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Keeping score

RomaOctapus

Earlier in the year I did a prediction post answering questions posed by a fellow Roma fan about what sort of season our beloved Lupi would have in 2013/14. Obviously there’s no point doing a prediction post unless there is some accountability once all is done and dusted and therefore it is painfully necessary for us to now attempt to answer this simple yet burning question: Am I Paul the Octopus, or just a damp squid? It’s only right that we find out.

Although, there are two qualifying remarks I will make before embarking on this exercise. The first is when you’re as much of a Pollyanna as me, and when your club has a good season by recent standards as Roma has, it’s hardly any great feat of soothsaying when you call it correctly… Secondly, you know what they say about stopped clocks.

But here we go regardless. Below I will republish each question, my answer, and how I score myself out of 10 along with some additional commentary…

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.

I get ten points for correctly predicting a top three finish, then lose nine points for describing the defence of a team that only conceded one goal in its first ten games as “the worrying area” and “leaky”. Oops. 1/10.

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

I’m going to give myself top marks here for being totally behind the Lamela sale at a time when nobody else was, for boldly asserting that it was the right time to sell, and that the player was at the peak of his value at that time (he’s now worth a buck eighty in trading stamps). I’ll take two points off for suggesting we’d replace him in January – as it turned out, we didn’t need to! 8/10.

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.

It arguably was our strongest area but that’s highly debatable given we were strong in most areas! Pjanic had an amazing season – man, did that kid step up. De Rossi was vastly improved on his troubled season before. Strootman was immense until he got injured – how many points would we have had if he had stayed fit? Florenzi kicked on from his stunning debut season, and Nianggolan was a smart piece of January business. There was no other area of the pitch where everyone played to such a high standard, and you could hardly argue it wasn’t better than the last two seasons, so I am going to call this one a 10/10.

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)

What a wimp. 0/10.

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.

One of the big anxieties for Roma fans at the start of the season was “where are the goals going to come from?” Well, the answer was “from all over the place”. We had eight players who scored five or more goals this season. Destro was top scorer with thirteen, but we also had significant contributions from Pjanic, Benatia, Gervinho, Strootman, Florenzi, Ljajic and Totti. 10/10.

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.

I have now, and he sure did! 5/10.

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 defence. 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.

That is what he needed to do, that’s what he did, and the result is there for all to see. As they say in Rome, veni, vidi, vici! 10/10.

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.

I think it’s pretty safe to say now that he’ll get as long as he wants. The real question now is, can we hold onto him when a Barcelona or PSG come calling for his services? I was certainly right about him being an excellent coach and about the fact that there was no reason why he shouldn’t succeed, so I’m scoring this 10/10. Because I can.

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.

No score here because it hasn’t happened. Yet. But now that Del Piero has set the precedent of coming down under, I have a new hope of a transfer to Ngaruawahia United!

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.

Once again, they cost us some money in fines that could otherwise have been spent on ‘making the boat go faster’. Their anti-Neapolitan chants resulted in a closed curva. But generally speaking they were more well behaved than has sometimes been the case. I still think they are a problem that needs sorting out but the proposed new stadium should go some way towards that at least. 5/10.

Predicted finish for the season?

Third.

Close but no cigar. 0/10.

1) Who will be the highest impact signing of the off-season?

Strootman

He played really well but missed a big chunk of the season through injury. 3/10.

2) Who will be the surprise (overachiever) player of the season?

De Sanctis

He played exceptionally well and was a big contributing factor to our incredible defensive record despite being seen by many as not good enough for Roma when he arrived. I don’t think he was THE surprise overachiever so a couple of points off for that but otherwise bang on the money. 8/10.

3) Who will be the biggest flop?

I don’t think there will be one.

10/10.

4) One player you’d welcome to the club (realistic)?

Balotelli (In my little fantasy world it’s realistic…)

Not really a prediction so no score. Even though he WOULD be FANTASTIC at Roma.

5) One player you’d happily drive away?

I’m loyal to all our players as long as they are loyal to Roma.

Again not a prediction, just a bit of soppiness…

6) Player to look out for?

Gervinho. He wasn’t used properly at Arsenal.

What can I say? 15/10.

7) Young player to look out for?

Totti!!! 😉

Didn’t have a vintage season by his usual standards but still a vital cog in our wheel. 6/10.

8) American owners: Yay or nay?

Jury still out.

I hate fence sitters. After not really covering themselves in much glory with the way they have handled previous coaching appointments, they sure have been outstanding this season! 0/10.

9) Content with the squad? Yes or no?

Can’t fault that answer! 10/10.

So all up, that gives me a total score of 111 out of a possible 160 at an average of 7/10. I’ll take that!

As for future predictions, in my opinion it’s obvious what cost Roma the league this season – two games against Juventus. If we had won both we’d have been 12 points better off. Sure, the race was over by the time we reached the second of those games, but if we had already beaten them once at that stage being closer would have given us more to play for, we wouldn’t have dropped as many points on the road to that point and the confidence of having bested the team above us would have given us the psychological strength to overhaul them. So if we’re looking for what we need to do to improve, it’s simple – beat Juventus.

Despite all that, if you had offered me second place at the start of the season you would now be an amputee so it’s safe to say I am happy! Roll on next season and not only the opportunity to go one better, but a shot at the one prize we’ve never won before – the Champions League! Daje!

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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