Few can play the role of a romantic hero as well as Delio Rossi. Having weathered the constant barrage of criticism from his volcanic President for his tactical failures, his respectful comments in response, coupled with his attractive brand of attacking football that has left many salivating and his own fans in a state of worship, have finally been rewarded with a place in the Coppa Italia final. A genius Tactician, he boasts an unbreakable bond with his players who pleaded for his return and since his reinstatement the Rosanero, as was seen against Napoli, are back to their dazzling best. However, as he delights in his achievement, his accomplishments have been somewhat diminished by his chronic inability to remedy the defensive problems of a side that has the second worst defensive record in the league.
Against Milan, Rossi’s game plan was to soak up the pressure realising that the Rossoneri had to chase the game in order to score and thus chose to hit them on the counter-attack. However, Milan pushed with such great determination that Palermo were left overwhelmed and separated from the ball for long periods of time due to the required defensive work forced upon them by Milan’s possession. Upon realising that his team barely had enough time on the ball to create an opportunity, Rossi changed tactics and encouraged his team to press further up the field taking the game to Milan and putting them under an increasing amount of pressure, hoping their fatigue would see them surrender.
The move proved to be a master-stroke as Milan were stopped in the middle of their tracks and the veterans’ ages were being exposed by the tenacity and speed of Palermo’s youth. However, as has come to be expected, the one blemish in an otherwise dazzling display came when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored what later resulted in a useless goal. Failing to track Ibra’s run forward, the centre-backs stood and watched as the forward scored, exposing once again the ineptitude of the Rosanero defence that caused Rossi’s dismissal in the first place.
Having conceded 7 to Udinese and 59 overall, three less than Lecce who are fighting relegation, Maurizio Zamparini once said of his Coach: “One can see that failing to fix the defensive structure is the major limitation of our Coach.” Against Parma, the team conceded three goals that were all down to defensive errors that should not have occurred, leading to the first Palermo defeat since the return of Rossi on the bench. Francesco Modesto was left completely unmarked whilst the usual errors caused by lack of concentration left the press, and Zamparini, speculating with regards to Rossi’s future.
One can argue that his side suffers in quality in the centre-back position and no-one present has been able to match the skill of the departed Simon Kjaer. Both Dorin Goian and Cesare Bovo suffer when they are faced with physically imposing or speedy strikers as both lack pace and the aerial ability to cope, whilst the young Ezequiel Munoz also cannot boast incredible pace and moreover suffers from a lack of experience necessary for this level of football. Whilst the talent may not necessarily be there, Rossi has to take responsibility for the fact that his tactics hardly help steady the back-line. Deploying two full-backs that act more like wingers due to the offensive style of football Rossi favours, their marauding runs down the flank often leave the centre-backs isolated at the back and thoroughly exposed should the opponent counter-attack. In order for these offensive tactics to work, the duo at the back must possess exemplary pace and focus in order to cover the open spaces left behind.
That concentration is of course not there and hence the team finds itself languishing in a mid-table position. Whilst Rossi’s brand of attacking football has been lauded and deservedly so, he must realise that attack may not always be the best form of defence.