Roma Journal, a blog run by and for English speaking Romanisti around the world, kicked off its coverage of season 2013/14 last weekend with a Q and A session with many of its contributors, of which I’m one. I thought it was a really useful innovation. What I enjoyed most was that nobody got to see what each other’s responses were. On the online forums and social media sites I sometimes feel as though fans can be a bit guilty of group think. Sure, there are some hum dinger arguments. But at the same time a lot of people are influenced by others and seem to lose the ability to come up with original thoughts, short of taking sides in petty squabbles and coming up with the wittiest way of saying what everyone else has expressed already.
They weren’t able to publish all the answers everyone sent in to all the questions, for obvious reasons – if you started reading on Saturday you’d still be going (or bored into a stupor by now) – so I thought I would post all my responses here, as well as expand on a few of the things I said, because placed in context of the other replies, I look at best contrary, or at worst a fairly useful Pollyanna impersonator!
For me, the narrative of the Roma off-season has been one of continuity and change. Our transfer window has been very different from the past couple, yet at the same time, people’s calls for a ‘safe’ manager to replace Andreazzoli look to have been answered, or in the least we now have a safer manageMENT. We are no longer relying on raw and unrealised potential to get us through. What’s more we are also adding experience and proven performers in place of those previous unproven gambles.
Maicon has a stack of experience at the highest level and is just the sort of old hand we need to begin to shore up the defence. Gervinho may not have fitted in at Arsenal, where he was played out of position, but he has won Ligue 1 with our current manager. We know De Sanctis will be a solid stopper in Serie A because he has been one for as long as we can remember. This is a different strategy – and we needed one!
Of course, unfortunately we have had to endure the usual rumblings of discontent that always remain ever-present. Nothing will ever be good enough for Giallorossi fans. If it’s not the Twitteristi bleating, it’s ultras rioting and abusing players (then we wonder why they leave the club for pastures more civilised).
The sale of Argentine prodigy Erik Lamela in particular has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The thing about that for me is that if new coach Rudi Garcia had thought ‘Coco’ was essential to our chances of finishing third he would have fought tooth and nail to retain him so as not to jeopardise the achievement of his number one KPI – Champions League qualification. Lamela is gifted, but is he really 30 million plus add-ons gifted? If he was, I suggest either we would be playing in Europe this season or there is no way Garcia would have let him go. The truth is he blows more hot and cold than an Auckland spring.
We wanted accountability – Baldini is gone. We wanted stability – we got it. We wanted success – it’s early days but we have won our first game for the first time in 6 years! What more do we want? Perhaps the club’s football brains have a plan and know what they are doing… I know this is a really radical concept for Romanisti but let’s *GASP!* wait and see!
Let’s begin with the club’s pre-season. A reasonably successful pre-season, results wise, yet a disruptive and tumultuous time off the pitch, once again, hints at mission impossible for yet another new coach. Thoughts on our pre-season?
There were some nice pre-season results but only to the extent that you can ever read anything into pre-season results. I thoroughly enjoyed watching our new signings – they all looked great, especially Strootman, who looked really passionate and strong so I’m really excited to see if he can carry that forward into the season proper. The worrying area was the defence against Chelsea. It looked a bit leaky… Off the pitch, standard Roma dramas. Whether or not it’s mission impossible for Rudi Garcia depends on what your expectations are. If expectations are realistic then he’s got every chance of meeting them. I think top three should be possible.
The club have reinforced quite well during the mercato, but will Lamela’s imminent exit undo Sabatini’s good work thus far, or do you feel the club can replace the young Argentinean?
People wanted wealthy owners when the American consortium took over but perhaps they didn’t realise that wealthy people don’t get wealthy by accident. They are businessmen, not charities, and they are in this to make money. While the sale of Lamela is disappointing, it’s a good business decision. You buy players when the price is low and sell at the peak of their value. I think it’s highly debatable whether Lamela would have fetched more than 30 million in the future so his sale was inevitable. Can they replace him? Of course they can, but unfortunately it’s late in the piece now. We might have to wait until January
The midfield was a big problem area for Roma the last two seasons. How will it be different this season, better or worse?
I think it looks like our strongest area at the moment, assuming De Rossi stays and plays better than he did last season.
Where do you feel Totti will be best utilized, on the left wing or as a false 9?
No answer. (I’m hopeless on stuff like this)
With Osvaldo gone does Roma need another attacker or striker this transfer window?
I don’t know. I like teams that don’t necessarily rely on one player for goals, but a team that can produce goals from a range of players. That way you are not over reliant on anyone being in form all year. We could do with another striker but I don’t think that’s the thing that will make or break us this season.
Is Mattia Destro the long term answer for the center forward position?
I haven’t seen much evidence of it so far. Let’s hope he finds form early this season and starts banging them in.
What are the keys for Rudi Garcia, new to Serie A, to give Roma the best shot for a CL spot this season?
Shore up the defense. We know this squad can score goals. We just need to plug up the other end and I reckon third place is, not guaranteed by any stretch, but a realistic aim.
How long will Frenchman get to achieve results? How long should he get?
I hope he’s given time. At least two seasons. This revolving door we’ve had going on for the last few years has to end sometime and at some point we have to have faith in someone and stop blaming the coach the minute results don’t go our way. Garcia is an excellent coach with a good record and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t succeed if given the space to work and the full backing of the club and fans.
With Totti’s renewal looming, how do you see his role in the future of Roma once he hangs up his boots (I know, I know, it is anathema to speak of his ‘retirement’)?
I find his impending retirement particularly depressing because he’s the same age as me… Once he hangs up his boots I’ll have to finally accept the fact that I’m getting old! But seriously, I’m sure he will still be involved in some way, shape or form. As an ambassador, mentor, coach or director.
Our ultras. Problem or no problem? Why?
Big problem. I think they are out of control, far too full of their own importance, and poisonous to the atmosphere of the club. Until they get sorted out somehow they make it unjustifiably harder for the club to be successful than it should be. I hope something changes this season because when we get back into Europe, with the type of stunt they pulled at the Milan game last season, they are a disaster waiting to happen.
Predicted finish for the season?
Quick Fire Round:
1) Who will be the highest impact signing of the off-season?
2) Who will be the surprise (overachiever) player of the season?
3) Who will be the biggest flop?
I don’t think there will be one.
4) One player you’d welcome to the club (realistic)?
Balotelli (In my little fantasy world it’s realistic…)
5) One player you’d happily drive away?
I’m loyal to all our players as long as they are loyal to Roma.
6) Player to look out for?
Gervinho. He wasn’t used properly at Arsenal.
7) Young player to look out for?
8) American owners: Yay or nay?
Jury still out.
9) Content with the squad? Yes or no?
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
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: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/