2015-16 preview

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After a comfortable return season in the top flight, the Rosanero aspire to climb back to Serie A relevance. Lorenzo Vicini examines Palermo’s chances.

Palermo playing for prominence

Palermo endured a relatively calm campaign back in Italy’s top flight after spending the previous year in Serie B. Coach Beppe Iachini became the first since Francesco Guidolin to last an entire season from start to finish under Maurizio Zamparini.

Paulo Dybala established himself as a bona fide star and Franco Vazquez confirmed his status as Iachini’s key man. Palermo ended 11th in the table and at one point even contested for a spot in Europe before fading and finishing comfortably mid-table. The Rosanero are now aiming to do even better in 2015-16.

Pre-season saw the Rosanero make many moves to bolster the squad in hopes of creating an even stronger team at Iachini’s disposal. Yet, the summer started with the club losing its most prized asset, as Dybala left for champions Juventus. The funds were used to make a number of signings.

The Sicilians bolstered their defence by gaining full ownership of Edoardo Goldaniga from Juventus, recalling Aljaz Struna from his loan with Serie B champions Carpi, and making an intelligent pick-up in Abdelhamid El Kaoutari from French outfit Montpellier.

Signings in the midfield easily make that area the club’s deepest and strongest, as the Rosanero added Gaston Brugman from Pescara, Ahmad Benali from Brescia and Oscar Hiljemark from PSV Eindhoven to swell the ranks that already have Luca Rigoni, Ivaylo Chochev and Mato Jajalo among others.

The most problematic area remains up front, however. Aleksandar Trajkovski and Matheus Cassini were two purchases for Iachini’s front line but both have considerable margins for improvement.

Iachini’s task is to find a decisive formula for the upcoming season. His usual 3-5-2 formation could give way to a 4-3-1-2 as the striking options will need to be established. Iachini has experimented with a move to striker for midfielder Robin Quaison with Andrea Belotti partnering up top and Franco Vazquez in a support role. He’ll have to work quickly, as Zamparini is not known for his patience if results aren’t going well.

Whatever the formation, the cornerstone of any Iachini lineup will be Vazquez and it’ll be the Italian international’s job to lead the team to its objectives in 2015-16. The main goal will be to achieve safety as quickly as possible and then fight for prominence in the upper half of the table. If all goes well, perhaps Palermo can dream of a better finish than last season.

Coach – Beppe Iachini

Iachini has overwhelmingly beaten the odds as he enters his third season in charge of Palermo. He’s become the longest tenured coach in consecutive days by an impressive margin under volatile owner Maurizio Zamparini. His positive term last year helped him break free of the “promotion specialist”label while his methods and qualities have endeared him to his players. He’ll hope to continue to break records and last through another season at the helm.

The difference maker – Franco Vazquez

Franco Vazquez is now the unquestioned leader and linchpin in the Palermo lineup with Paulo Dybala’s departure this offseason. He is Iachini’s favourite and was instrumental last season as one of only three players in Serie A with double digit goals (10) and assists (11). With Dybala gone, the burden is even greater for El Mudo.

Best buy – Oscar Hiljemark

The 23-year-old Swedish midfielder bolsters an already deep Palermo midfield after joining from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. Fresh from winning the Euro U21 Championship over the summer, he’ll look to carve out a starting spot in Iachini’s side. He’s a well-rounded midfielder who is equally ambitious –his #10 shirt is proof of that.

Could be of use to Italy… Luca Rigoni

Luca Rigoni was nothing short of sensational for Palermo in his first year at the club last season. The veteran was a leader in the Palermo midfield and his well-timed runs led to an impressive nine-goal haul. The tally helped establish himself as one of the highest-scoring midfielders in Serie A last season and his skillset would be very useful in Conte’s Italy side.

Probable line-up

Sorrentino; Vitiello, Gonzalez, EL KAOUTARI; Rispoli, Rigoni, HILJEMARK, Chochev, Lazaar; Vazquez, Belotti

Season prediction – 13th

Palermo bolstered the defence and midfield from last seasonm but too many question marks around the attack will ultimately hold them back from competing for a spot in Europe. However, there’s enough quality to keep them out of the relegation race.

Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.