It’s no secret that Palermo head into the new season with plenty of question marks after an offseason of change and uncertainty.
There have been some causes for optimism, certainly, but the overwhelming feeling among supporters is that the Rosanero are gearing up for another difficult season – “a year of transition” as Zamparini would say. As Palermo took on Parma in the last friendly before real competition begins, signs of promise emerged.
The key to Palermo’s season in 2012/13 isn’t the various players such as Miccoli, Rios and Mantovani. Obviously, the players play an important role, but the true crux of how Palermo fare comes down to its coach, Giuseppe Sannino. Granted, with Zamparini’s temperament always a factor, the Sannino story could end abruptly at any moment. But a lot of things are riding on Sannino and his way of approaching the game. On Sunday, the best glimpse was given in front of the home fans at the Renzo Barbera.
All preseason, Sannino has stressed the importance of basic, but critical, elements: simple passing, playing compactly, sacrificing yourself for the good of the team, defending and attacking as one unit and awareness of each player’s positioning in relation to his teammates. In theory, those are very positive traits that can lead to very good results. The application of those ideas on the pitch is always the question.
The answer came in the form of a 4-1 win over a Parma side that truly can’t be as bad as they seemed on Sunday. First, Sannino surprised everyone by lining up a 3-5-2 formation after all the practice put in place in regards to the 4-4-2. The team had been working on the 3-5-2 over the last few days and the Rosanero performed with it as swimmingly as Sannino could have hoped for. The fluidity of the 3-5-2 evidences itself when Palermo doesn’t have the ball, becoming a 5-3-2. Such a transition allows Palermo greater numbers in defence and gives the three central defenders a better opportunity to remain tighter, thereby conceding less space.
Better than the application of a new formation, Palermo exhibited an actual style of play. Last season, it goes without saying that the Rosanero were entirely Miccoli-dependent and often looked out of ideas. Sannino’s men showed the inner-workings of the coach’s ideas and the passing and movements were very pleasing to watch.
From a player perspective, there were those who stood out. Franco Brienza looked excellent and comfortable. He was active and dangerous and at one point cut through the heart of Parma’s midfield with a fantastic bit of skill. Josip Iličić showed signs of breaking out of his sophomore slump by looking more interested in the game and scoring a fine goal in which he sliced through two defenders, rounded the keeper and slammed in a goal into the top shelf with his right foot (his off foot). If Palermo regains the Iličić of two seasons ago, things will be a lot easier for everyone involved. Finally, Igor Budan was welcomed onto the pitch to a standing ovation and in what can only be described as divine intervention, scored on a wonderful lob over the keeper. It was the most emotional moment of the night as the look of satisfaction and relief on Budan’s face was matched by the uproarious applause of the Barbera faithful. As Zamparini said, it had to be Amber who caused Igor to score that goal – something worth so much in a game that meant nothing.
In the end, practically every Palermo player got a run out. Even newest acquisition Arevalo Rios saw some minutes of action. Yet, one player who didn’t see the field was Franco Vazquez. As of right now, his future remains uncertain with the club. Palermo may decide to keep him or they may loan him out. A total sale seems very unlikely as he hasn’t been given a true opportunity to show his talent. It’ll be sad if he is loaned out, but if it means more consistent playing time that sees him return to the club a better player (ala Kurtic), then perhaps that is the best move for all parties involved. The fact that he didn’t play at all, though, appears to be telling at this point.
Naturally, not too much should be taken from a friendly. After all, it remains just that. Palermo certainly gave some reason for cautious optimism but the results that matter are quickly approaching, starting with this Saturday and a date with Cremonese in the Coppa Italia.