Monday December 5 2011
Salentini slipping out of Serie A

Lecce have taken action to change Coach, but, as Rob Paton asks in rounding up Week 14, is it enough to save them this season?

Lecce’s ninth League defeat of the season signalled the end of Eusebio Di Francesco’s maiden campaign in Serie A. Where last weekend the Coach admitted he was unlikely to turn around the Salentini’s form, the club demonstrated their agreement by choosing to bring in Serse Cosmi in his place on Sunday.

Saturday night’s Week 14 defeat at Napoli was a less-than likely location for Lecce to turn things around. The team had not won at the Stadio San Paolo in 13-and-a-half years and where relegation is on their minds, the hosts are top-three candidates.

Several Lecce players promised that the team would face Napoli with a closed defence and open mind in support of their Coach. Ultimately though, the ease with which Walter Mazzarri’s men scythed through the five-man defence – and then four after a second-half reshuffle – highlighted why they are the League’s leakiest.

Interestingly, Di Francesco’s dismissal comes less than a week on from receiving sporting director Carlo Osti’s public backing. That came after the home defeat to Catania, but was crucially undermined and immediately followed by owner Giovanni Semeraro calling an extraordinary meeting to discuss exactly the tactician’s future.

Indeed, within 48 hours of sporting director Osti saying Di Francesco would not be sacked, a shortlist of four replacements had reportedly been drawn up. Importantly though, and despite acting in such a contradictory manner that amid such uncertainty only made Di Francesco’s position untenable, Semeraro has also highlighted that it is not only the Coach who is under review.

Semeraro took steps in June to sell Lecce after more than 16 years and €85m invested at the helm. UniCredit are handling the as-yet unsuccessful sale, whilst he has handed day-to-day running over to ds Osti and general manager Renato Cipollini. However, as Semeraro admitted this week, he still has a say in matters – including the final say – and declared that along with Di Francseco, Osti and Cipollini equally have something to answer for.

Primarily, his criticism is for their constructing of a squad in the summer using as many as nine loan deals, Semeraro arguing that this has proven detrimental to any attempts to cultivate a togetherness within the dressing room. Whilst the second-half collapse at home to Milan the most prominent example of what the patron hails as a ‘detachment’ on the pitch, statistics reveal the team has lost every game this season that they have fallen behind in.

However, it is important to note that those loan deals are Osti and Cipollini’s attempts to move the club towards financial self-sufficiency, a demand of Semeraro’s from this summer. The owner may be critical of this area of the duo’s transfer work, but he has created the environment to encourage it.

Another focus up for discussion is the state of fitness at the club. Di Francesco has been without at least a dozen of his first-team players at one stage or another, with Semeraro asking Osti and Cipollini to look into why the injury list contains as many twenty-somethings as it does older, more susceptible players.

In short, incoming Coach Cosmi, who from his last five coaching positions counts three sackings and two resignations after bad relations with Presidents, inherits the same list of issues as Di Francesco, only now with the club’s management and owner confirmed as at odds with each other. Cosmi’s task may be to achieve a lot with a little, but with Gigi De Canio doing just that last season, expectancy won’t be eased.

Elsewhere this weekend, all sorts of records were set and broken. Giampaolo Pazzini’s missed penalty not only mirrored Antonio Di Natale at the other end to confirm Udinese’s 1-0 win in bizarre circumstances, but it also ensured that Inter failed to score at home to the Zebrette for the first time in 55 years. Javier Zanetti also picked up a first League red card in almost 550 appearances for the Nerazzurri.

It was also an unhappy weekend for Alessandro Del Piero, whose 500th League appearance for Juventus lasted just nine minutes after he received a cut just above the eye that required eight stitches.

Happier times for Milan, who recorded only their second League win at Marassi against Genoa in over 22 years, and for Fiorentina, who secured only their second home win over Roma in 12. The latter game also saw three of the weekend’s seven red cards, all for Roma, as Juan, Fernando Gago and Bojan Krkic were dismissed. This is the second time inside eight months that a Serie A side has had three players sent off, after Cesena did away to Palermo in April.

Finally, La Gazzetta dello Sport compared Victor Ibarbo to Diego Maradona after his dribble past two Catania defenders and the goalkeeper. It began near the corner flag, decided the Catania-Cagliari contest and is a contender for goal of the season.

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