Genoa will host current Italian champions Juventus next weekend with the fixture set to be dramatically different to that of last March. In a scoreless stalemate the Grifoni defended to their heart’s content against the Bianconeri in an effort to frustrate the Turin based giants, a move that ultimately proved successful but indicative of their 2011-12 campaign.
The Vecchio Balordo – Old Fool – was living up to its nickname and frustrating supporters, which eventually led to their 4-1 defeat to Siena being halted midway through proceedings in bizarre fashion when ultras demanded the players hand over their shirts. Their lack of initiative and creativity going forward saw them finish a mere one place above the relegation zone and concede 69 goals – more than any other side in Serie A last season.
The same day Genoa ultras demanded the players’ jerseys during the Siena defeat, Grifoni President Enrico Preziosi sacked Alberto Malesani and replaced him with current Coach Luigi De Canio. The journeyman tactician has since completely regenerated the club’s style and mentality, and ahead of the Juventus game at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, do not be surprised if the Rossoblu can cause an upset.
De Canio is slowly attempting to instil an attacking approach similar to that of Gian Piero Gasperini during his spell with the club in Europe during the 2007-08 season. They still have a roster of over 60 players between the first team squad, co-ownership deals and loans, but the former Napoli boss has managed to group together a firm 23-man squad with an emphasis on team work and unity.
Altering the strikeforce and midfield unit was the first issue at hand. Argentine Rodrigo Palacio’s goals last term almost singlehandedly kept Genoa in Serie A, but the striker has since moved to Inter. Alberto Gilardino also moved on to Bologna on transfer deadline day, but the lethargic partnership has been replaced with one of youthful exuberance and veteran experience.
Genoa’s attack this season will be built around former Serie B top scorer and Under-21 international Ciro Immobile. The prolific Italian striker was bought in a co-ownership deal with Juventus during the summer. Former Grifoni one-season legend Marco Borriello has been brought back in to the club where he made his name to add crucial experience. After spells at Juventus, Roma and Milan in the past few years, the 30-year-old is expected to marshal the youngsters.
Perhaps the biggest coup of the entire transfer window was bringing back German playmaker Alexander Merkel from Milan. Preziosi was heavily criticised for loaning him out to the Rossoneri in January when Massimiliano Allegri was desperately suffering from injury woes. The 20-year-old has now been signed outright and is expected to be the central fulcrum in the Rossoblu’s midfield.
The Kazakhstani-born creator will be protected by the dynamic Juraj Kucka and Felipe Seymour, while Bosko Jankovic also has licence to roam the middle of the park. Exciting Peruvian winger Juan Manuel Vargas has transferred from Fiorentina, and could potentially rediscover the form that saw him linked to major European clubs two years ago.
Sebastien Frey’s experience in between the sticks and that fact Genoa have managed to hold on to Cesare Bovo and Andreas Granqvist means they will remain solid at the back. The loss of Giandomenico Mesto to Napoli is still a major blow, but not one they cannot make up for with concrete understanding and unity at the back.
Overall a attack minded midfield with a concrete defence that could push on from a disappointing last few years with a quirky De Canio at the helm. The Grifoni could be on their way back to where they belong, as they still sit fourth in the all-time Serie A title table.