Genoa’s last-gasp win against Lazio must simply be appreciated in the moment. The fact that Diego Laxalt had a sublime goal ruled out with help from VAR only made his bullet header in the dying embers even more special.
The victory also saw ex-Lazio forward Goran Pandev roll back the years and score against his old employers, but don’t be fooled. All the stars aligned for the Rossoblu on Monday night, but there were still enough examples on how good they could be, if they can find individuals or a collective to share the goals.
Genoa Coach Davide Ballardini has steadied the ship and more since he replaced Ivan Juric in November. His pragmatic approach came with fresh innovation. After their somewhat surprise but deserved victory against Lazio on Monday, the ‘Mister’ spoke with his usual element of stark realism. He praised his players for the fact they were all on their game and this enabled them to beat one of the league’s top teams. He also singled out Pandev, who he classed as extraordinary, although this was very much ‘on his day’.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing the Coach pointed out was: “We need to improve offensively by attacking with more bodies” and went on to say it isn’t a turning point until this improves.
Since Ballardini’s return, the Genoese have certainly been consistent in performance and whilst this has had its benefits, it also can present problems. The defeat to Sampdoria in November understandably saw a new Coach put in place and since then they have only lost three times. This would be respectable in any season, but considering two of these defeats were to a good Atalanta side and Juventus (the other to Udinese) they can be satisfied.
In these 10 games they have only conceded four goals, an incredible achievement that is testament not only to Ballardini’s organisation, but also the talents of Mattia Perin, Armando Izzo, Ervin Zukanovic and Aleandro Rosi. To put this into context, they had conceded 15 goals in the previous 10 matches.
Whilst the defensive improvements are inarguable, the final third of the field has continued to struggle. Again, with context, Genoa are 13th in the table with the fifth best defensive record, conceding only 25 goals. They have, however, only scored 18 all season, which means that only Benevento and Sassuolo have scored fewer. Here lies the problem and therefore the Lazio game meant nothing. It was a great result and thanks to Laxalt and a real one-off performance from Pandev, they produced what all Genoa fans hope to see most weeks.
The fact that the play from defence to the midfield is calm and measured, even slow at times, breeds confidence, but they cannot transition the play into the final third due to a lack of pace and creativity. The 3-5-2 in truth is operating more as a 5-3-2 in most games and even against the bigger teams a 5-3-1-1.
Genoa’s top scorers also tell a story as Andrej Galabinov’s three goals are not good enough for a team that is now in February. Pandev has two, as does Gianluca Lapadula. With the young and talented Pietro Pellegri now at Monaco, all hopes lie on the injury-prone Giuseppe Rossi. Whilst all in Serie A would wish him luck after his problems, he is unlikely to stay fit.
Genoa must take heart, as there is a chance for stability at this moment in time. They have a good nucleus of a team and an under-rated Coach who knows this city and the club. There is no telling what Rossi may do from now until the end of the season, but if Ballardini can instil a mentality where the players take collective responsibility for the goals and find the balance as they did at Lazio between defending properly and talking risks, then they could enter next season with a solid foundation.
Add a good transfer window and it could see them elevate themselves to the next level. The Grifone just needs to sharpen its claws.