Friday August 12 2011
Back to Italian basics

Palermo may have lost Javier Pastore this summer, but, as Matias Silvestre's arrival signals, the attack is not their priority. Rob Paton writes.

Matias Silvestre's cross-city Sicilian switch from Catania may represent Palermo's shrewdest summer move so far, but, amazingly, he arrives as the club's eighth centre-back currently on their books.

Despite Moris Carrozzieri leaving for Lecce, Kamil Glik for Torino and Dorin Goian for Rangers, Palermo currently list Sinisa Andjelkovic, Cesare Bovo, Mauro Cetto, Carlos Labrin, Milan Milanovic, Ezequiel Munoz and Andrea Mantovani alongside Silvestre as potential first-team centre-backs.

However, where it may seem as imbalanced excess, with three weeks of the transfer window remaining, it is merely reflective of Palermo's targeted work on their significant weakspot from last term. The defence inadvertently caused Delio Rossi and Maurizio Zamparini's fall-out, was what short-term alternative Serse Cosmi focused his four-game spell around, and was ultimately the League's second-worst in 2010-11.

The team boasting duel trequartistas and an excellent counter-attack netted just seven goals fewer than champions Milan, but the staggering 63 goals conceded proved their downfall, and they finished the season with a minus goal-difference. Arguably the strongest memories from last term are of an inexperienced and disorganised back-line regularly criticised by its President, and of a 0-7 home score-line agasint Udinese.

Indeed, such was the very clear need to change things at the back this summer, that by the open of the transfer market, Zamparini's early work dating back to the close of January's transfer window ensured the Rosanero listed as many as nine centre-backs in the senior squad. Where the President may have left the side's attacking status of the side in a questionable state in choosing to forfeit Javier Pastore for the substantial, unexpected €42m, work on the defence has been deliberate, with arrivals secured before departures confirmed.

Beyond the large number of centre-halves at the team comes the options for new Coach Stefano Pioli at full-back. Alongside first-choice Mattia Cassani and Federico Balzaretti come the arrivals of promising full-backs Eros Pisano and Uruguayan Ignacio Lores, whilst Mantovani and Labrin are also comfortable on the flanks.

Added to the extensive rearrangement of defensive playing staff is Pioli's arrival as Coach. Last term at Chievo his reputation was as a clever tactician capable of out-manouvering counterparts who had greater resources at their disposal. He devised a 5-3-2 to 4-3-1-2 tactic that through a clever left-back-to-midfielder and midfielder-to-trequarista transition, left the Flying Donkeys as very organised opponents at the back, and dangerous opponents on the counter-attack.

The certainty is, parituclarly in Bovo's case, that Palermo will not list eight centre-backs when the new season kicks off. Despite doubts over the attacking credentials of the team, however, there is a feeling that unlike last season, there will also be greater certainty amongst those lining up as Rosanero centre-backs. As a platform to build from, it could return the team to a more assured push for European qualification.

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