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

Lorenzo Vicini On August - 22 - 2011

Italian Serie A 2011-12 Club Preview: Palermo

Serie A Weekly club previews continue with Palermo, written by our resident Rosanero master, Lorenzo Vicini.

2010-2011 Recap

A roller coaster ride that truly defined the Palermo colors of rosa and nero summed up the previous season for the Sicilian side. Palermo stayed in the race for Champions League football up until February when things came crashing down. After exiting the Europa League at the group stages, Palermo focused on their domestic objectives. The hope for a Champions League quickly faded when an extended dry spell through February and March derailed the team. Delio Rossi was fired but ended up being reinstated after only a month to help the club continue their march in the Coppa Italia. Their dream final came true when the Rosanero defeated Milan over the course of two legs to advance to the historic title game in Rome. Sadly, Palermo was not able to vanquish their opponents Inter and settled with being Coppa Italia runners-up.

Key Acquisitions

Andrea Mantovani, Matías Silvestre, Eran Zahavi

Key Departures

Javier Pastore, Salvatore Sirigu

The Summer So Far

With the contract of beloved coach Delio Rossi not being renewed, Maurizio Zamparini appointed Chievo boss Stefano Pioli to the helm. Prior to his arrival, the Rosanero had a new sporting director in Sean Sogliano - the man behind the magical run of Varese. An all new staff took to incorporating new systems, players and preparation.

Palermo qualified for the Europa League via the Coppa Italia but in their first competition under the Pioli era, the club only managed two draws to Swiss side FC Thun. It was a shocking exit that left the club void of further preparations for the new Serie A season. Management had to scramble to organize several friendlies for the Rosanero as faltering at the very first obstacle in the Europa League was totally unexpected.

Naturally, the biggest news of the summer surrounded the sale of Palermo star Javier Pastore. The Argentine joined newly-rich French club Paris Saint Germain in a record transfer worth 43 million euro. Yet, the deal that made the move possible occurred a week before when Palermo sold their seemingly unhappy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to the French side. The move was surprising both due to the actual sale of the Italian international and the very low price of under five million euro. Now, Palermo was left with two big voids after the departures of arguably their two best players.

What Next?

Palermo has been unconvincing so far under Stefano Pioli. The ex-Chievo coach was brought in to fix the defensive woes that plagued the club last season. Despite bringing in new faces such as his old pupil Andrea Mantovani and newcomers Mauro Cetto, Eros Pisano, Milan Milanovic and most recently Matías Silvestre, the defense has still been shaky at best. The club has allowed a rather embarrassing amount of goals against their opponents - whether it was Thun, Trapani or in their final friendly against Fenerbahçe. Pioli is convinced his team will be ready when the season starts, kicking off against newly-promoted side Novara this Sunday.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that Palermo is still without a goalkeeper. After Sirigu’s departure one day prior to their Europa League debut, Pioli was forced to start veteran Francesco Benussi between the sticks. Although Benussi is an able-bodied keeper, he is not the man that Pioli wants to lead the club this season and has been pining for a move from his previous keeper, Stefano Sorrentino, to join the Rosanero. Unfortunately, Chievo has been tough in the negotiating process, refusing to let the man voted “Best Italian Goalkeeper of 2010″ for cheap. The ongoing talks have forced Sogliano to look elsewhere, namely at the promising young keeper at Santos, Rafael. A decision needs to come quick, though, as the season starts in a week and the lack of options has meant a return to the squad for Rubinho - a man the club has tried to sell all offseason.

Man To Watch

It’s obvious that all eyes are focused on Josip Iličić to fill the massive void left behind by Javier Pastore. The Slovenian was the revelation of the season for the Rosanero after joining from Maribor. His link up play with the Argentine was a beauty to behold but now he must cope without his old partner. Yet, while most will be paying attention to Iličić, there is another player quietly performing above expectations.

Eran Zahavi joined Palermo from Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv. He made a name for himself last season, thanks to a tremendous bicycle kick goal in the Champions League against Lyon. So far, his time in Rosanero has been very positive with the trequartista showing great vision and good passing. He is not Javier Pastore, but the Israeli can ease the loss of El Flaco due to his characteristics that fit in extremely well with the club. Zahavi has all the potential to breakout in a system that relies on a trequartista of his qualities.

Prediction

The offseason has been a disappointment. The fans are already nervous and skeptical of Stefano Pioli. Following the Delio Rossi act was always going to be difficult and the premature exit from the Europa League, coupled with poor friendlies, means the Chievo man needs to find his footing immediately. After all, the man at the top has a very short fuse and Zamparini won’t hesitate to replace Pioli at the first sign of trouble. Given all the upheaval at the club, it will be an amazing feat if the Rosanero finish any higher than eighth place. The losses from the offseason weigh heavily, but perhaps none is greater than the loss of Delio Rossi.

  • Rob

    Gonna be a grim year for Palermo.

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