Conor Clancy Date: 26th October 2020 at 9:10am
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STADIO ENNIO TARDINI () – Fabio Liverani’s Parma were more than fortunate to avoid defeat on Sunday as a stoppage-time penalty from Juraj Kucka saw them snatch a point from Spezia, having fought back from two goals behind.

The visitors saw three of their attempts come back off Luigi Sepe’s posts while Cristiano Dell’Orco and missed chances of their own, but the Crociati were beyond wasteful at the other end and had more than enough chances to kill the game off to take maximum points themselves long before stepped up to convert from 12 yards.

Parma’s profligacy started early though and it’s no surprise that the Tardini’s favourite villain Gervinho was at the centre of a number of passed up opportunities in the first half. Yann Karamoh, Riccardo Gagliolo and Kucka himself were all also guilty of failing to punish the Aquilotti as the second half wore on and the tension increased around the ground.

Beyond the missed chances on the pitch, though, Liverani’s decisions continued to cause confusion and after five rounds of fixtures, there’s still some doubt that he knows where his players are best suited to playing.

Injuries and cases of the coronavirus in the squad forced his hand at the back, having to use Gagliolo and Simone Iacoponi as the central defensive pairing again, even after last week’s disappointment at Udinese. Alberto deputised at right-back as due to a lack of options.

But it’s further upfield where the bigger questions arise. Kucka was again deployed in the No.10 role behind Gervinho and Andreas Cornelius, where he hasn’t looked settled or comfortable yet this season. The Slovak filled in at centre-forward on occasion last season, but his best position is undoubtedly in the midfield three, where he can use his tireless energy and range of passing to spring attacks from deep.

Linking the lines of midfield and attack with intricate footwork isn’t what he’s known for, and although he doesn’t stand out as struggling in the role, his absence in the middle hurts the Gialloblu and he does, at times, look a little lost and unclear of where to be.

Hernani, Gaston Brugman and Jasmin Kurtic are each talented players, but not one of the three boasts anything that the other two don’t and things have regularly gone stale fast in games this season. Their passing can be monotonous and predictable, with none of them showing as much urgency to move things along as Kucka does when he plays in his natural role on the right of the midfield three.

Liverani’s decision to leave Karamoh on the bench raised some eyebrows, particularly with Gervinho keeping his place in the XI. The Ivorian’s decision-making has never won him any admirers in Emilia-Romagna and the frustrations that came to the surface in 2019/20 were on show again despite there being just 1,000 fans in attendance.

Parma have shown in their first two seasons back in the top flight that they are more than capable of holding their own in Serie A, but their early-season struggles in 2020/21 have questions being asked of Liverani already.

It’s early days yet, but the former Lecce boss needs to start seeing results soon if he is to avoid the pressure on him ramping up over the next few weeks. Games against Inter, and Roma are next up for the Crociati either side of the November internationals and Parma can’t afford to not pick up points between now and travelling to Genoa on November 30.