Sampdoria make Serie A return but face tough task to stay there
The days of Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and Pietro Vierchowod may be a long time gone at Sampdoria, but at least the club is again on an upward trajectory. By defeating Varese in the Serie B promotion play-off, the Genoa side scraped a return to Serie A at the first attempt. Staying there may be even more challenging, however.
Giuseppe Iachini is the man who masterminded the Blucerchiati’s promotion, having replaced Gianluca Atzori in November 2011. When the former Brescia boss arrived at Samp the club were languishing in seventh after 15 games, 12 points behind league leaders Torino. The turnaround, statistically, has not been particularly grand. Sampdoria climbed only one place, into sixth, by the end of the regular season and trailed Torino by more in May than they did before Christmas, ending up 16 points adrift of the top two. Yet that small step into the top six is what precipitated the great leap into Serie A.
Iachini’s reward for promotion may well be the sack, particularly as his contract included a renewal clause if he took Samp up automatically, not through the play-offs. The 48-year-old former Fiorentina midfielder is developing something of a reputation as a Coach who can get a side into the top flight, but not one who can keep them there. First it was Chievo, who Iachini took to promotion in 2007-08, only to be sacked in November 2008. Then came Brescia, who were promoted under Iachini via the play-offs in 2009-10, with the Coach lasting until December 2010. Iachini was called back to the bench in February 2011 but the Rondinelle still tumbled out of Serie A. Espanyol’s Mauricio Pochettino has already claimed to have rejected an offer from Sampdoria.
Whether or not Iachini gets the chance to lead Samp into Serie A, it appears his squad will require serious strengthening. Nicola Pozzi was in good goal-scoring form last season, netting 20 goals - 16 in the regular portion of the campaign and four in the play-offs - but he was the only player to reach double figures, and in Samp’s relegation season, 2010-11, Pozzi netted just five goals in 24 games. Eder, although a fine contributor all round after moving from Cesena in January, still only scored five goals in 19 games. Indeed, Samp were one of the lowest scoring teams in the top half of Serie B with 53 goals from their 42 games - only Brescia, in eighth, and Modena, 12th, managed fewer, with 48 and 50 respectively. Goals, forever valuable in calcio, are perhaps what Samp need to find most of all this summer.
With crowds of over 20,000 in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris the support is clearly there to sustain a Serie A side. Similar figures in the top flight next season would give Samp the 10th-highest average attendance, above the likes of Udinese, Bologna and Catania, and only marginally below Palermo. But that massed support may not be enough to make up for the shortages in the squad, or the uncertainty surrounding Iachini.