Palermo will look to bounce back from an insipid display in the local derby last weekend against a Chievo side closing in on Serie A safety. It most likely will not be the highlight of this weekends round of fixtures, but Palermo will need to return to winning ways and focus their Champions League aspirations. Javier Pastore’s importance to the club is a recurring discussion, but it is through him that Palermo will gain most potency going forward in the remaining league fixtures.
Pastore signed for Palermo in the summer transfer window for around £4 million from Argentinean side Talleres. He enjoyed a very successful season previous to signing, on loan to Huracan, where they notched up a series of impressive results and became the new darlings of the Argentinean press. Such performances gained him notoriety in Europe and he attracted much attention from clubs such as Manchester United, Porto and Milan. But Palermo ultimately showed the most interest and Javier signed a five-year contract and joined Zamparini’s revolution.
Pastore’s rise in Italy is synonymous with Palermo’s rise in Serie A. Arriving in the summer as a fresh-faced 20 year old, he found it difficult to break into the first team under Walter Zenga, and was primarily on the substitutes bench. This was again the case initially under Delio Rossi’s stewardship. Eventually, however, he showed the coaching staff his value as the trequartista, a position so popular amongst fans in Italian football. Just sitting behind the front two, he has managed to cause destruction to defences through crisp passing and strong finishing, even if he is a little raw in the later category. Since the introduction into the starting line-up, Palermo have produced consistently strong attacking performances and have looked like a Champions League team going forward. This has been merited with their current league position.
The trequartista is a very interesting role in modern day football. It has largely seen a death in the English Premier League, due to the 4-4-2 formation, which employs a flat midfield, and the more progressive 4-5-1, which places the emphasis on width. This can be said of Spanish football as well, as the top teams invariably like to play with width and stretch the defence across to create space. While this has proved successful it has limited some truly spectacularly skilful players to bit-part roles, notably Juan Sebastian Veron at Manchester Utd and Deco at Chelsea. Asked to play more physical roles in the heart of midfield, this limits the creativity and spark, which they bring to the game. Although quite tall at 6’2”, Pastore is not a physical player and would likely be bullied in the centre of the park. It is a different role, so Delio Rossi employs him at the top of the diamond formation to utilise his best skills as a playmaker. Being given the freedom to express himself creatively has helped Javier to find his feet in Italy and to establish himself. He runs at pace, is a silky dribbler of the ball and has impressed in the big games so far this season, earning him a call up to the national side.
The Rosanero have six games remaining this season and are in the final Champions League place by goal difference alone. These final games are all winnable, but will require much improved performances than the one witnessed against Catania. An excellent start to the final segment of the season would be to win at home against Chievo, who might well have one eye on the next game against Livorno, arguably their only remaining winnable fixture. If Palermo do start to perform in the next few games, it will most likely be through the creativity of the highly talented Pastore. This young Argentinean has lit up Serie A this year and has re-invigorated the importance of a trequartista, an art that has been dwindling in the last few years. He is showing, along with the likes of Lionel Messi, that the modern game isn’t all about raw strength, but about players with creativity and vision also. If Javier does make it into Diego Maradonna’s squad for South Africa, he will undoubtedly prove to a global audience what a tremendous talent he is. Ultimately, Palermo may well need the Champions League draw to keep him in the Rosanero colours for another year.