For the second year in a row, Hellas Verona eliminated Palermo from the Coppa Italia. The 1-0 result was highly flattering to the winning side as it was Palermo who utterly dominated throughout. And while the Rosanero had chance after chance go begging, Hellas made their one opportunity count, thru Luca Toni of all people. A deep Coppa run would be nice, but the team’s goal is solely returning to Serie A. The loss was tough to take, but Palermo can certainly learn from it.
So what can we learn, then, from a loss? Here are a few things:
1. This team is good enough for Serie A
For two games, we’ve gotten a glimpse of Gattuso’s Palermo. In those two games, Palermo have bossed the opposition around the pitch. Sure, the first game was against a Lega Pro side, but the second – against a team in Serie A – was proof that the Rosanero can compete. Yes, Hellas Verona is a newly promoted Serie A team, but they’ve operated during the offseason as a team that has been in the top flight for longer than that. Furthermore, Palermo has managed to hold onto several key players from last year’s squad: Sorrentino, Munoz, Barreto, Abel Hernandez and more. And while the Rosanero were relegated last season, let’s not forget that had the club not collapsed in even just half of the amount of games where they conceded a goal in the 80th minute or later, they’d still be plying their trade in Italy’s top flight. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking and Serie B is not at all easy, but Palermo’s current squad is good enough to dominate the league.
2. This team has ample room for improvement
What we’ve seen in the first two games is a team coming together under Gattuso. For all the stories of unity amongst its members, the harmony of the group on the pitch is just beginning. There are certain players who have already begun to gel with one another. Lafferty and Dybala seem to already have a good understanding with one another. Stevanovic and Daprelà are another pair that have worked well together – with one providing cover as the other bursts forward. As more games pass by and the relationships continue to grow, the true potential of this team will be realized. While in its early stages, the team already looks to be an actual group, rather than the mixture of individuals playing for themselves in the second half of last season (Fabbrini, Formica, Boselli and Co. never quite got the “team” aspect down). And this team is still missing key players. Barreto and Munoz haven’t featured in an official game due to injury. Bolzoni had to make way very early on versus Verona and Abel Hernandez still isn’t 100% match fit. When all these players are available and ready, Gattuso’s arsenal will be that more dangerous. And that’s not even commenting on the style of play which can only improve with time.
3. Adding another striker would be a wise move
Zamparini and Perinetti have insisted throughout this transfer season that Palermo will not buy another striker unless one (Abel Hernandez) should leave. As it stands right now, Palermo has Abel Hernandez, Kyle Lafferty, Cephas Malele and Paulo Dybala listed on the depth chart. For a season as long and arduous as Serie B, though, are they enough? Dybala is not being used as a striker, and given the 4-2-3-1 Gattuso deploys, he’d be wasted playing up top. Abel Hernandez, for all the talk of his potential, has a habit of succumbing to terrible injuries. Should he suffer a lengthy absence, the club would be down to Kyle Lafferty, entering his first year in the Italian league, and Cephas Malele entering his first full season with the senior team. A couple of unfortunate events could make things even more dire. Given all this, it would be better to play it safe with a true, fourth striker than rolling the dice in a year where promotion is the only option. Besides, a striker who can dominate the box would fit in perfectly, the current roster does not feature an attacker of that nature.
4. Gattuso has what it takes to achieve Serie A
Sometimes, the transition from player to coach is one that not every former pro is able to make seamlessly. In the short time that Gattuso has been in charge, there is something about him that connects with everyone. Perhaps it’s the reputation, perhaps it’s the intensity he brings, but whatever it is, he has restored the enthusiasm that was sapped from this city over the past two years. Is he the next Antonio Conte? Maybe. It’s often difficult and improper to make such rash comparisons especially this early into a coach’s tenure; yet, if anyone were to follow in Conte’s footsteps, Gattuso is the most natural heir. He hasn’t yet been judged on his technical acumen or his tactical awareness and the regular season has not begun, but there is something about Gennaro Gattuso that makes a believer out of even the biggest cynic. Will he conquer Serie B and lead Palermo back to its rightful place in Serie A? Well, that will be contingent on the final and most important point.
5. Patience is paramount
How can we tell whether Devis Mangia is ready for a senior team? How do we know Giuseppe Sannino is a good coach? Does Gattuso have what it takes to achieve Serie A? These are all questions that demand patience first before an answer can be given. In the first two instances, the question was never answered. Now, Gattuso is the latest in a tremendous and ridiculous list of coaches under Zamparini. If we are to know Gattuso’s abilities as a coach, the most important thing that can be done is to give him time. There will be hard times in the upcoming season – that’s just the nature of the game. One of the biggest reasons why Palermo will be playing in Serie B this season is because of the lack of time given to Sannino and his predecessors. Gattuso has a strong squad at his disposal. He has the passion and desire necessary to have success. In the face of pressures and the rigors of Serie B, the least Zamparini can do is afford him the time necessary to see things through. The mistakes of the past are well known and for all to see. Perinetti would do best to serve as the buffer between president and coach and give truth to the term “project”. The city of Palermo and Palermo as a club not only deserve it, they demand it.