Genoa’s problems run deeper than Gasperini sacking

As a dejected Genoa side walked off the field following their defeat to Palermo on Sunday, Coach Gian Piero Gasperini cut a lone figure against the background of the Stadio Renzo Barbera. On Monday morning President Enrico Preziosi handed Gasperini his papers and in the process, the longest serving coach in the league became the second managerial casualty of the season.
Gasperini, for the past two years, had done his best to keep the Rossoblu united and competitive despite the enormous turnover at the club. President Preziosi’s ambitions often meant that his coach had to contend with players he may not have needed or requested. The fifth place finish of the 2008-09 season inspired by Diego Milito left Preziosi hungry for more success. Many had already predicted, before even a ball was kicked this season, that il Grifone would run into difficulties following a summer that saw a host of new faces arrive at Marassi. Gasperini had to effectively change more than half of his starting XI to accommodate the new faces and now just over two months into the campaign, he has paid for that with his job.
What Gasperini had achieved at the club was quite unique as over the past four seasons he had carried a team from Serie B to within touching distance of Europe’s premier club competition. But patience is a virtue that no Italian club President is gifted with and Preziosi’s decision to replace the man who oversaw the club’s most successful period since Osvaldo Bagnoli is baffling to say the least. Gasperini may not have been having much headway in moulding his players into a cohesive unit but their results had shown slight improvement in the last few weeks. The defeats to Palermo and Inter were both by the marginal goal and with a bit of luck, things may have ended differently for the Rossoblu.
While last year the problem for the team was a leaky defence that shipped in 61 goals, the second highest in the league, this time around the forwards are struggling. The frontline has managed only eight goals in the first 10 games and new Coach Davide Ballardini will likely focus on this area before anything else, even more so having witnessed his side enter double figures for shots on goal on Wednesday evening against Bologna. Luca Toni may have been seen as a prize acquisition from Bayern Munich but the former Capocannonieri has lost most of his sharpness in front of goal. Last season’s club top scorer Rodrigo Palacio is struggling for form and has found the back of the net only once. Preziosi may be wondering whether he made the right move in allowing so many of his forwards to depart in the summer. Sergio Floccari, Hernán Crespo and Robert Acquafresca were deemed excess baggage at Marassi and their absences have not seemingly been adequately filled.
The midfield saw the high profile acquisitions of Miguel Veloso and Rafinha, but neither player has truly exerted an influence on the Grifone. One of the few positives for Genoa this term has been their defensive, department which saw Andrea Ranocchia arrive from Bari and Domenico Criscito staying on for another season. The team has profited from this newfound defensive solidarity and Ballardini would be wise not to tinker with his backline. However, with Inter holding the other half of Ranocchia’s contract they may choose to make a bid in January following the season-ending injury to Walter Samuel. Preziosi has understandably bowed to financial needs in the past, but selling Ranocchia in January may not be recommended seeing the club’s desire to do well and challenge for European spots.
In Ballardini, Genoa has a tactician whose results have been a mixed bag. His Lazio of last year were a major disappointment, and seeing how Edoardo Reja has turned le Aquile around there are bound to be a few raised eyebrows about Ballardini’s suitability. But moving away from an outdated 3-4-3 that many teams had figured out could be the making of what is a talented squad, even if he decides not to scrap the three man defence altogether.

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