The last time Catania finished in 8th place, in the next season, the elefanti were relegated. That relegation triggered about 35 years of pure misery for Catania, as they bounced back and forth between Serie A and Serie B, dropped down to Serie C, and even wound up down in the sixth tier of Italian football thanks to financial irregularities. Fortunately for rossazzurri fans, it's unlikely the club will face such a fate this time around.
What a year for Catania. Last season, they equaled their previous best finish in Serie A, a feat last accomplished in 1965. For the most part, new coach Rolando Maran succeeded in bringing his team up the table by playing more conservatively than Vincenzo Montella. Although Catania still made use of a quick counterattack, they were more apt to sit back after taking the lead, often resulting in the opposition taking advantage with an equalizer.
The elefanti could have made a serious run for Europa League play had they demonstrated a bit more consistency. Catania were able to beat Fiorentina, Lazio and Udinese, and take four points from AS Roma, but lost to two of the three relegated sides, Pescara and rivals Palermo. Picking up just six points in March and April didn't help much, either.
Francesco Lodi: At some point, you have to stop questioning the wisdom of a transfer and just accept the fact that it happened. The Lodi-for-Tachtsidis swap is one of those such moves. Lodi scored six goals in regular competition and two in Coppa Italia play last season, and who cares if those goals were all from free kicks? Goals are goals and when your side scores just 50 in a season deemed "impressive", you'd think you'd want to keep anyone that gets the ball in the net around.
Alejandro Gómez: Wait, an Argentine leaving Catania? That's odd. But Papu's had his sights set on going for a couple seasons now, and this summer he was tempted away by the promise of Champions League football. Unfortunately for the attacker, UEFA ruled Ukranian side Metalist Kharkiv ineligible for the competition. Bet Italy's looking pretty good right about now.
Takayuki Morimoto: Hey, remember when we all thought this dude was good? Now the 25 year old has gone back to Japan to ply his trade in the J-League second division. In fact, it seems he vanished into the Middle East at some point last season, and no one really noticed. Huh.
Panagiotis Tachtsidis: Genoa bought the midfielder from Roma just to sell him on in the Lodi deal. Considering his inconsistencies with the giallorossi last season, this seems a very, very strange move.
Gino Peruzzi: The arrival of the (surprise!) Argentine, who can play both at right back and right wing, set the Twitter a-chirping. He came through the ranks of Vélez Sársfield and drew attention for his performances in last year's Copa Libertadores, and overall looks like a good fit for a Catania side that had a bit of a merry-go-round going on the right side last season.
Sebastián Leto: Is this forward a replacement for Gómez? It seems odd that a 26 year old who last played in January 2012 at Panathinaikos would be that guy, but Catania seem to be banking on his having healed completely from knee injury.
Maxi López: Either that, or they'll be using this returnee up front. But an unsuccessful spell at Milan followed by an even less successful time at Sampdoria means the future is probably not too bright for Maxi López.
Fabián Monzón: Ooh, a leftback. From...Argentina. This one joins from Lyon, although he was on loan with Fluminense starting last January. Now that Ciro Capuano is 32, it makes sense to bring in a replacement.
Federico Freire: Catania apparently believe they win a prize for collecting the largest number of Argentine players in Italy. Freire is a 22 year old midfielder who also comes from Vélez, although he made just 11 league appearances in a season and a half.
Keep An Eye On
Pablo Barrientos. Yeah, I say it every year, but one of these years it's going to be his year. It has to be. The midfielder is the creator on this team, and he's also the flash and glitter on a side that looked disappointingly dull and drab last season. His control on the ball and movements off of it helped make him a great link-up man for both Gonzalo Bergessio and the departed Gómez, and it will be interesting to see how he interacts with whichever of the new boys gets the steady nod up front.
Catania will drop this season. The loss of Papu Gómez and his connection with Barrientos, combined with the exit of Lodi, is probably too much to be overcome by the incoming players. But the last two seasons have been more of an anomaly for the rossazzurri than the norm, as their history is one of being outside the top division rather than inside it. While they'd undoubtbly like to improve and make a real run for European play, it's likely they'll be content with a midtable finish -- and with no Sicilian derby to worry about this season, that's all that will really be on their minds. Much of the team remains in place, they've given another year to Maran and made a couple decent buys, so finishing in the lower-mid table shouldn't be a stretch.