The controversial diamond formation reared its ugly head on Saturday as Delio Rossi’s Palermo failed to keep up with local rivals Catania. With Javier Pastore playing just behind the front two and Fabio Liverani sitting in front of the defence, the Catanian central midfield had the run of the game, with very little opposition. This highly debated formation has gained notoriety in England due to its high profile failures – most famously, the national side under Sven Goran Eriksson in 2004.
With Liverani playing so deep, there is rarely an opportunity to take the pressure off the defence while remaining in control of the ball. This was highlighted by Maxi Lopez’s second goal of the game when Liverani was given a lack of options and carelessly gave the ball away. This has been a large factor in the Rosanero’s troubles this season away from home. Catania looked to control the tempo of the game and retain the majority of the possession, which Palermo gifted to them along with space and time on the ball. An error, which made them look lethargic and ultimately cost them the game.
Where Palermo did look strong was up the left side. The left back Federico Balzaretti was supporting the midfielder Antonio Nocerino with some surging runs up the wing. Balzaretti was a bright spark in an otherwise offensively challenged performance. He would get beyond the Catanian right back Pablo Alvarez time and time again and continued to pose a threat for the duration.
For this formation to work tactically without being caught on the counter attack, when a full back makes one of these surging runs up field, the corresponding midfielder will need to hold back and cover the hole left in the defence. The first Catanian goal was as a result of this not happening as central defender Dorin Goian had to cover the left side of defence and was caught on the ball by the sprightly Maxi Lopez. Delio Rossi should be commended for the attacking instincts he is putting into his players, encouraging them to go forward. But this must be tempered with some forethought to being defensively sound and not being so susceptible to the counter attack.
Delio Rossi will have an eventful summer in charge regardless of whether the Rosanero actually reach the Champions League or not. It is highly likely that he will lose a good majority of his players to the Bosman ruling or transfers out. It will be interesting to see what kind of players he and president Zamparini will go after – to continue the attacking flow or to solidify the defence.
It is highly likely that they will make a play for West Ham right midfielder Valon Behrami. The Swiss midfielder would add some strength to the right side and would fit in well to the Serie A style. He is a classy player, with some speed who can make things happen. To have strength on both wings would give Palermo more options in attack and spread the opposition back four across the field, thus giving the two strikers more space. He is also defence minded enough to fit into the diamond formation. He can cover the gaps left by the full back getting forward as well as having the ability to be a threat himself.
Zamparini is not looking to splash a lot of cash on just a few players: “To play in the Champions League you do not need to buy big names.” He drew a parallel to Fiorentina to highlight his point, that team unity is more important than a team of Galactico’s. This common sense approach from the President shows it would be very easy to let the success of this season change his mind. Signing big name players doesn’t always help the team. Big name introductions often upset the equilibrium amongst the existing squad and negatively affect the team’s results the next season.
Palermo has an excellent youth academy, of which, a couple of products have helped this season, and Zamparini seems determined not to affect this. It is good to see a President with the club’s best interests at heart rather than his own reputation. His support for Delio Rossi should give the Coach greater tactical options in a well-balanced squad.