Football's key characters has always had a pretty even split between players and managers. Many would argue that the managers are the real key, whereas when you look at the way the game is progressing today, you would think it’s the players who have the true power.
I've always been biased towards managers, because when it truly counts, it's the tough decision that managers make that ultimately determine how a team performs.
Surprising Serie A
Recently, Serie A has grown to gain a reputation that's a bit similar to the Bundesliga. Sometimes a two-horse race, but more often than not, simply dominated by Juventus. This season, however, things have been very different.
To kick things off let’s take a look at the biggest shock of the season so far – Sampdoria: 3, Juventus: 2.
On paper, it seems like it was a close result, and if you watched the game you would see that it was. But, what the result alone doesn’t show you is this:
Allegri was tactically outclassed, which is not something you can say often about the Juve boss.
The world has been lucky enough to see some of the game’s brightest minds come out of Italy, and there is no arguing that the Italians tend to produce some of the greatest managers because of the importance they give to tactics.
In the recent past, we have been lucky enough to witness Maurizio Sarri, Antonio Conte, Massimiliano Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti and many more. There’s another one we can add to that list - Marco Giampaolo.
Another Italian Mastermind
Giampaolo orchestrated the victory over Juve this weekend and has now led his Sampdoria side to 6th place in the Serie A table – a full 7 points clear of AC Milan in 7th. The victory over Juve this season is now one of many big wins including recent scalps over AC Milan, Fiorentina, Atalanta, and rivals Genoa.
At this stage last season, Giampaolo was still finding his feet and his Samp side were hovering just above the relegation zone in 14th. Evidently, things are miles better this season
For Giampaolo’s side though, results aren’t the only thing that have been on the up. He has got his side playing bright, attacking football this season, despite having lost three key players from last season. The departures of Bruno Fernandes, Patrick Schick, and Luis Muriel haven't had the effect many thought it would.
He has continued with his policy of working with youth players who have attacking flair.
This can be seen in the midfield diamond he uses where not one of the four players is a traditional holding midfielder. Lucas Torreira, who normally plays at the base of that midfield has relentless energy and a thunderbolt of a shot, which complement his position perfectly. To either side of him is Karol Linetty and Denis Praet (yes, that teenage prodigy), who are also excellent at using tight spaces and finding the right passes. Ricky Alvarez and Gaston Ramirez, who many would argue have never lived up to their potential, are finding their feet in the number 10 role.
Each role has been carefully crafted by Giampaolo to create a side that is both defensively solid and refreshingly attacking. He has managed to get his players to play his game, and has been able to bring out the best of individuals like Matias Silvestre, Dodo, and Duvan Zapata, who many would say are not much better than average.
Chosen By the Best, and Delivering
Giampaolo was handpicked by Sarri to be his successor at Empoli and carried on playing in Sarri’s style... getting Empoli to play fluid attacking football taking them to finish a full 5 places above Sarri’s Empoli side.
He has drawn inspiration from Sarri's expansive football, but Sampdoria are also extremely compact and well organized in defence, never letting teams play through them. Needless to say, this season's clash with Napoli will be a mouthwatering one.
When transitioning high up the field, they attack with pace and precision but, it is during their build-up play you can really see their methodical approach.They use short passes between the holding midfielder and the centre-backs to help open up space between the lines. The playmaker receives space and subsequently looks to release the strikers down the channels. The box is then flooded with players looking to receive the ball.
It is a testament to how well executed this style is, that no matter what teams do to defend against them, Sampdoria still tend to score the same goal over and over. The cutback from the channel and the simple finish from inside the box by one of the many players steaming in.
What Lies Ahead
What is really interesting to see is that at a time when midtable Premier League clubs are looking to take that big leap towards the top, it’s shocking that these clubs aren’t looking for managers like Giampaolo. With Everton and West Ham looking backwards with Messrs. Unsworth and Moyes, maybe it’s time for a little more adventure and a little more patience.
Giampaolo has been able to combine beautiful football with necessary pragmatism and if he continues in this way, there is no doubt he will be in line for a big job. Having interviewed for Juventus in the past and then fallen off the radar, he has been able to build up his reputation again. There's every possibility he will end up there. Considering how competitive the Serie A is becoming again, there's also a really strong possibility that he brings Sampdoria through a là Tottenham to challenge the big guns.
No matter what ends up happening in the near future, what's guaranteed is we are going to be entertained with Samp's stylish football, and Giampaolo's fascinating vision.