The Andrea Mandorlini era may have begun with a point but Genoa remain a club in crisis
Zdenek Zeman’s first match back at Pescara delivered for Zemanlandia nostalgics with the Abruzzo club winning 5-0. Yet, for all the Delfini’s style, the reality was that Genoa completely failed to turn up.
The Ligurians have been having an awful season after a relatively promising start with the Rossoblu winless since beating Fiorentina on 15 December. Memories of a superb 3-1 win at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris over Juventus have long since been buried by abject displays and simmering anger from supporters.
In a normal season with a more capable bottom three, the Grifone would be at risk of going down to Serie B for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Ivan Juric’s time came to an end after Pescara and Andrea Mandorlini was somewhat surprisingly immediately announced as his successor. Many Genoa fans responded badly to this. Some were concerned at how he took Hellas Verona down in his last job.
Others took objection on account of previous controversies involving the former Inter player and some emotionally saw him as somebody who favours rivals Sampdoria after he previously made comments about wanting to beat the Rossoblu on account of the friendship between his former club and the Blucerchiati.
The 56-year-old’s appointment also allowed the blue side of the city to show their adulation once more for Enrico Nicolini as Mandorlini’s long-term assistant refused to follow his colleague on account of his history as a Samp player and fan.
Olivier Ntcham’s stunning late equaliser against Bologna prevented the Marassi from turning completely nasty on Mandorlini’s debut. Much of the support in the Gradinata Nord took the radical step of boycotting the match with the team having already been met with protests upon their return from Pescara. Banners outside the ground denounced those who went for propping up the current status quo at Italy’s oldest club.
On the pitch, under-pressure Mandorlini’s tactical flexibility appeared to be rewarded as he opted for a 3-5-2 rather than his usual 4-3-3 from Verona and the strike partnership of Mauricio Pinilla and Giovanni Simeone looked to click.
While many Genoa fans are not happy with Mandorlini taking over, Enrico Preziosi remains the real subject of their ire and he’s been staying away from the stadium.
Yet, to completely oppose the incumbent president is to ignore the good work he’s done over the long-term after taking over at a club in Serie C.
Genoa fans’ anger has not always been proved right. Certain fans voiced opposition to Gian Piero Gasperini and his exploits this year at Atalanta have proved the error of their ways while other fans pleaded for him to stay over the summer.
Like many Italian sides, the Grifone have the look of a club without ambition as they again sold many of their stars to bigger clubs in January. Tomas Rincon went to Juventus, Leonardo Pavoletti wound up at Napoli and Lucas Ocampos was shifted on to AC Milan, who are always ready to buy from Genoa.
The arrival of the talented young Leonardo Morosini was an encouraging sign that reinforcements were being signed but Danilo Cataldi on loan from Lazio is uninspiring while Adel Taarabt appears desperate after he’s been languishing in Benfica’s B team.
The main concern for Genoa is that the fans are on that dangerous precipice where they feel that they’re being taken for a ride as they’ve lost faith with Preziosi’s project. It’s not a rare story in Serie A. Udinese set a precedent by developing young and unknown players, selling for a profit and then looking to repeat.
Further down, Palermo appear to have paid the price for aiming to follow that path as they’ve gone from seeing Andrea Belotti, Paulo Dybala and Franco Vazquez lining up to the verge of relegation.
For Genoa, when this philosophy clicked, overachievement in the 2014-15 season meant nothing as their sixth-place finish was rendered meaningless by failure to obtain a European licence.
With ten goals at the age of just 21, the Rossoblu fans will worry that Giovanni Simeone will be the next player to leave. The fact is that Genoa fans shouldn’t be the hardest to please. They’re not motivated particularly by dreams of silverware as their last honour was the 1990 Anglo-Italian Cup. In spite of all the turmoil this season, the Grifone’s average attendance is slightly ahead of Sampdoria’s so it’s clear they’re not the most fickle.
While the fans may not be pleased to see him on their bench, Mandorlini is a safe pair of hands for the short term and an away trip at Empoli is winnable.
Next up, motivation will be no issue as the Grifone face Samp at home in a fixture which offers a chance for redemption while a negative result will see tensions boil over again. The stakes are high.