Palermo enter Serie A’s Christmas break in sixteenth position following a season characterised by disappointing results, presidential controversy and personnel changes in the coaching ranks.
Despite starting the season positively with two consecutive wins, the Rosanero went on to lose six of their next nine Serie A fixtures, ultimately leading to the sacking of coach Giuseppe Iachini in November.
After 772 days at the helm, the 51-year-old became the 28th Palermo coach to be fired by president Maurizio Zamparini and was replaced by Davide Ballardini. However the change has yet to produce any positive changes on the field, with Ballardini’s team achieving just one victory over Frosinone to date.
It is no surprise that Franco Vazquez has been one of few shining lights for the Aquile, who continue to feel the void left by Paulo Dybala up front. The Italian trequartista has justified the significant transfer interest from the likes of Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan as the driving force for Palermo’s attack.
Having provided four assists and netting two goals of his own, Vazquez has often cut a lone figure in creating opportunities on goal. In fact his goal contributions represent six of only nine goals in total scored from open play. Averaging the most key passes, shots and more than double the dribbles of any teammate, the 24-year-old has played an important role in providing his club some breathing room above the relegation zone.
Highlight of the Season
With confidence at a season low, Ballardini was already under pressure to either produce or become Zamparini’s 29th coaching victim. The very next week, they were able to muster an impressive 4-1 defeat over lowly Frosinone, with goals for Edoardo Goldaniga, Vazquez, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Alberto Gilardino providing fans at the Stadio Renzo Barbera a rare reason to celebrate.
Outside of the drama and results, there have been elements of the team that would provide the Rosanero faithful with some hope for the future. Originally a Primavera player for the club, Eduardo Goldaniga returned to Sicily at the start of the season from Juventus, after spending the 2014/2015 season on loan to Serie B side Perugia.
The Italian defender has only recently become a common feature in the starting line-up however has produced some outstanding performance in the centre-back role. The 22-year-old Italian has not only injected new life into a struggling defensive line but has also netted two goals in only five starts, including one on début as part of the run-on team against Lazio.
In a season with limited reasons to celebrate, Palermo’s highlight thus far immediately followed their most disappointing result(s) of the season.
In their fourth round Coppa Italia tie, the Sicilian’s suffered a shock 3-2 loss to Lega Pro side Alessandria, a game in which Vazquez saw red. To make matters worse, Palermo then went on to suffer a 3-0 hammering to Atalanta only days after their embarrassing Coppa Italia exit.
Ranked 15th in attack and 16th in defence, Palermo also have vast improvements to be made across the field and would benefit significantly from strengthening their midfield.
Another that deserves a mention as a success is 33-year-old Alberto Gilardino who arrived from Guangzhou Evergrande on a free transfer Despite his age, the Italian international has shown some impressive form and is the club’s leading goal scorer this season. Out-performing his younger teammates upfront in terms of shots and aerial effectiveness in addition to goals, he has proved to be a smart signing for the Rosanero as a key asset to their attack.
Meanwhile the club’s Macedonian striker Trajkovski, who was signed from Zulte Waregem, has struggled to produce in front of goal when given the opportunity. In six starts and seven substitute appearances the 23-year-old has been largely overshadowed by the Italian ten years his elder. With just one goal to show for his efforts, he has produced a number of disappointing displays up front where he has failed to add any significant danger to the Rosanero attack.
Their current squad boasts the talent that should keep the club safely above the relegation zone despite failing to reach their potential as of yet.
Vazquez is set to remain a key factor in their ability to cause threats on goal and will benefit greatly if his midfield can provide a stronger link between defence and attack.
While the goal this season will largely be ensuring Serie A survival, the Rosanero will need some stability if they want to build their team into one that can potentially push for a top half position in the next few seasons.
Unfortunately, stability is simply not guaranteed at the Stadio Renza Barbera.