Seventeenth-placed Sampdoria played host to eighth-placed Parma at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Italy Sunday 8th December 2019. Sampdoria earlier in the week sacked ex-Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco after four months due to their poor start to the Serie A 2019/20 campaign. The six defeats in seven league games were too much for the club to bare and brought in former Leicester City and AS Roma manager Claudio Ranieri. Sampdoria’s only win and the only clean sheet of the season came against Torino. Parma has two wins and two ties in their last five games and will be seeking a road win to continue to reach for UEFA Champions League participation in the 2020/21 season. Their ability to stretch the defence and put numbers into the attack will ask challenging questions of the Sampdoria defence. 

In this tactical analysis, we will look at how each team’s tactics matched up together and provide an analysis of how each team progressed through the game in a 0-1 match where Parma’s grabbed all the points.

Line Ups

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

Sampdoria and Parma both set up to start the game in a 4-3-1-2. Sampdoria transitioned to a 4-4-2 in the middle of the first half to help support balance on the field and generate control over the midfield action. Parma showed great Italian defensive resilience throughout the game in the ability to resist attack after attack by Sampdoria. Late in the second half, Parma switched into a 5-3-2 and then into a 5-4-1 to see the game go to full time while maintaining the win.  

Sampdoria looked to move players into the attack through Gastón Ramírez’s creativity going forward with Swedish defensive midfielder Albin Ekdal holding central space. The England U21s Ronaldo Vieira also linking into the midfield for attack and defence provide good coverage for Sampdoria. This along with the second half wide play by their wings applied a lot of pressure to a retreating Parma. 

Parmas Riccardo Gagliolo showed the ability to get into the attack with great switches coming from good linkup play by Dejan Kulusevski playing in the attacking role and Gervais Yao Kouassi (Gervinho) up top. The free movement and the ability to take players on from Gervinho pushed Andreas Cornelius higher up the pitch in order to use his height for pushing the ball forward. The play would open up space in wide areas for Gagliolo and Juraj Kucka to push the attack and take advantage of Sampdoria sitting very central in defence. 

Sampdoria’s slow start

Sampdoria struggled early to handle the positional play of Gagliolo and Kucka. Parma began to show in wide spaces to force Vieira and Sampdoria’s defensive right back Morten Thorsby to sift and play wider. The slow transitions caused a lot of space to open in the attack for Parma and many times created 2vs1 situations for Parma to exploit. This slow rotation allowed a lot of early crosses into the box. These crosses were difficult for the Sampdoria defence to handle seeing how they were caught trying to shift across to cover the ever-increasing space.  

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

As Param starts to exploit the wide areas the channels started to open up for the front two to take on runs in behind the defence. Sampdoria struggled to find the balance between having cover for the first defender and balancing the field to take up dangerous space. The off the ball running by the attacking group up front for Parma with quick service added to the troubles Sampdoria was having with Parma.

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

Sampdoria worked in the transition to move defensive players into the areas but found themselves over pursuing the ball. This leads to uneven numbers in the area in their favour without pressure on the ball. Without pressure on the ball, Parma was able to have free service into the box. Parma started to exploit that with deep crosses from Gagliolo and others to exploit the weak side overload. 

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

Sampdoria gaining a footing in the game

After the 21st min goal from Parma’s Kucka, off a poorly defended corner, Sampdoria started to figure out the pressure, cover, and balance in the defence. Sampdoria’s centre-backs midway through the first half started to play a bit wider in order to cover the runs off the ball from the Parma forwards. This along with pressure on the ball gave Sampdoria a better chance at forcing a mistake or winning the first or second ball from the Parma front two.

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

The change in pressure helped to stop the counter-attacks from Parma’s wings and put Sampdoria in a better position to build after they won the ball. As Parma started to play more direct from the backline to the front the Sampdoria centre-backs kept the ball in front of them and started stepping into passing lanes. Because of Parma’s direct play, they failed to get out behind the ball which allowed additional room for Sampdoria to exploit. 

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

The possession during this time of the game went from 51% to 34% for Parma and 49% to 66% for Sampdoria respectively. The midfield ability to link up with the wings and forwards turned the game in Sampdoria’s favour. The attacks started to really take shape from the midfield efforts and accounted for 64% of Sampdoria’s overall attacking moves. This movement showed cracks in the Parma’s defence but it held strong in the end.

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

Parma closing the game out

In the second half of the game, you saw Parma put defensive tactics in and only play the counter-attack. The build-up play and working through the wings were given up for quick balls forward. Parma was trying to catch Sampdoria on the counter-attack. Parma was content to put numbers behind the ball and in the middle of the pitch in order to absorb the pressure that Sampdoria continued to apply. 

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics

Sampdoria continued to work the ball through the middle and then wide. The crosses continued to come in from Sampdoria. Sampdoria completed 30 crossing attempts in all with 20 of them being high balls that compacted defensive backlines deal with easily. There were many good opportunities from rebounds and knockdowns that Sampdoria gained because of Parma’s extreme low block. 

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Parma - tactical analysis tactics


Sampdoria wanted to get off to a good start for the new manager Ranieri’s first game, but fail flat in the first 25 minutes. They corrected the issues that they faced early to dominate the rest of the game. Parma became complacent on the ball and only relied on the individual brilliance of Gervinho to create opportunities for himself and Cornelius. Parma may have been in trouble if Sampdoria would have had better quality in the attacking third and someone that could run at the defence to offset the deep defensive block that Parma fell into.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the December issue for just ₤4.99 here