I don’t think it’s a topic of contention that our defense suffers with the absence of Campagnaro. He offers necessary qualities for the success of Mazzarri’s tactics, maintaining the chemistry while increasing overall productivity in the backline. Another helpful asset is his positional sense and awareness, often playing in a relatively advanced position on the pitch, offering an extra man to the attack.
Before I get to the problem itself, let’s take a look at our available centre halves:
Available CBs Ball playing Hugo Campagnaro
Rolando Pires Fonseca
Juan Guillerme Jesus
Juan Guillerme Jesus
The only genuinely ball playing CBs in this selection of defenders are Campagnaro and Juan Jesus, and one can come to the simple conclusion that we’re suffering from a lack of depth in that department.
Note the general characterization of a ball playing CB possessing very strong short and long range passing abilities, as well as some proficiency in dribbling. Usually the best players in this role also possess a unique ability to read the game, preventing their advanced position from opening up too much space for the opposition.
The modern centre back is a very unique player, possessing a blend of defensive solidity and assurance in possession. Defenders and midfielders have developed partnerships, leading to the emergence of teams that are very comfortable in possession. The mould of a ball playing CB is vital to any team, but not many players can fulfill this role effectively, a testament to how underrated Campagnaro really is.
In Mazzarri's interpretation of a 3 man defence, the RCB and LCB are ball playing, linking up with the midfielders, and adopting a role of a destroyer cum regista, responsible for both defensive protection and distributing balls to the wings.
Last year Stramaccioni attempted to deploy Ranocchia as a RCB in a ball-playing role, but he lacks the composure on the ball, ability to read the game, and long range passing abilities that are necessary for an effective player in such a position.
Rolando has been similarly used as a ball playing CB in the absence of Campagnaro, but it is clear as day he is best in the sweeper position, and that he similarly cannot fill the shoes of the Argentine veteran.
Also keep in mind that Campagnaro is 33 years of age, so there are injury concerns, and it is improbable he’ll be able to keep up his performances in the next 1-2 years.
My solution: purchase a replacement that can be alternated (to lower the risk of injuries), so Campagnaro’s absence won’t affect the quality and performance of the starting lineup
Our defensive prospects on loan don’t offer enough on the ball skills imo (only Bianchetti fits the bill as a genuine ball playing CB tbh).
We’ve been linked to Kurt Zouma recently, but he lacks any decent technique on the ball, and his presence on our bench would undoubtedly stagger his development and waste our initial investment. He would also be best as left CB or sweeper, so he wouldn't offer any sort of solution to our problem. His long passing is also one of his worst attributes, and his style is anything but ball playing.
Ezequiel Garay of Benfica would be my first choice target, but given his understandably astronomical transfer fee, it’s an unrealistic option.
However, I would not be disappointed with a move for Brazilian centre back Dedé of Cruzeiro. We’ve been heavily linked to him in the past. He’s quite an athletic defender, possessing very impressive pace and lots of physical strength. He also offers superb technical skills and a fine ability to read the game. He would likely be available for a fee in the region of 10 million euros.
I’d like to hear from the opinion of the forum on whether or not this is a legitimate problem, and if my solution would be effective in resolving our conundrum (given its existence).
Keep in mind that investment in the midfield and wings would occur before an improvement in the defence, so my solution wouldn’t interfere with developing other areas of the squad that require immediate attention.