Federico Bonazzoli popped up at the death to rescue a 1-1 draw for Salernitana away to Cagliari on Friday night and in doing so condemned the home side to further last-minute disappointment in the form of dropped points.
The striker nipped in at the back post, completely unmarked, to prod home past Alessio Cragno at his near post. In doing so, Bonazzoli ruined what was about to be a real celebration of the hosts’ second win of the season and the icing on the cake for Casteddu goalscorer, Leonardo Pavoletti, on his 33rd birthday.
As it stands, a draw may not be any good to either side, seeing as though they both languish at the foot of Serie A in 19th and 20th position with eight points each.
But where is it going wrong for Cagliari – the side dubbed “too good to go down”?
Mazzarri’s Cagliari are struggling
Yet again, just as Walter Mazzarri’s men thought they’d lifted themselves to within one point of safety and hot on the heels of Spezia, their bubble burst as Bonazzoli ghosted in behind Nahitan Nandez, whose mind seemed elsewhere.
Only in season 1999/2000 have the Sardinians had a worse return after 14 Serie A games. Had they lost then they’d have equalled that miserable record of seven points from the abovementioned number of matches, instead they have just one more at this stage.
However, when you look at the names on their team sheet compared to last night’s opponents from Campania it’s hard not to wonder how they are throwing so many games. Seasoned professionals such as Kevin Strootman, Martin Caceres and Leonardo Pavoletti should be more than enough to help them through such games.
Joao Pedro is one of the hottest strikers in Europe, his 41-goal haul since the start of season 2019 being the most for any Brazilian in Europe’s top-five leagues. Gabriel Jesus – second on 25 – Neymar and Roberto Firmino all way behind the Cagliari talisman.
Nahitan Nandez is one of the most sought-after players in Serie A, if rumours are to be believed, and Razvan Marin has more than enough ability to play for most of the clubs in the league, on his day, so why can’t they manage a win?
Nandez’s defensive error for the goal was unforgivable, but perhaps that’s down to the fact that Mazzarri’s formation seems to chop and change as with phases of play, so much so that the players often seem bemused as to what their roles are, and Nandez is no exception.
As with Raoul Bellanova, who has been one of Casteddu’s most consistent performers in recent weeks, Nandez doesn’t seem to have a set role. The same can be said for Dalbert and Andrea Carboni on the other side. One moment Nandez is a central midfielder, flanked by Bellanova. The next he’s filling in at wing-back to provide cover from Caceres, who shifts from right-back to centre-back.
Another thing that stood out was Nandez’s reluctance to overstretch for a couple of slightly overhit passes in the first half, but instead turned to whoever had played the pass to bemoan its quality. Maybe he has one eye on his apparent move to champions Inter, in January.
One thing is for certain and it’s that Casteddu need to fix their formation and tighten at the back. They have conceded the second-highest number of goals, 29, as have Salernitana. A total that’s outdone only by Spezia who have leaked 31.
It’s hard to see where the next win is coming from as they head away to face Hellas Verona next, followed by a home tie with Torino and then a trip to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza to face the Nerazzurri.
It could well be time for Casteddu to revert to a tried and trusted 4-4-2 for a sense of security – as saw them succeed under Rolando Maran for some time – before it’s too late. Who knows, maybe it won’t be too long before Mazzarri no longer picks the side.