Five home games, five wins for Mangia’s men and a new club record for most consecutive wins at home to start the season. The dichotomy between games at the Renzo Barbera and those away from it is strikingly evident. If only home games were used to determine the Serie A standings, Palermo would be in the race for the Scudetto, tied for first place with Udinese; yet, if away matches were used, the Rosanero would be in a terrible relegation battle with only one point earned out of a possible fifteen. Nonetheless, when Palermo plays at home, they are as formidable a foe as any team in Serie A, and so far, that’s good enough to sit in fifth place.
Beyond the obvious differences between this year’s team and last year’s, the 2011-12 Rosanero squad has more of a “team” feel about them. No longer is there a player who transcends above the others to remain a pivotal source from which goals are scored or games are won. That isn’t to say there aren’t still players who can make the difference as we have already witnessed the magic of Miccoli and superb skill from Iličić and others; but rather, Palermo is no longer reliant on one to get them through. Is it, then, an entirely absurd concept to think of Mangia’s team as more “complete” than his predecessor’s?
The overall talent may have diminished but the power of the group concept as greater than the sum of its parts is readily apparent. If anything, Palermo has a stronger team because they have to work together in order to achieve results. It was underlined against Bologna, when the dearth of attacking options forced Mangia to a revolutionary, atypical formation that used three midfielders as strikers. The team pulled together and worked together to achieve a 3-1 victory against the man that led them in the preseason. For once, there are options to choose from. The bench consists of solid players. They may not be great or explosive, but they are useful for the team and that’s what is most important.
Now, with the international break ahead, Mangia has time and patience to work on a game plan that can stifle Conte’s Juventus in their new stadium. It’ll be another very difficult road test for the Rosanero but the best part is that the hardest matches away are coming early on in the season. With the rest and preparation ahead, Palermo can now turn their attention on breaking the law of lackluster results away from the Barbera. Forza Palermo!
Tzorvas – 7.5 – Were it not for a brilliant goal from Gaston Ramirez, the Greek keeper would’ve had his fourth clean sheet on the season. His display was worthy of plenty of plaudits because he made several top drawer saves during the course of the match. Perhaps most notable was his diving save against Palermo ex Andrea Raggi’s header that was all but in. He’s confident and secure and most importantly, he commands the back line.
Pisano – 6.5 – Mangia tore into Eros at one point for making a foolish error by hanging onto the ball close to the Palermo box rather than clearing it when he had ample time to do so. Other than that, the right back did an admirable job defensively. There will be growing pains, but Pisano has shown a lot of promise.
Silvestre – 7.5 – Finally, last season’s highest scoring defender in Serie A got off the mark for Palermo! His debut goal highlighted his strengths – namely, his ability to score with his head and the constant danger from set pieces. Defensively, he and Cetto are forming a formidable partnership that hasn’t been seen in Palermo for years.
Cetto – 7 – Mauro is calm but still manages to be a physical force. He was consistently good for the entire match and his personal highlight came against a Bologna counter. With Di Vaio taking Cetto on one-on-one, the Argentine had no help but still managed to easily strip the Rossoblu captain of the ball. Hopefully, this can continue.
Balzaretti – 7 – Picked up a foolish yellow card but beyond that, he was superb. Always running, the point was underlined when he came out of nowhere to intervene on a ball that was put into the middle of the box and appeared to be an easy tap-in. Hopefully, PSG changes their mind and looks elsewhere for a left back.
Migliaccio – 7 – It seemed like it was going to be a long day for Giulio after he was the recipient of an elbow that produced blood only 10 seconds into the game. He ended up taking quite a beating during the game but he didn’t tone down his grit one bit. Bloody wrap and all, Migliaccio’s only fault was picking up a yellow (although even then it seemed to be rather harsh).
Bačinović – 7 – Armin was rewarded once again with another start in the midfield. Taking the place of the absent Barreto, the Slovene put in a very good performance that was made even better by the fact that he didn’t make any reckless challenges that resulted in a booking. If anything, Bačinović has made his case for staying in the starting lineup.
Acquah – 6.5 – A good match for Acquah. He is the player whose role is the easiest and clearest to define but sometimes he is the only one who doesn’t understand it. Still, this kid has a very bright future ahead of him. He is a destroyer whose center of gravity seems so low that it is very tough to knock him off the ball. Now, if he can just learn how to pass the ball…
Iličić – 8 – Guess who is back? Josip put in a man of the match worthy performance that was capped off with a beautiful goal to give the Rosanero a 3-0 lead. Iličić was active and central to much of the team’s offensive movements. The return of the “Iliciclone” almost happened as well, yet Gillet was able to get a finger on the Slovene’s powerful shot from outside the area. It is a welcomed sight to see that Iličić once again looks comfortable playing more centrally and in the trequartista role. He linked up very well with Zahavi and was instrumental on the day.
Zahavi – 7.5 – Eran also had a fantastic performance that nabbed him a goal and an assist. The Israeli is an intelligent player who makes the smart passes and is often in the right place at the right time (as evidenced by his tap-in goal off the Iličić shot). He and Iličić showed no problem in picking up the offensive duty once Abel went off with injury – despite playing with no true strikers. Well done.
Abel Hernandez – s.v. – Blowing out his hamstring once again, the hope is that the recovery time isn’t too lengthy. It’s unfortunate as he was looking good for the opening minutes of the match.
Lores Varela – 6.5 – It was a big moment for the unknown Lores. He was thrust into the spotlight only 20 minutes into the match after Abel had to exit and the team was left without any healthy strikers. The young Uruguayan showed off a bit of skill as well as decent speed while playing in an advance role alongside Iličić and Zahavi. He also had a sublime over-the-top through ball to Iličić that gave him his first assist on his Rosanero debut. Given the circumstances, things couldn’t have gone better for Lores.
Bertòlo – 6.5 – Came on to bring a bit of dynamism to the midfield in place of Zahavi. He did his job in pressing the opposition while Palermo held onto its lead.
Aguirregaray – 6 – He brought a spark of energy in the game’s final minutes but he picked up a stupid yellow card. While he has shown some redeeming qualities, he has also exhibited some Roberto Guana type levels of silliness. Nevertheless, the good and the promise more than outweighs the bad. Besides, he has time to adjust.
Devis Mangia – 8 – After a tumultuous week that saw his friend Sogliano leave the club, Mangia faced a very important match – one that he couldn’t afford to lose – if only to prevent any unneeded pressure going into the international break. After Abel Hernandez went down shortly into the game, it looked like an emergency despite being 1-0 up. In a bit of tactical genius almost born out of necessity, Mangia threw on an untested Lores for Abel while opting for a very unconventional 4-3-3. The gamble paid off as the three midfielders playing as strikers were exceptional while not conceding any space by keeping the back line and midfield of Giulio, Armin and Afriyie intact. This was a great win for Devis Mangia.