Mr Totti’s definitive guide to Serie A 2011/12 continues with a study of the six remaining teams, including his own beloved AS Roma.
http://www.thefreekick.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/palermo_crest.jpgManager: Stefano Pioli
Last season: 8th
Palermo kick-off another season with another new manager as the ever-controversial Maurizio Zamparini has wielded his axe again and brought in Stefano Pioli from Chievo. Delio Rossi who took the rosanero to the Coppa Italia final is rather harshly dismissed but that shouldn’t surprise anyone when Zamparini is at the helm.
Salvatore Sirigu has joined Leonardo’s revolution at PSG. Francesco Benussi took up the goalkeeping post in the Europa League qualifiers and is likely start the season in goals. Defenders Matias Silvestre, Mauro Cetto and Andrea Mantovani have all joined and should make a rather porous defence a bit more secure. The full backs slots will be manned by Italian internationals Mattia Cassani and Federico Balzaretti.
The summer story in Sicily has dominated around playmaker Javier Pastore, the constant press musings of the controversial president finally paid off when he joined PSG for a fee of €43m. Italian international Antonio Nocerino remains despite only having a year remaining of his contract while the Slovenians Bacinovic and Ilicic will also provide a probing presence in midfield. Israeli international Eran Zahavi who some of you might remember as the man who scored a stunning bicycle goal against Lyon in last seasons Champions League has joined from Hapoel Tel Aviv.
In attack Fabrizio Miccoli has remained after a summer of speculation, as has the talented but inconsistent Mauricio Pinilla. Abel Hernandez will be the main man up front and the Sicilians will be hoping the Uruguayan youngster can have his break out season.
Palermo were dumped out of the Europa League at their first test against Swiss side Thun on the away goals. They have made steps to improve a leaky defence but the loss of a match winner in Pastore will damage their prospect, another mid-table finish awaits.
Key player: Josip Ilicic
http://www.thefreekick.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Parma_Crest.gifManager: Franco Colomba
Last season: 12th
Parma will be looking to build on a steady term last year but are a long way from the force they were in the mid 90’s when they could boast Cannavaro, Buffon, Thuram and Veron amongst their ranks.
Fabio Santacroce is an intriguing signing for the gialloblu this season. The young defender arrives from Napoli after his career has stagnated in recent years, he was in the past lauded as the heir to Nesta, thanks to his grace on the ball and excellent reading of the game. The defence also boasts World Cup winner Zaccardo and the experienced Luccarelli. Former Liverpool defender Gabriel Palleta is also presence. Antonio Mirante is a reliable figure in goal.
With Dzemaili gone to Napoli, Parma have looked to the Naples side for his replacement. The tough Manuele Blasi has joined and will link up with Daniele Gallopa and skipper Stefaon Morrone in midfield.
Parma have acquired 50% of Sebastian Giovinco’s transfer rights after an impressive term in 10/11. The pint-sized attacker will be joined by Chelsea prospect Fabio Borini who arrives on a bosman after an eye-catching loan spell at Swansea. Hernan Crespo is still around to sniff out chances while Jonathan Biabiny returns on loan from Inter. Raffaele Pallindo will offer another trick alternative on the wing but Bulgarian Valery Bojinov has left for Portugal.
With the joyful Giovinco on show there should be plenty of exciting football on show at the Tardini this term. The ex-Juve man looks set to live up to his early promise and his partnership with fellow young prospect Borini will have calcio fans’ mouths watering. Fabio Santacroce is another man who will desperate to get his career back on track and will also add some athleticism to the Parma defence. Parma will hope to build on last season and may even find themselves in with a shout of European football.
Key player: Sebastin Giovinco
http://www.thefreekick.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Roma-Crest-150x150.pngManager: Luis Enrique
Last season: 6th
A summer of change at Trigoria has seen Thomas DiBenedetto (Uncle Tom) take over the ownership of the famous yellow and red. Luis Enrique has come in as the new manager and looks to revolutionise an aging squad with his brand of quick passing Spanish football.
The goalkeeping position which has been a problem for Roma in the past has been resolved emphatically with the signing of the world-class Maarten Stekelenburg. Julio Sergio and Doni have departed with Gianluca Curci providing able back up. In defence Mexes and Riise have exited the city while Heinze and Jose Angel have replaced them. Youngster Loic Nego has also joined the lupi, but his first team prospects are unknown as of yet.
In midfield, Roma badly need new faces, it’s been a problem position for years and with no arrivals here yet the Roma faithful are beginning to grow frustrated. Hopefully the arrival of Enrique will propel the hugely gifted Daniele De Rossi back to his wonderful best after a couple of worrying seasons.
In attack Menez and Vucinic have joined new clubs and have been replaced thus far by Bojan and Argentine wonderkid Erik Lamela. Roma will still look to the imperious Francesco Totti in attack, the 34 year old was in stunning form at the end of last season and will need to be at his best early this term as the side from the eternal city look to avoid another slow start.
No more so than any club, the remaining time left in the transfer window will dictate Roma’s season. There is a need and will from the board to get another 4/5 players for the first team – whether they are successful or not, could decide their faith in the coming season.
Key player: Daniele De Rossi
http://www.thefreekick.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/italy_siena.pngManager: Guissepe Sannino
Last season: 2nd (Serie B )
Siena return to Serie A after just a season out and their sabbatical from the top flight seems to have done them the world of good. The bianconer finished 2nd in Serie B last season and were able to keep most of the squad that went down the year before.
Serbian keeper Zelkjo Brkic has joined on loan from Udinese while their defence boasts plenty of familiarity and Serie A experience in the likes of Del Grosso and Terzi. Gabrielle Angella is another loanee from Udinese and the youngster will be looking to establish himself in the league this season.
In midfield, Siena have pulled off a masterstroke with the signing of Gaetano D’Agostino from, you gussed it, Udinese. The playmaker has arrived for a fee of €2.5m. D’Agostino was one of the top midfielders in Serie A in the 08/09 season but has disappointed somewhat since. I have no doubt he will produce a big season for Siena this year. Daniele Maninni has arrived from Napoli and will also provide a goal threat from midfield.
Mattia Destro is the big signig up front and the high rated youngster, on loan from Genoa, who is a product of the Inter youth academy will be looking to get amongst the goals this term. Michele Paolucci, Franco Brienza and Emanuel Calaio will look to assist the youngster in getting the goals needed to keep Siena up. Calaio hit 18 goals in Serie B last term and will be hoping to leave his mark on Serie A.
Out of the three promoted teams, Siena look by far the best placed to stay up. After only a season out they have returned at the first time of asking and with D’Agostino pulling the strings in midfield, there is enough experience and firepower in the team to make sure that hey are not making a quick return to the confines of Serie B.
Key player: Gaetano D’Agostino
Manager: Francesco Guidolin
Last season: 4th
Udinese secured the chance of Champions League football last season but the summer has seen a mass exodous of the stars the helped propel them there. Zapata, Inler and Sanchez would have been indentified as the key men in each sector but they have all departed in big money moves.
Slovenian international Handanovic exhibits a calming and reliable presence in goal while Brazilians Danilo and Neuton have been brought into to replace the commanding Zapata. Mehdi Benatia had an extremely impressive outing in his first season with Udinese and there will be an even bigger responsibility on him now with the possibility of Champions League football.
In midfield Udinese have lost their midfield leader in Gokhan Inler, but his departure opens up the door for the enthusiastic young Ghanaian Badu. He will be partnered by another young Ghanaian in Kwadwoah Asamoah as the Udinese scouting systems shows off its vast success stories. They are flanked on the wings by the tireless and exciting South American duo of Mauricio Isla and Pablo Armero. The summer has also seen midfielders Thierry Doubai and Abdoulwhaid Sissoko (brother of Momo) arrive.
In attack Udinese felt their greatest loss of all as the outrageously talented Alexis Sanchez left for Barcelona. The Chilean was one of the shining lights in last year’s campaign his departure is a great loss, not just for Udinese, but for Serie A as well.
Antonio Di Natale will be asked to continue his fantastic goal scoring exploits and the return of Antonio Floro Flores after an encouraging loan spell with Genoa will be a boost. Youngster Diego Fabbrini, the creative force in the u-21 national side also joins as does Barreto from Bari. German Denis offers a more robust approach up front.
Udinese have lost some big players this summer and while Inler and Zapata may be replaced, there is no replacing Sanchez. There will be doubts over whether or not Di Natale can contribute another season of goals given he is now 33 and the added pressure of European football with stretch Udinese’s squad just that little bit further, maybe too far.
Key player: Antonio Di Natale
Sadly some of this information is now dated given the late happenings in the transfer window.
Just a few quick points on the 5 teams above.
Pioli was sacked as manager of Palermo, there has been no permanent appointment since
Cassani and Nocerino have left Palermo, Edgar Barreto has joined from Atalanta
Fabio Borini has left Parma for Roma
Roma have signed Kjaer, Osvaldo, Gago, Pjanic and Borini (as mentioned above)
Udinese have signed Roberto Peryrera and Gabriel Torje
German Denis left Udinese for Atalanta and Brighi has left Roma for Atalanta also
[*]I now believe Roma will finish ahead of Lazio in 4th. I also believe Atalanta could avoid relegation with the late signings of Denis, Cigarini and Brighi. Palermo are in a much weaker position now.