“We need to understand who we are…” Such were the words of Giuseppe Sannino after Sunday’s terrible loss to Napoli at home. One thing that is evident is the gap between a side like Napoli and that of Palermo. There is a lot of work to still be done in Sannino’s squad and the only positive to be taken from such a loss is that everyone from the top down understood that there are many things to improve upon.
Right from the start, Sannino made several peculiar decisions. From opting for an interesting version of a 3-5-2 to starting a brand new squad member in Von Bergen to giving Munoz the start over the preferred Milanovic, the choices seemed counter-intuitive to what was seen during the majority of the preseason. Unfortunately, the strange decisions continued – replacing an injured Brienza with a seldom used Migliaccio (even if he performed admirably) when a playmaker like Viola was obviously needed and leaving a useless Hernandez in the match way too long before throwing on Budan. The coach admitted afterward that the loss was squarely on his shoulders and he made no excuses otherwise. While that isn’t entirely true (the players do share the blame), it’s refreshing to see a coach speak so candidly after a negative match.
Napoli showed their class. For almost the entire first half, Palermo managed to hang with the Partenopei. Yet, the reminiscent Cavani howler was rectified only several minutes later as Hamsik scored at the stroke of halftime. It was a familiar lapse in concentration on the defense’s part – one all too familiar of the Palermo in the Zamparini era. And even though Ujkani should have done more, beaten at his near post, Hamsik’s goal was a cracker that sucked the spirit out of the Rosanero at a critical juncture.
The second half showed the conditional differences between the two sides. Napoli continued to hammer the Palermo flanks and Bertolo, even if playing in a position not his, was the target of such attacks. His failure to adequately track back allowed Napoli’s second goal, effectively closing the match. The third goal was just the icing on the cake.
The loss highlighted the gaps still needed to be filled at Palermo. Zamparini promised that a replacement for Balzaretti would be made. Sunday’s game only underlined the need to intervene in the transfer market. It simply isn’t fair to expect Bertolo or Mantovani (or heaven forbid, Garcia) to adequately replace the Italy international. There are only a few precious days left before the window closes, so the club will have to act swiftly.
At the same time, the panic button should not even be remotely close to being activated. How many, prior to the game, were realistically expecting three points from this match? Napoli is a squad built to challenge for the Scudetto and Sunday’s display showed that they could be a true contender. Palermo is under a new coach with a new system (even if the right system wasn’t used). Distress calls at this point are just foolish. Even Zamparini was a voice of reason and calm after a loss that normally sends him stewing. Patience, patience, patience. The Palermo fan can be a fickle one.
Now, the squad must pick themselves up, dust each other off and focus on the next fixture. A road test against a Lazio side that also has some similarities to this side. The true test of a team is whether they can rebound from an awful loss and come out with a renewed spirit. Sannino’s demeanor certainly makes one believe that they can bounce back. It’s going to be a long season, filled with peaks and valleys. The team needs the backing of the public and the fans should not be ready to abandon them just yet.