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Choosing failure

[This piece was originally published over at Roma Journal, a fan site that will be picking up all my AS Roma related material from now on]

(Photo credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

I don’t want the giallorossi to qualify for Europe and I’ll tell you why.

For the last few seasons Roma has had this malicious, psychopathic want to torment its fans, like a child torments a cat, by dangling European football in front of our faces. Watching us drool, revelling in our longing stares just so they can rip it away from us at the last second as we reach out with a hopeful paw to touch it. This process is repeated several times a year until we scuttle off to hide under a bed and sulk for the European summer. Then, if you please, we emerge hopeful once again in the autumn without a hint of suspicion that the process is about to be repeated. Oh how they laugh. Well, I’m not playing their game this time. Europe? Pfffffffttttttttt…

This is made so much worse when the only brand of European football left to pine for is the booby prize that is the Europa League. It’s not even like they are dangling a fresh piece of meat in front of our noses. It’s a stale, six month old kitty bickie. Enough is enough.

Looking at the ladder, all the teams have ten games left. 9 points is a fairly good rule of thumb as to the cusp of being in contention to catch a team ahead of you at this stage of the season. Roma can maybe still make the Champions League on that basis, but while picking up 7 points in ten games is very doable if you’ve only got one team to get past, it gets exponentially more difficult the more teams that have to drop points to let you in. Offset against that is the way the league has been tracking. The teams below the top 1 are pretty inconsistent and will drop points. The key question though is can Roma capitalise when they do? All the evidence so far says no. So the Eurpoa League has to be the only target, be it via the table or winning the Coppa Italia. But, really, why would we want it?

I get the Champions League – it’s about being the best of the best, but why would you care about being best of the rest? Big clubs aspire to the Champions League. The sort of clubs that aspire to and get excited about the Europa League are the ones who if they weren’t vying for Europe would be fighting to avoid the drop. I don’t mean to be snooty about it, but we are not ‘clubs like that’.

Italian clubs tend to underperform in this second tier comp and it is due to this that our UEFA coefficient has fallen so low that we have lost our fourth Champions League spot to Germany. But that’s not our fault. It’s genetic. It’s not in our psyche to care about lesser things. It’s all or nothing for us. You either go for glory or go home for a nice plate of mama’s pasta. This explains why at World Cups we tend to either exit at the group stage or go all the way to the final.

The money that may come in from television rights is short-term. We can earn more in the long run by missing out this time. If we qualify for European competition now we are just as likely to be cannon fodder as contenders and getting knocked out early would damage our brand in the eyes of prospective fans and players alike. Surely it’s better to keep our powder dry and turn up when we can take the continent by storm.

Stretching the squad thinly with multiple mid-week fixtures next year would hamper our ability to qualify for the Champions League the following season. We are still rebuilding and the key thing that needs to happen in a rebuilding phase is the building of combinations, getting people used to playing together, knowing where each other will be when a pass is made without the need to look for them. It takes years. Having to rotate the squad to avoid the fatigue associated with midweek fixtures will slow this process down considerably. As will travelling to far flung parts of Europe so we can pick up injuries on frozen swamps and dry old cow paddocks.

And while concentrating on the Europa League will compromise our ability to make the top three in Serie A, on the other hand concentrating on Serie A will almost certainly mean an early exit from the Europa League, which would render pointless qualifying for it in the first place.

It may help us keep squad members who want to play in Europe, or will it? Will the Europa League really satisfy them? If so, good riddance to players like that.

Nope, no Europe for us please Roma. I’m quite happy sitting over here with my back turned ignoring your sad attempts to call my name in an unnaturally high pitched voice while patting your lap like some kind of hysterical German folk dancer. I’m a football fan, not a Yorkshire Terrier. Whaaaat?? Is that a ball in your hand???

Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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