Sempre Samp | Part 3: Beating the Zebras!

Sampdoria had made a solid yet wholly unspectacular start to life with Roberto di Lazaró, sitting firmly in mid-table and struggling to score goals heading into 2022. Catch up on the series so far in the introductory Part 1 and first half of the first season in Part 2.

The new year began with a firesale of weak old players, starting with defender Alex Ferrari moving to Inter for £1.8 million and inept striker Manolo Gabbiadini joining Cagliari for £3.2 million. Midfielder Valerio Verre went to Dinamo Moscow for £1.6 million and even worse striker Ernesto Torregrossa joined Trabzonspor for £1 million. Then on deadline day Hoffenheim bid for ineffective midfielder Morten Thorsby, which di Lazaró negotiated up to £9.5 million, and left-back Nicola Murru agreed an end of contract deal to Salernitana, so Samp cashed in a £350,000 buy now option.

di Lazaró replaced top scorer Quagliarella with exciting 19-year-old striker Cosimo Marco Da Graca, who’s a website favourite having become the all-time record scorer on the Atalanta Avventura save in FM19, from Juventus for £1.5 million. There was plenty of budget left on deadline day so he strengthened the defence with the loan signing of Pierre Kalulu from AC Milan then snapped up another website favourite Josha Vagnoman from Dortmund for £3.5 million.

Elsewhere, Newcastle, who were 16th in the Premier League, went mental in the transfer window, spending £200 million. That included Luke Ayling for £54 million, Jose Campana for £47 million and Marcos Acuna for £55 million, as well as Nikola Milenkovic, Cole Palmer, Chris Mepham and Arturo Vidal.

Strong start to 2022

The league resumed by welcoming Atalanta to town, which led di Lazaró to trial his 3-5-2 formation for the first time based on their previous domination by Atalanta. It worked immediately as Antonio Candreva opened the scoring after two minutes. Then an inspired substitution saw Cosimo come off the bench to score 10 minutes into his debut! Atalanta got a goal back late on but Samp held on for a smash and grab 2-1 win.

The new formation also worked nicely at home to Spezia, as Ronaldo Vieira scored a trademark screamer then the visitors had two players sent off before the break! Samp unsurprisingly took control after the break with Mikkel Damsgaard scoring an absolute stunner to finally mark his first of the season then Cosimo coming off the bench to bag two more to seal a 4-0 win, in which Vieira also claimed two assists.

The young striker was at it again as he scored off the bench in a 1-1 draw at Salernitana. That earned him a start for the Lanterna Derby at city rivals Genoa, for which Damsgaard and Albin Ekdal were randomly on international duty. And the striker delivered yet again with an excellent strike in the seventh minute, then Samp shut up shop for a 1-0 win. His immediate impact won him the Serie A January Player of the Month and U19 Young Player of the Month while Damsgaard won the goal of the month.

More strong defensive efforts saw Samp earn a 1-1 at home to leaders Lazio then beat Torino 1-0 at home, in which nothing happened other than a sensational piece of play by Damsgaard setting up left-back Tommaso Augello’s first goal of the season. A much tougher ask took them to AC Milan, where they had the audacity to take the lead through Cosimo yet again, but Milan came back to win 2-1.

Boring, boring Samp returned with an absolute borefest 0-0 at Bologna, which took them to the magic 40-point mark with 11 games remaining. But that man Cosimo stepped up with a brace to beat Empoli 2-1 at home before things fell apart with a 4-2 thumping at Sassuolo.

The young striker bagged another brace to earn an undeserved draw in a poor performance at bottom of the league Verona. That moved Cosimo onto 10 goals in nine games for the club – what a signing! But he impressed even further by bagging the first hat-trick of di Lazaró’s reign to inspire a 3-1 comeback win at home to Udinese.

Beating the Zebras!

A defensive injury crisis coincided with a tough run of games and Samp unsurprisingly lost 2-0 against Roma and Inter. But Cosimo won a penalty that Candreva slammed home to earn a shock 1-0 win over the Zebras (Juventus), largely inspired by goalkeeper Emil Audero earning player of the match. And that was the first time di Lazaró had managed to defeat one of Italy’s “big six” of Juve, Inter, Milan, Roma, Napoli and Lazio.

Damsgaard had his best game of the season at home to Cagliari as he scored and laid one on for Cosimo but a beleaguered defence conceded a late equaliser. However, the point confirmed Samp couldn’t finish lower heading into the final two games of the season. And those last two games were tough, away to Napoli, where they were unlucky to lose 2-1 to a late goal, and Fiorentina, where a poor performance was punished by a 2-0 loss.

That ensured Sampdoria finished in 10th place in Serie A, which earned them a paltry £5.38 million. They finished the campaign on 52 points after 12 wins, 10 defeats and 16 draws. They scored 42 goals and conceded 39, of which 19 were conceded in the last 11 games of the season. AC Milan won the league, finishing five points clear of Lazio, who were a further four clear of Inter. While Juve finished down in seventh – and sacked manager ‘Gabriele Milano’ – and Napoli were ninth.

Cosimo’s amazing form saw him finish as the sixth-highest goalscorer with 15 goals in 16 games. And that won him La Giovane Italia U19 Best Forward award. But a couple of interesting key players were left-back Augello, who had the most attempted tackles (157) and blocks (85) in Serie A, and Audero, who had the highest save percentage (82%).

Season Review

The main man this season has obviously been new striker Cosimo, who scored 15 goals in 16 games at an average rating of 7.31 The rest of the squad only scored 20 between them and he was the only player with an average rating above 7.00. So that shows there’s plenty of work to be done in the summer and beyond.

Candreva topped the assists ranking with nine and got the most player of the match awards (3). Surprisingly, another signing Anel Ahmedhodzic won the fans’ player and young player of the season, while Damsgaard won goal of the season.

“Elite” Samp youth talents

di Lazaró’s first youth intake at Sampdoria produced two youngsters described as “elite talents.” The youth intake produced three players with 4.5-star potential in striker Simone Boldini, left-back Franco Sartirana and midfielder Augusto Scaburri and 4-star potential striker Tommaso Bastianelli. Intakes will hopefully improve in the future as good form early in 2022 earned di Lazaró “superb” board confidence, which he took advantage of by getting the board to improve youth recruitment to “Good.”

A look around Europe

Liverpool won the Premier League on 87 points, eight clear of City, then Chelsea and Man UFC. Leeds got relegated with Palace and Norwich, with Spurs down in 12th and moneybags Newcastle in 14th. Real Madrid won la Liga with 84 points, six clear of Barca, who were 11 clear of Atletico, with Cádiz, Alavés and Mallorca going down.

Unsurprisingly, Bayern won Bundesliga from Dortmund, with a bit of a shock as Freiburg finished third. PSG won Ligue 1 with 95 points, 16 clear of Monaco, with Real Madrid-bound Mbappé top-scoring with 28 goals and Messi getting 13 goals and 13 assists at a 7.62 average rating. Benfica won Liga NOS by four points from Sporting, Ajax won Eredivisie by a point from Feyenoord, and Rangers defended their Scottish title by 12 points from Celtic, who were only four points clear of Motherwell.

Liverpool also won the Champions League, beating Bayern 1-0 with a late van Dijk goal, and Milan also completed a double by winning the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Leicester.

Join us next time as Roberto di Lazaró embarks upon a busy summer transfer window ahead of his second season in charge of Sampdoria!

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