The Squadfather – A Sicilian Tale – Palermo – Back in the Big Time

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A balmy Sunday evening in the Sardegna Arena, plays host to the first Isole Derby in Serie A in a while. Man of the Match winner Cesc Franco and goal scorer Pietro Pellegri are chatting to Sky Sport Italia presenter Gianluca Vialli. Vialli asks how Palermo did not win by more, considering they dominated possession and had the chances.

Palermo starlet Franco responds. “Abbiamo giocato una partita solida e siamo tornati al nostro stile ritmico di passaggio rispetto alla nostra ultima partita contro la Juventus. Ci siamo divertiti molto là fuori e abbiamo dimostrato che il capo ci dà fiducia per giocare con la palla. Abbiamo avuto diverse solide possibilità, ma a volte si ottiene solo uno che va oltre il portiere. Siamo molto grati a Pietro che era nel posto giusto al momento giusto in un momento della partita in cui cominciavamo a chiederci se avremmo mai segnato”.

*Please note I have tried to interpret the response into English. (there are similar passages in this post).

We played a solid game and went back to our rhythmic passing style compared to our last game against Juventus. We had a lot of fun out there and showed that the boss gives us confidence to play with the ball. We had several solid chances, but sometimes you only get one that goes beyond the goalkeeper. We are very grateful to Peter who was in the right place at the right time at the right time when we were beginning to wonder if we would ever score.”

Cesc Franco – Palermo Wonderkid in the making

Vialli then asks Pellegri, how do you feel after scoring your first of the campaign? Pietro goes on to say, “Sono molto felice di poter andare avanti e avere un impatto. Segnare in un importante derby e per quel gol dimostrare di essere il vincitore è una grande sensazione. Spero che il capo possa riporre più fiducia in me perché so di poter essere un talismano per Palermo”.

“I’m very happy to be able to move forward and make an impact. To score in a major derby and for that goal to prove you are the winner is a great feeling. I hope the boss can put more faith in me because I know I can be a talisman for Palermo.”

Jorge Garcia waves and cheers to the Rosanero faithful who had travelled from Sicily to Sardinia for one last time before shaking hands with Gianluca Vialli. Vialli says, you came to Sardinia with a point to prove and boy you showed everyone what your team can do. How did the game go from your perspective?

“Grazie Gianluca. Abbiamo trascorso le ultime settimane tornando alle basi in allenamento, concentrandoci sulle cose più piccole per garantire che i ragazzi fossero pronti per una partita di questa portata. Abbiamo dimostrato grande forza e carattere per continuare a bussare alla porta di Cagliari, e rimanere concentrati sul retro. Qualcosa che siamo caduti fallo nella nostra ultima partita contro la Vecchia Signora. Sono felice che siamo stati in grado di giocare il marchio del calcio abbiamo fatto un punto di giocare fin dal primo giorno. E vincere in Sardegna è una dichiarazione massiccia sul ritorno in Serie A. A volte cercavamo disperatamente che la palla andasse in porta. E questi due ragazzi hanno mostrato il loro carattere da creare e segnare, quando noi in panchina stavamo cominciando a mordere le unghie. Per quanto riguarda Sergio (che ha mancato un rigore nel primo tempo), sa che sarebbe potuto andare dall’altra parte. Ma personalmente biasimo i sardi per alcune parti terribili del campo, in particolare i punti di penalità. Vive per combattere un altro giorno.”

“Thank you Gianluca. We’ve spent the last few weeks getting back to basics in training, focusing on the smaller stuff to make sure the boys are ready for a game of this magnitude. We showed great strength and character to keep knocking on Cagliari’s door, and stay focused on the back. Something we fell foul on in our last game against the Old Lady. I’m happy that we were able to play the brand of football we made a point of playing from day one. And winning in Sardinia is a massive statement about returning to Serie A. Sometimes we were desperate for the ball to go in goal. And these two guys showed their character to create and score when we on the bench were starting to bite our nails. As for Sergio (who missed a penalty in the first half), he knows he could have gone the other way. But I personally blame the Sardinians for some terrible parts of the pitch, particularly the penalty points. He lives to fight another day.”

Vialli then asks Does your team have the guts to fight relegation? Garcia promptly says, “Certo! Potresti farci scendere come uno dei tre per scendere, ma non lo facciamo. Abbiamo la convinzione di stabilizzarci in Serie A nelle prossime stagioni, penso anche che sorrerdiamo qualche scettico lungo il percorso”

“Of course! You could drop us off as one of the three to get off, but we don’t. We have the belief to stabilize in Serie A in the coming seasons, I also think we support some skeptics along the way”

This was our fifth match of season 2022/23. We had so far managed to win two, draw one and lose two. We had drawn the opening game of the season, away against Udinese. Lost at home to Ac Milan, then Beat Empoli at home and then lost narrowly at home to Juventus. The loss against Juventus was still a bitter taste in the mouth as we had snatched a lead in the 65th minute through lonnee Harvey White. But two late goals, one from Luis Suarez in the 88th minute and the other from Paulo Dybala in the 900th minute (Fergie time) were the killer blows. We then went into the first Isole Derby of the season with a point to prove and desperate of points to establish a decent start to life in Serie A.

I know I can hear you say. What happened to season 2021/22? You haven’t updated me on that season.

Hmmm, Okay then.

We embarked on an eleven-match preseason schedule. We started in Palermo against local team CUS Palermo where I learned nothing in our 8-0 demolition job of them and our final friendly was a 3-0 win against Fc Messina. Very little was learned in preseason, but I did get most of the squad upto match fitness for the opener. The opener in Serie B was a home match against local rivals Trapani, we won 3-0 with goals from Angileri, Bonazzoli and loanee Vignato.

We would then win our next three matches to win four out of four. Our fifth match in Serie B was away to Perugia. They won 1-0 in a match were neither side could really shoot straight.

Yet its our third match of Serie B that is my first key game marked as a highlight. It was a trip to Turin to play Juventus U23’s. Those who have a good memory will remember that we the first loss for Garcia in the pre season of 2019 was to Juventus U 23’s where we dominated play but conceded a breakaway goal scored by Irdissa Toure. Garcia hadn’t forgotten about the previous encounter and made sure that the Palermo squad were more than ready to battle for the ball against the Zebra youths. “Dobbiamo essere i primi ad ogni palla! Dobbiamo andare là fuori con orgoglio e mostrare loro che abbiamo sviluppato! Che non solo meritiamo di essere sullo stesso campo, ma siamo meglio di loro, ora! Vai a fare questo per me!”

“We have to be first with every ball! We have to go out there with pride and show them that we have developed! That not only do we deserve to be on the same field, but we’re better than them now! Go do this for me!” Was the cry from the dressing room before the match. The match was close, both teams battle to control the game and neither really backed down. Palermo’s opening goal came indirectly from a corner. The ball was initially crossed into the box but was deflected back to Vignato. Vignato then squared the ball to Ambro, who then squared the ball to Michelotti. He then passed to Bonazzoli who was free to the right of the Juventus area. Bonazzoli then drilled his shot at goal and past the keeper. The relief was immense. But the battle was not over yet.

Juventus would have as much of the ball as the Rosanero, but it would be the Rosanero who would seek to make the most chances at goal.

The second goal would come late in the second half. A short throwing near the byline from Rispoli would be met by the calm feet of Angileri. Angileri then dinked the ball to Bonazzoli who crossed the ball into the six-yard box. Under pressure from Loanee Cangiano, Juventus defender Dario Del Fabrio haplessly knocked the ball past his own keeper and into the goal to make the scoreline 2-0 to Palermo.

After the Perugia match we dusted ourselves down and won the next two league matches, Then the visit of Parma in the Renzo Barbera saw Parma pick our pockets and take the three points. Former Rosanero Alessio Piazza scoring the winner. Despite a fight back from our boys in pink, we just couldn’t get the third goal needed for a draw.

We then navigated through the October wobble of one win and two draws to go on a lossless streak until the Coppa Italia 3rd round match against Inter just before Christmas.

The Giuseppe Meazza was an eery atmosphere with on 16,000 spectators. We lost comprehensively 4-0 to a young but strong Inter. Arp bagged a brace, Asensio and Politano scoring the goals. The result somewhat flattered our hosts as we had much more of the ball and even had our own chances. So how did they score four when we had been so tight at the back against most teams in Serie B? How did they score the four? And more importantly how did we not score? The first gif below shows us creating the first chance of the game.

Here Esposito (on loan from Inter) is the high pivot, playing as a Centre Forward. He receives the ball deep in the oppositions half, turns and sprays it wide for Barreal (our Left inside forward) to drive and attack the Inter defence, utilising the space between the right fullback and right centre back. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Inter’s goalkeeper is on hand to shut down the one on one and nullify the shot.

The next gif is Inter’s first goal. Fiete Arp scores what looks like a text book goal against a team with only one centre back. As you can see he receives the ball in space, as he is behind the fullback and wide of the centre back. He then drives towards goal and shoots. What isn’t quite show due to Sky Italia being rubbish with their highlights editing, is that the ball is saved and hits the post. But Arp is the only one alert to follow the shot up and score a simple tap in.

The next highlight is showing how we generally play from back to front. It first shows Palermo lose the ball centrally, then defend the counter attack, to then break fast to create our own attack which results in a missed one on one.

Match Stats from the Coppa Italia match against Inter.

This loss was followed by another. The return league fixture against Top of the Table rivals Parma. We lost 3-0. Once again, we were victim to the speed and accuracy of Alessio Piazza.

I took these losses on the chin and urged the boys to up their performances. We then went on a ten-match lossless streak where we won nine and drew one, the one being away to Verona.

The run came to an end through a 2-1 loss, away to Lecce. But we then picked ourselves up again to win six of the last seven matches of the season.

Thank you for reading this update.

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Coffee drinker, mug hoarder, Italian Football lover, Football shirt collector.

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