Sinisa Mihajlovic has been appointed the new coach at Catania after the sacking of Gianluca Atzori.
Mihajlovic has had experience as Roberto Mancini’s number two when he was at the helm at Inter, followed by a brief and ultimately unsuccessful spell at Bologna last season. Catania released a statement in which they heavily praised Atzori for the work and foundations he had laid but named the ex-Lazio star as his successor. Catania have been struggling this year and are second from bottom in Serie A at present, amassing a mere nine points and only one victory. The final nail in the coffin for Gianluca Atzori came in the game against bottom club Siena this weekend when they surrendered a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2. As so often in Serie A, the answer was a quick change in coach, however, will this change Catania’s fortunes and is Sinisa Mihajlovic the right man?
Sinisa Mihajlovic is at the very least a controversial character and his playing days were a mix of magnificent free kicks, superb defending, red cards and accusations of racism. His coaching career so far seems to have been no different, although his time under Roberto Mancini at Inter did seem to have an air of calm about it, he only left the Nerazzurri when Mancini was fired and the back room staff were reshuffled. This positive relationship with the former Inter boss has been revisited recently when Mancini has been quoted in saying that Sinisa has the charisma, knowledge of tactics, and ability to handle pressure coupled with a wealth of knowledge accumulated from his playing days with teams such as Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter. It must be these qualities that the Catania chairman Antonino Pulvirenti has seen and made him sure that the Serbian hard man is the right man for the job.
Pulvirenti however, could not have been enthusing over the recent CV of his new number one. Mihajlovic was hired by the Rossoblu on the 3rd of November 2008 and replaced Daniele Arrigoni in order to take on a relegation battle, an almost identical situation to what he now faces with Catania. His record was not good even though a 1-1 draw with Roma in his first game showed promise, he had to wait through five draws before recording his first victory and this was against Torino who were also languishing in the lower regions of the division. By April 2009 Sinisa was out of work. His team, similar to Catania this weekend, had just slumped to a defeat at Siena, and enough was enough. The club released a statement (coincidently nearly identical to that issued to Catania’s departing coach Gianluca Atzori.) which read, “Bologna FC wish to announce we have relieved Sinisa Mihajlovic of his duties as first-team coach, and would like to send him sincere thanks for the effort and professionalism he has given.”
One of the main reasons for his departure it seemed was his inability to get on with senior players, and his disagreements with them as well as others were not only vicious but high profile as well. Only lasting 21 games is certainly not an achievement to be proud of even in Serie A, nor is it the track record that would make him an ideal candidate for taking on the Catania job.
The one thing that cannot be denied about Mihajlovic is that he has a very strong personality and this can in some teams be an asset. It has been questioned as to whether Catania over performed last season but whether this is the case or not it is no coincidence that they went through their campaign under the equally charismatic Walter Zenga and it may be that the Chairman sees another leader of men in Sinisa. Catania do have some quality in their side and the new man in charge has already tried to both rouse his troops along with justifying his appointment when stating,
“I have seen a very strong Catania team this year and I think they are stronger than the Bologna team I had last season.”
This no doubt may be true as Catania’s team does have good support and match winners in the squad. Maybe they are simply in need of a leader, a man who can unite them and give them the confidence to win such games as relegation dog fights. Other than a 4-2 defeat to Udinese a 3-1 defeat at Fiorentina and a 2-0 defeat at Milan, the later not telling the whole story, Catania have not lost by more than a goal and have been nobody’s whipping boys. It may be that it needs the steel and aggression of a talismanic manager to eradicate the silly mistakes that have cost Gli Elefanti some vital points. The next three games will hold a much clearer picture as to what if any difference the Serb will have as his first task is at home to Livorno. Lying one place above Catania a victory and other results going in favour would see them out of the relegation zone next week. However, away to Juventus the week after will be a totally different game and he will need all the tactical knowledge Mancini is assured he has to pull off a victory here. It is the next game that is interesting as it throws up a fixture that could not have been written in the most fanciful of scripts.
Only football manages to bring to the fore the following scenario. After a must win at Livorno and the impossible task of Juventus away the next fixture is Bologna – the club which ousted Sinisa in April last year. This will be the game he is looking to so that he can prove the doubters wrong. Its is not often a coach can be judged so quickly and it is not often that an appointment is met with so much scrutiny, but this is Serie A and this is Sinisa Mihajlovic. All the statistics say that this appointment is a mistake being revisited with open eyes. Sinisa will tell you to watch this space!