Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Lorenzo Vicini On July - 7 - 2011

Rosanero Roundup: Pioli’s Palermo Taking Shape

With the dust barely settled on last season’s campaign, Palermo have already taken to the field in preparation for next season.

The Stefano Pioli era has officially begun as the squad met in Malles, a small town tucked away in the Trentino-Alto Adige region less than a hundred kilometers away from the Swiss-Austria border. Not only are the Rosanero under the guidance of a new coach, the destination of Malles is a change of scenery from past preseasons at Bad Kleinkirchheim and Saint Veit in Austria. The location change was made in part to keep the squad in Italy but also to be closer to club president Maurizio Zamparini’s home in Udine.

Most of the familiar faces of last season made their way to Malles at the beginning of the month as preparations began straightaway. Joining them were several new faces to the Rosanero family: fullback Eros Pisano, center backs Mauro Cetto and Milan Milanovic, midfielders Adam Simon, Luca Di Matteo and Eran Zahavi and striker Pablo Gonzalez.  The only notable absences were tied either to the ongoing Copa America (Javier Pastore and Abel Hernandez) or those not invited due to pending eventual sales or loans, most notably Moris Carrozzieri, Davide Lanzafame, Carlos Labrin and Pajtim Kasami.

Pioli will have less than a month to impose his brand of calcio on the new-look Palermo as the club will play its first competitive game on July 28th in the third preliminary round of the Europa League. The opponent is still unknown, but Pioli has plenty to focus on beyond any outside competition. Nonetheless, the Rosanero are no stranger to the Europa League or its previous name, the UEFA Cup, having earned a spot in the competition in every season since their promotion except for the 2007-08 campaign.

With few days of training done and dusted, many are interested in how the new coach will field his team. Prior to his appointment, Zamparini had long clamored for a switch to the three-man defense. A tactical change, in Zamparini’s mind, would fix the defensive woes that plagued the Sicilians all last year. Despite the brief stretch of games where the theory was tested during the failed Cosmi experiment, Zamparini chose the ex-Chievo coach Pioli partly due to his willingness to incorporate the three man back-line, but also because the Flying Donkeys had the fourth best defense in Serie A last season. Early indications have shown fairly typical tactical flexibility with many formations being tested during training.

Not only did Palermo heavily focus on defense through a multitude of acquisitions, but one of Pioli’s pupils joined the club officially on Tuesday. Andrea Mantovani was present for training on Tuesday, but only to meet and greet his new teammates as the ex-Chievo defender completed his medicals and put  pen to paper on a three year deal with an option for a fourth. Mantovani has been one of the better defenders in Serie A after showing steady improvement over the past few seasons. It seems that Andrea will immediately be a key member to the starting lineup as his familiarity with the coach is a huge boost, but also his ability to play either as one of the three center backs or at wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation.

As with any off-season, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding the club. The transfer window has barely just opened and several entrances and exits are sure to come. Not only that, but the futures of some of the biggest members of Palermo are still cloudy. Management has several decisions to make concerning the likes of Fabrizio Miccoli, Mattia Cassani, Cesare Bovo and most notably Javier Pastore. While the first three appear set to stay, the Argentine in all likelihood has played his last match for the club that launched him into the spotlight. Zamparini has promised to reinvest any big sale towards other players, but Palermo have already made several good signings to cover a Pastore departure just in case.

The coach knows he has big shoes to fill as his predecessor Delio Rossi was not only beloved by the Rosanero faithful, but achieved some of the best results in Palermo history. Yet he has willingly stepped up to the challenge and is eager to prove his worth. The ultimate determiner will be the results that come and with July 28th fast approaching, Stefano Pioli and Palermo still have plenty of work to do.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Event Horizon 117 says:

    Nice article Lorenzo, lets hope we get a good draw for the Europa League…

  2. Rob says:

    Nice round-up there Lorenzo. I have read that the Chievo players were all very fond of their former coach Pioli and had much praise for him. With a young team like Palermo, a coach who is respected and proven is essential.

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