming off played into Sampdoria’s hands.
Ranieri set his team up in an organised 4-4-2 formation, which involved defending in numbers and denying space for the Roma players to attack. The compact shape and deep defending gave the normally erratic duo of Jeison Murillo and Omar Colley enough protection and they were more confident in nullifying opposition attacks.
Ronaldo Vieira was able to provide that protection but surprisingly the best in that task was new signing Andrea Bertolacci, who signed on a free transfer during the international break.
The former AC Milan midfielder impressed on debut for the Doriani with his work ethic, determination, and destructive play. Although the 28-year-old played his best football with city rivals Genoa, his spirited performance for Sampdoria in his first game in the Blucerchiati jersey might help him win over the Samp supporters.
It was the quintessential Ranieri performance and the new tactician told the official Sampdoria website, “This point is important, even if you always look for the win, at times you can’t.
“I must be satisfied because the lads gave their all. I saw a good predisposition from the lads to get the job done and also a good feeling with the fans. It was important not to concede goals.”
Although he can be content with their work ethic and the clean sheet, he can start to focus on how he can improve the team offensively. Sampdoria were limited to long-range shots until Fabio Depaoli and Federico Bonazzoli replaced Emiliano Rigoni and Manolo Gabbiadini respectively.
Also aided by the sending-off of Roma winger Justin Kluivert, the Doriani provided a greater offensive threat when those two entered the game and Bonazzoli almost scored the winner but he was denied by Lupi goalkeeper Pau Lopez.
Sampdoria face Bologna away in their next Serie A game and it is a fixture that the Blucerchiati often struggle in. The arrival of Ranieri could change that and his teams are based on resolute defending but he needs to analyse how to attack the Felsinei in the best way.
When he coached Fiorentina in the 1990s, he could rely on Rui Costa and Gabriel Batistuta to create and score goals, and his Leicester City side which surprisingly won the 2015/16 English Premier League title were dependant on the heroics of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy when they attacked.
Now the Tinkerman must assess if Fabio Quagliarella is still Samp’s best threat or not and also who can support him sufficiently.
A Claudio Ranieri side will not produce spectacular football but they will fight. His Sampdoria team already look equipped to deal with opposition attacks but next on the agenda is how the Doriani can score the goals that will secure safety.