Catania has always had to battle relegation, some years they went down, some they stayed up. When their wonder-coach Walter Zenga left them for Palermo after saving them last season, Catania were left with a large hole to fill. While Atzori tried, his inexperience led to results that were not good enough, leading to his eventual replacing. With Mihajlovic at the helm, Catania has changed into a different team full of attacking flair and fighting spirit wihch will be playing in the Serie A next season.
Mihajlovic came in at the beginning of December, and the second game in Catania pulls out a shock result against title aspiring Juventus; a 2-1 win for Catania. And now, this weekend, Mihajlovic’s Catania pulls out another result out of the bag against Juventus drawing 1-1, securing an important point which takes them to 41 points. In Italy, the magic number for salvation is around 40 points, and having reached this important benchmark with still two games left is a great achievement for this Catania team. Not only has Catania escaped relegation, but it’s also sitting very comfortably in the table at 15th, very few points from mid-table, and very far away from the bottom three. While of course we can attribute this to their large amount of wins (like against the current champions Inter Milan), but we also have to look at the group of players which Mihajlovic is using.
Very few signings come off as well as Maxi Lopez has, especially when they come from another country and culture. The big Argentinean striker has truly been a key element in Catania’s tactical make-up, not only has he netted 9 goals in 15 matches, but he’s also added another way of playing. Catania have always played with smaller strikers, like their creative veteran Mascara, and the young Japanese talent (being looked at by Manchester United) Morimoto. So adding a player who is tall and can use his physicality to win more aerial battles adds a layer of depth to the way Catania can score. Instead of having to work the ball through the midfield, and in the box with players like Martinez and Delvecchio, they can now use Maxi Lopez as a reference point to swing in crosses and high balls. To put it simply, Maxi Lopez was a signing by Mihajlovic which changed the entire team, giving an important boost towards their survival hopes.
And as the season ends and Catania is safe from relegation, Mihajlovic is starting to raise his reputation as a coach. While other lower league Serie A teams will surely be looking at him, the Serbian has said that he targets Inter Milan’s bench. Surely Mihajlovic would be great to build a future for Catania, but it seems unlikely that he will stay, so it seems like Catania will have to worry about relegation yet again next season with a new manager.