The COVID-19 pandemic has emptied stadiums and lightened the wallets of clubs up and down the peninsula, but even an international health emergency has been unable to stop the ceaseless whir of the managerial merry-go-round in Serie A. This most atypical of domestic campaigns will surely see a sacking before the winter chill sets in, leaving the question of which mister will be the first to receive his marching orders. Although there is no shortage of candidates for the unwanted honour, Genoa’s Rolando Maran must be the early favourite.
The main reason why Maran stands out in a crowded field is Grifone benefactor Enrico Preziosi. Even in a league with a rich history of trigger-happy owners, the toy industry tycoon has set himself apart in recent years. Preziosi has overseen no less than nine coaching changes since April 2017, including two during a disastrous 2019-20 campaign.
Preziosi’s scatter-brained strategy precipitated consecutive final-day escapes from relegation danger, and it seems that he is hell bent on flirting with demotion to the second tier once again. Davide Nicola was the architect of the last miraculous salvation, but the hugely popular boss was unceremoniously dumped at the end of August.
Maran will have had only a few weeks to work with his charges before the starting gun rings around Marassi on Sunday, and a lack of adequate preparation is not the only factor harming the former Chievo trainer’s chances of success. There has been little investment in a squad short on quality, with the loan return of prodigal son Mattia Perin the most notable piece of business.
The injury-prone netminder was also between the sticks during the back half of last season yet was unable to stabilize a shaky rear-guard that conceded a whopping 73 goals in 38 games. With no additions made in defence so far, Perin should be very busy indeed.
Maran must solidify that leaky back-line, and his counter-attacking approach should help in that regard. Furthermore, the Trento-born tactician boasts ample top-flight experience and had Cagliari breathing in the rarefied air of the Champions League places heading into early December last time out. However, the 57-year old was let go less than four months later after a disastrous 12-match winless run, and he will have to rediscover his Midas touch quickly in order to keep Preziosi at bay.
A challenging calendar will do Maran no favours. Genoa face Napoli and Inter in the first five rounds and also lock horns with two solid mid-table foes in the shape of Verona and Torino. Consequently, the opener against new boys Crotone is crucial.
While Maran is already treading in choppy waters, the vagaries of Serie A’s coaching carousel are often impossible to predict. Securing safety is even more important this year given the damaging economic effects of the pandemic, and already impatient front offices around the country are likely to be even more tetchy as a result.
Few head coaches in Italy are bullet-proof, with a fresh face for the dugout often preferred to costly squad rebuilding operations. However, only Maran has to answer to Preziosi, and that makes him particularly vulnerable. Job security is difficult to find in Italian football, but it is a pipe dream when dealing with the ringmaster of the managerial circus.
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