Italian champions in the very prestigious discipline of sacking coaches, Palermo, did it again. Once more, controversial owner of Sicilian team, Maurizio Zamparini, did what everyone was expecting he would – he sacked Giampiero Gasperini. Except, this time, almost everyone agrees – it was justified. Palermo was playing badly and more importantly – they are at the bottom of the table, so the fear of relegation is becoming very real.Gasperini, after replacing Giuseppe Sannino who was Palermo’s coach at the start of the season, did what he always does – shapes his team according to his ideas. He likes playing an attacking 3-4-3 formation, but in Palermo (like in Inter before) it didn’t work. Considering players he had in the squad, it’s probable that a four man defense would have been much better for Palermo. Fact remains, most of the Palermo players simply didn’t play good this season. Defense, consisting most often of Munoz, Garcia and Von Bergen (and even Massimo Donati on few occasions, even though he’s a midfielder) didn’t really fill their fans with confidence, even though they are decent players. A lot of Palermo’s games this season had the same or at least similar, story to it – Palermo trying to create more, to attack their opponent, but usually they lack ideas on how to score, and usually, they lose.
Zamparini decided to appoint Alberto Malesani (ex manager of Verona and Fiorentina among others, but for some, the most notable thing he’s done was this press conference when he was coaching Panathinaikos ) in Gasperini’s place. His first game was against Pescara at home, and Palermo looked kind of like under Gasperini – attacking, keeping the ball, creating more than the opponent (admittedly, against Pescara it is not that hard to be a better team) – or at least trying to, because most of the game Palermo was looking even lethargic, but in the end without many ideas in the final third of the pitch and Palermo got only 1 point from the game.
Gasperini wasn’t the only one who left Palermo recently – CEO Pietro Lo Monaco left only a day or two later. The reason was – he disagreed with Zamparini on the choice of the new coach. Lo Monaco wanted Pasquale Marino (ex Catania, Udinese, Parma, Genoa) and when Zamparini gave the job to Malesani, he resigned. And like almost everyone agrees that sacking Gasparini was a right move, parting ways with Lo Monaco, most Calcio fans would agree, was a mistake. But it wasn’t by any means surprising in that Lo Monaco is, like Zamparini, a man with a big ego and it was always strange that he accepted to work for a guy like Zamparini – and before that, in the summer, for equally controversial Enrico Preziosi, Genoa’s owner, and that cooperation lasted even less, he left Genoa about 2 months after he got the job. His ego aside, Pietro Lo Monaco is the guy who knows how to do his job. He is basically the creator of Catania we know today, a team that always has few talented players, and a team that is so well-organized and selected that it will make any coach look good. He is an expert in South American, especially Argentinian football, which is quite obvious if you just look at Catania in the last few years – there were always at least 7 Argentinians in starting 11 of. This January transfer window suggested that the same could happen in Palermo – Lo Monaco brought 4 Argentinians, with 5th target Hauche ending in Chievo instead of Palermo. Lo Monaco brought no less than 10 players in January (although he didn’t bring Kyle Lafferty despite negotiations according to few Italian papers, which is shame as it would be really fun to see him in Serie A) .Perhaps the most important signing was Stefano Sorrentino, a 33-year-old goalkeeper who was at Chievo for the last 4 years and before that was in Recreativo, AEK and Torino. Sorrentino is probably one of the most underrated keepers (and players in general) in Serie A, in my opinion there are only 2 or 3 keepers that are better than him (those would be Buffon, obviously, Handanović and Marchetti) and it’s a little strange that he stayed in Chievo for so long and didn’t go to a bigger club. He already showed that he’s a great signing for Palermo in the two games he played for his new club so far and if Palermo manages to avoid relegations, it will be in large part thanks to Sorrentino’s saves. Those will be especially needed in the last part of the season when Palermo will face the teams from the first half of the table.
Signing of Salvatore Aronica from Napoli is hardly going to bring great improvement to Palermo’s back line. Aronica wasn’t a great player in his best days, at the age of 34 he can’t be expected to do wonders. Palermo signed another one from Napoli – ex-Liverpool left back Andrea Dossena and Portuguese right-back Nelson who came from Betis and already scored on his debut against Atalanta (that Palermo lost 1-2). Then there are 4 Argentinians of which 3 came from Premier League – Mauro Boselli (who already played in Italy, for Genoa) from Wigan, Formica from Blackburn and perhaps the one from whom fans are expecting the most – Faurlin from QPR. Then there is 27-year-old Mauricio Sperdutti from Newell’s. Palermo also signed one very talented Italian Fabio Fabbrini from Udinese. Dubbed the “Italian Kaka” when he first emerged in Empoli, he never really showed the full extent of his talent.Fabbrini scored an equalizer against Pescara, showing he will be a very important part of Palermo’s fight against relegation. And though defense wasn’t really great this season, it’s the attack that was really poor – Palermo scored only 21 goals (only Pescara is worse). Abel Hernandez who was supposed to be the next big thing for Palermo, after the departure of Javier Pastore, had damaged his knee ligaments and the season was already over for him in October. Experienced Miccoli too was often injured this season. Extremely talented Argentinian Dybala is still too young to be considered a leader who could push the team forward and Budan (who joined Atalanta this January) had a family tragedy. Obviously Palermo needed something there and we’ll see if Boselli and Fabbrini are that. They will all need to do their very best if Palermo is to stay up.
Palermo has enough individual quality to stay in Serie A, they are definitely stronger than Pescara, Siena and probably Genoa too, but their season so far was really depressing and it’s questionable whether there is enough mental power for the team to overcome a very tough period. Maurizio Zamparini sad that even if the club went to Serie B that wouldn’t be a tragedy. I doubt he really thinks that, that was probably his attempt to calm players and newly appointed manager.
Chievo away is the next step for Palermo. After that, they have Genoa at home, Torino away, and Siena at their Renzo Barbera stadium. It is absolutely crucial that they get as many points as possible from these 4 games, which means two home wins are a must, and preferably to get at least a point from two away games. Why? Because after that, it will get harder and harder to find points, as in the last 10 rounds they are playing Milan, Roma, Inter, Juve and Fiorentina, plus Sampdoria, Catania and Parma away, and another very tricky game against Udinese (at home).