tirsdag den 25. august 2009

Serie A 2009/10 preview part V

It continues (still in alphabetical order) and not just with one team this time.


Just when this team on paper was starting to shape up rather nicely again, highlighted by a Coppa Italia win last season, conflict arrives and there is currently a situation where three (good) players are left out of the squad because of dispute.
De Silvestri, plus recent key players Pandev and Ledesma are all currently left out of the squad and every day it seems there are rumors of them being signed by other teams.

Probably most important though is the one who IS staying. Star forward Mauro Zarate's status was made permanent when Lazio managed to raise the €25 million needed to secure him.
If Zarate has been consistent enough to justify a price such as that I'm not so sure of, but when he was good he was often magical, and probably key in this thing, better than anything Lazio has had for quite some time and better than anything else realistically they'd have any hope of signing in the near future.
So all in all, well done to Lazio for securing him.

With his number one partner in crime when it comes to attacking contributions, Pandev, for the time being out, the door should now be wide open for great technician Pasquale Foggia to really make his mark for the club.
If he can do that the door might also open up further for the national team where he could bring some flair to primarely the wings.

Elsewhere things are a lot less spectacular. Sturdy striker Tommasi Rocchi is for the time being the captain up front and on midfield you find solid (but not getting any better) veterans such as Dabo, Baronio and Cristian Brocchi.

There is also Stefano Mauri, Matuzalem and Meghni who on their day have more to offer forward but even with the best of the lot there, Ledesma in, you feel this is a midfield who's job it should be, to lay a balanced foundation so the skilled players up front's focus can be 100 percent on the attacking side of things.

In the back-four Rozenhal has left for Hamburg and most interesting will be who wins the left-back starting job of Kolarov and romanian Radu who has impressed a lot of people whenever he has played.

Worth watching: Stephan Lichtsteiner: A product of the, in recent years, great Swiss talent development, he is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best right-backs in the league contributing nicely to the attack.
In fact, his constant running up and down the flank has earned him the nickhame Forrest Gump!


Up from Serie B we have the team who very much unlike Lazio are known for their left-wing supporters.
And also back is their number one working class hero and Livorno legend, veteran striker Cristiano Lucarelli.
Wearing number 99 on his jersey as a homage to 1999 founded left-wing ultras group Brigate Autonome Livornesi, BAL, Lucarelli born and bred in a notorius Livorno housing project, first came to prominence when he at a U-21 national team game being played in Livorno, celebrated a goal by ripping off his shirt revealing underneath another one with the familiar picture print of Che Guevara.
The Livorno fans went crazy and has loved him ever since but elsewhere and in the press he was heavily criticised.
It's been speculated how much damage was done already then to his future with the national team where he to this day is stuck at just one cap. I really don't know.

But further endearing him to the Livorno fans was when he at the height of his career, despite his agent's wishes took a paycut, rejected more lucrative offers and basically forced a move away from Torino to join Livorno now on the rise after 50 years in the lower leagues.

With Lucarelli on board now finally in Serie A they actually did well. In the midst of among others, chaotic coaching reigns from Roberto Donadoni the club achieved league finishes of 8, 6 and 11.
Lucarelli also had a lot of personal success netting plenty of goals and even finishing as league top scorer in 2005.

With Livorno president Aldo Spinelli conflict and tension is never far away though. There have been various small matters such as a match fixing scandal and when it comes to coaches he hasn't exactly been the most easy guy to have as boss.
Always very superstitious in fear of a bad run, Spinelli with one round left to play of last season following a defeat, sacked coach Leonardo Acori eventhough the team was still sitting comfortably in third place and was secured a playoff spot.

New coach Gennaro Ruotola immediatly endeared himself to the supporters not just by winning promotion but by declaring a democratic revolution as well, which is the kind of language that's still sweet music to the Livorno tifosi.

A few years earlier with another conflict with another manager, Spinelli also had a fall out with Lucarelli who was then sold to Shaktar Donetsk and last year played for Parma.

Now he is back though and Spinelli may not be. Following the promotion last season he had these words:

"Football is cruel and for this reason I would like to leave the presidency to my son.

"This has been too tough a year for me, what with a massacre of a play-off run. I hope my son accepts,".


Worth watching: Alessandro Diamanti: But where?

Unfortunately for Livorno fans the passionate and talented star on their team for the last few years seems to be on his way out with the club also more than willing to cash in on him.
Gianfranco Zola at West Ham is one fan and as I'm writing this, the Hammers look like a likely destination.

Diamanti according to himself has wasted far too many years in the lower leagues and when you look at his play at least in the last couple of years you have to agree.
A skilled technical player he creates goals for both teammates and himself. From open play as well as on set-pieces.

Last season the main beneficiari from that was former Valencia failure Francesco Tavano who finally had a good year again, and it will be interesting to see how he and others will do up front, IF without Diamanti.
Against tougher competition less well is definitely the more likely, but at least with Lucarelli now back at the club some other options presents itself, since he can still be a good target-man.


Roberto Donadoni's current destination with their huge loyal fan support are very ambitious and will look for drastic improvement from last year, where they following a promising start slumped to a 12th place finish.

That meant the dismissal of Edy Reja who had led the team all the way back from Serie C1, which could be argued was somewhat of a cruel fate.

However I do think it's arguable that his rather dated 3-5-2 system wasn't stable enough at the highest level and that change was needed to have a realistic chance of this team reaching the top.

Now whether his replacement Roberto Donadoni is the right kind of change only time will tell, shockingly he is yet to really abandon the 3-5-2, and of course time may very well turn out to be very limited when both demanding fans and a crazy president (yes another one) Aurelio De Laurentis, all expect rapid improvement.
When it comes to the players at least, improvement looks more certain.

They've held on to all of their key players and have used a considerable amount of money to attract players such as Luca Cigarini who is one Italy's most talented midfielders, proven striker Fabio Quagliarella, goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis and one of the real breakthrough right-backs of last season, Columbian Juan Zuniga.

At least in the 3-5-2, defensively in the back things are the same, and realistically only further improvement from the promising Fabio Santacroce can make things better there.
He was already an important player last season where the team went from conceding 53 to 45, but the needed 10 goals or so improvement from that, to reach the very top, is just hard to imagine being produced by a three-man-backline.

The midfield has a lot of talent. Marek Hamsik's splendid two-way play is now joined by Cigarini who has a really good deep pass as well that should benefit the pace upfront, and with the rest of the bunch there is a nice mixture of steel and finesse not least from Uruguayan international Walter Gargano who Napoli really missed when he went down with a foot injury last season.

The real challenge is of course to get that mixture just right and with talented wingbacks galore plus all-round types of central midfielders, what is the best non-3-5-2 lineup even?

Up front Argentinian wizard Lavezzi and reliable Quagliarella can easily be part of a flexible three forward line that would help a four man midfield some, but that means a key role for so far not that impressive striker Denis, and that might not be worth it either.

I would think the most logical thing would be Donadoni's own 4-3-1-2 system. With Hamsik behind Lavezzi and Quagliarella, plus a three man midfield including Cigarini with the rest of the spots up for grabs.
To me that system looks good enough both ways with the squad players Napoli have. But if Donadoni really is still using the 3-5-2 it must be because he thinks the player material continues to be better suited for that, and that with the reinforcements now in place he can do better with it than Reja did.

The problem I see is that expectations are not just to be somewhat better, but A WHOLE LOT BETTER, and that I seriously doubt can come from a 3-5-2 formation.

Worth watching:Ezequel Lavezzi
: For real or one of those overrated youtube sensations?
Build a lot like Carlos Tevez he doesn't have the same strenght and stamina but tons of skills and pace.
Great pace with the ball too.
Surrounded by better talent this year he should be even better.
Watch this season for hopefully better passing, consistency and decisionmaking and Napoli have themselves an elite player.


The Zenga/Zamparini/craziest coach/craziest president constellation looks to be an interesting one and it should be enjoyed while it lasts.

Zenga's coaching exploits have already been touched upon in the Catania section of these previews. And you can add to it his recent declaration that Palermo will challenge for the championship.

President Zamparini, besides his outbursts to the media, is best known for his legendary impatience when it comes to coaches. To such an extent where you have to wonder if Zenga's title challenge prediction is some kind of advanced reverse psychology plot to do what no one else employed by Zamparini have done, and actually remain in the job for a bit.
Zamparini since his entrance into football in 1987 has sacked 26 coaches!

There is hope however cause a recent trend developing with him is rehiring coaches he has previously dismissed.
Most famously current Parma coach Franceso Guidolin who on 4 different occasions have been sacked only to later be rehired by Zamparini.
The last time Guidolin was sacked in 2008 the man he replaced, Stefano Colantuono was then rehired, only of course to have Zamparini sack him after just one game into the next season.
HIS replacement Ballardini, now at Lazio, went on to lead the team to a good 8th place finish last year but was still let go by Zamparini. And with that enter current coach Walter Zenga.

Overall I would say that even if the team isn't good enough to challenge for a Scudetto this is still a good team.

Up front Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani has kept improving and now forms a very nice little and large striker partnership with more experienced, but still with a lot to offer, Fabrizio Miccoli.

Behind them especially leader Fabio Liverani has been doing a good job in midfield for years.

Look for him to be defensively complemented by experienced Noceroni and on the more attacking side of things by brazilian Fabio Simplico who had a good enough last season to attract at least whispers of attention from bigger clubs.

There is also aussie-italian Mark Bresciano who is a nice versatile player to have.

But to have this team reach for the top, the hype of especially one player needs to hold water:In what could turn out to be a massive coup it was Palermo who secured the signature of young Argentine, Javier Pastore.

On Pastore, from this Guardian article by Joel Richards:
He is light years ahead of his nearest competitor in the 'Lyrical Ranking' – a weekly tribute to the showboaters among Argentina's top flight footballers.
Sports daily Olé's readers recently voted him the best player of the season, while Clarín's journalists rate him as the second top performer of the season. Some 680,292 mangers have him in their fantasy football teams. Manchester United are reported to have tabled a £8.8m bid, which he turned down. Milan and Lazio are also interested. He's the son every madre wants after he ran over to kiss his mum through the fencing to celebrate a goal. He's the boyfriend that every señorita wants thanks to his boyish good looks. Huracán's 19-year-old midfielder, Javier Pastore, is creating quite a stir in Argentina.

Just over a week ago, he single-handedly demolished River Plate with two goals and an assist in his side's 4-0 win over the millonarios. Many thought Pastore had played his best game of the season. Then last Saturday night he scored two more against Rosario Central, and was inches away from his first top flight hat-trick when his shot cannoned off the crossbar. With seven goals from midfield this season, he is his club's top scorer.

In the back Palermo has lost Carrozzieri due to his suspension for cocaine use.

Instead, in have come Romanian international Dorin Goian who is far from a downgrade at all in my view and when I've seen him play from Romania has been very good.
Add to that the defensive duo of last season consisting of experienced Cesare Bovo and very talented Simon Kjaer and Palermo could have one of the best central defenses in the league.

Worth watching: Zamparini and Zenga:
Too many players have been called the new Maradona way too early. Though technically I think Pastore actually mainly has been called the new Messi! But anyway while certainly an eye should be kept on Pastore, he could still have some way to go yet, and in the meantime more interesting will be if Zenga's reverse psychology will pay dividends and if he will actually be given the time needed to make his mark on Palermo by Zamparini, or if this constellation is just a massive blowup waiting to happen. If so then at least we'll watch it when it does.


And with that only Parma, Roma, Sampdoria, Siena and Udinese to go in one final entry that should be up long before the games next weekend!

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