Palermo’s season has been a strange one. At the start of Serie A, Palermo were the toast of Italy and one of the more exciting teams to watch around the Peninsula. Indeed along with Udinese, Palermo’s attacking play was lauded by all Calcio pundits and so were its main exponents: Javier Pastore, Josip Illicic, Fabrizio Miccoli, Mattia Cassani, and Federico Balzaretti. Since the return from the winter break however, Palermo have been in terrible form, dropping down to ninth place and 13 points off of the Udinese side along which they had once been setting the league alight.
The fall of the Rosanero is somewhat predictable however once we look at the many factors that have contributed to it. The first issue that we must first come to grips with is the fact that, despite Palermo’s good form, their lack of squad depth was bound to hamstring any title ambitions and/or top-four aspirations they might have had.
The other big contributing factor of Palermo’s poor form is club president, Maurizio Zamparini. For one the president has constantly interfered with his coach, Delio Rossi, publicly criticizing him in spite of the team’s good results. The fans would often themselves speak of this, writing open letters to their president and requesting for him to not be so implicated in the club’s day-to-day affairs. Zamparini’s transfer dealings during the summer mercato have also been to blame. In fact, the team lacks depth for that very reason. Indeed Zamparini sold his best defender, Simon Kjaer, as well as Edinson Cavani. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, the impact of Cavani’s sale is obvious and we must all look at it as a bad piece of business. After all Cavani has enjoyed a rich vein of goal-scoring form since his departure from the Rosanero. But the more pertinent point is the fact that Cavani was a unique striker in Palermo’s setup. In fact he was the only prima punta (target striker) Palermo had at the club, and Zamparini let him go for what now can be seen as something of a bargain (€17m).
The other issue is that Palermo were just found out over the course of the season, and that teams simply learnt how to stymie their main threats and blunt their counter-attacking play.Pastore, since his hat-trick performance in the Derby di Sicilia, has failed to really impress. In fact Pastore has not seemed to build on his good form from last year when he first arrived on the Peninsula. Slovenian new boy, Illicic, started his Serie A career brightly as well and even picked up on Pastore’s slack during the Argentine’s dip in form. However Illicic has really struggled in recent weeks, and indeed put on some very disappointing performances. The fact is that teams have found the way to seal the Slovenianplaymaker, and the shortcomings of Illicic’s game have been exposed. This limitation is simple: he is not at all two-footed and struggles when forced on his right foot. Illicic’s possesses a great left foot but defenders have begun to force him on his weaker right foot and therefore completely stifled his impact.Miccoli is the other one who has suffered from a dip in form lately. In effect, Palermo’s recent negative dynamic seems to have affected the entirety of the squad. ThusMiccoli’s poor form may be closer to being psychologically attributed than anything else.
The firing of Delio Rossi was yet another factor which only mired Palermo further into mid-table. Delio Rossi, given the sales of his best defender and one of his best attackers as mentioned above, had done well to keep the team ticking. The problem however was that it was simply unsustainable. And indeed this was yet again another problem that arose from Zamparini’s meddling. Serse Cosmi replaced Delio Rossi, but as of yet Palermo’s form has not improved. The problem here is also the lack of alternatives in the striking department, where young Abel Hernandez has tried to fill the void. The young striker is just returning from injury and thus not fully match-fit. In addition he lacks the physique to play with his back to goal and thus Palermo struggles to really pressure the opposition in the final third. What’s more is that Hernandez’s good form from last year flatters to deceive, as it was mostly due to substitute appearances from which he was able to grab goals for himself. However, starting games and not going up against tired defenses has proven a difficult challenge to overcome for the Uruguayan.
In the end all these have been the major problems of Palermo and their poor form can be easily summed up: in recent weeks Palermo have failed to win any of their last five matches and only managed to score two goals. Thus there are major failings in both the defensive and attacking departments of the team. The decisions of president Zamparini have done little to help, concerning the mercato, and his meddling in the team’s affairs have not contributed either. In the end Zamparini chose to pull the trigger on Delio Rossi following an embarrassing 7-0 home loss to Udinese. It had all started with a 4-2 home loss to resurgent Fiorentina, was exacerbated with the humiliation by unbeaten [since the 6th of January]Udinese, and the situation has failed to improve before the inconsistent Genoa when the Rosanero lost to a solitary Antonio Floro Flores goal last weekend. The point here is that Udinese and Palermo have had drastically different fortunes after both kick-started their Serie A campaigns with great flair and promise. Zamparini will have to take the blame for it, and many of the Palermo fans will have echoed those sentiments when they gave the Delio Rossi a standing ovation at the press conference of his departure.