Maurizio Zamparini should take a good look at Sunday night’s Palermo match against Lazio to understand that whether it be Delio Rossi’s four man defence, or Serse Cosmi’s inefficient three man back-line, the lack of leadership and effective centre-backs within the Palermo defence will continue to be their biggest obstacle in accumulating wins.
With such little time afforded to the new Coach, it was perhaps unwise to deploy a new formation that failed to exploit the strengths of his squad. Nevertheless, Cosmi went ahead and fielded a 3-5-2 shape that appeared to look more like a 3-5-1-1 with Javier Pastore dropping back. The players seemed uncomfortable in their new roles, especially Ezequiel Munoz; confusion was rife with regards to defensive responsibilities and a lack of understanding at the back allowed Lazio to snare an early lead. The main problem, especially in the first half, was Palermo’s more reactive than proactive approach to defending. Despite having plenty of players behind the ball defending, no-one was marking Giuseppe Sculli as he snatched a controversial second goal, displaying the lack of understanding between players – a symptom of the new shape.
However, the attack suffered just as much from the new tactics, limiting the creativity of the Rosanero’s attack minded players like Josep Ilicic, who was forced to play almost as a central midfielder. Having him play farther away hindered his attacking instinct and left Pastore looking isolated at the front, whilst he made passes that were often asking too much of his Slovenian partner in the first half.
Whilst Zamparini regularly remarked that his past Coaches “haven’t had balls”, Cosmi put in a shift that is bound to attract the same criticism. Lazio’s defence was decimated and every time Palermo pushed forward, Edy Reja’s men looked fragile. Yet two goals down and with a real chance of getting into the game as Lazio took the foot off the gas, the new Coach failed to gamble with his substitutions. With no support present for the striker, the players were perpetually caught passing the ball sideways, holding on to possession in hopes that someone would make a forward run. With no-one from midfield pushing up to help Abel Hernandez, those few chances that were created out wide from the likes of Federico Balzaretti and Mattia Cassani were left unexploited. What Palermo desperately needed were more players in forward positions.
Questions must be asked of the Coach’s ambitions for the game when he decided to place his most dynamic midfielder in the middle of his centre halves. A side gripped by low self-esteem and a lack of attacking verve needed a Coach who believed in them by betting on their ability to get back into the game. Instead decisions such as the one to bring on a slow and aging Fabio Liverani sent out a message to the side that implied satisfaction at the loss. Interestingly Zamparini made no comment after the match.
Meanwhile Lazio who seemed barely interested in the match in the second half did well to climb back into fourth. As opposed to deploying 11 individuals like Palermo, the Biancocelesti played as a team unit, attacking and defending as one, with even the likes of Mauro Zarate helping out at the back. The 4-2-3-1 formation reliant on the skills of Giuseppe Sculli and Christian Ledesma dominated proceedings and, despite spending less time on the ball, they effectively exploited their chances at goal. Should they continue in this manner, fourth place is certainly achievable.