“A scudetto at Roma is worth 10 at Milan or Juventus”
– Fabio Capello
2001 – the last time Roma won Serie A… This is what it looks like when a million people gather in the Circus Maximus on the best day of their lives:
Will we finally see this magnificent sight again, 15 long years after Mister Capello steered us to our third title? Should I start saving for my flights? Or are we, like last season, in for a different kind of circus?
I am well aware that nobody who reads this blog cares much about Italian football – the stats make that as plain as day – but bugger it, I’ve never let that stop me in the past so I’m going to continue to write about it from time to time anyway! One of the reasons I started writing here was because I was sick of so much of what there is to read being about a select few English clubs and never about my favourite team. If you want a job done, you’ve got to do it yourself!
So amongst all the Manchester United season previews, and Chelsea season previews, and Tottenham season previews and whatever other UK team is flavour of the month, I’m defiantly adding a little ray of sunshine – a Roma season preview in all its giallorossi glory – ‘yellow like the sun and red like my heart’, as the above song goes!
I guess the best place to start is by very briefly catching you (you being the one person reading this) up with how we have been getting on over the past few years!
Roma entered a new era, on April 16 2011, as the first Serie A club to be owned by offshore interests when it was taken over by a consortium of American investors. Since that time, almost the entire squad and backroom staff has been replaced and we have churned through three coaches in Luis Enrique, Zdeněk Zeman and Aurelio Andreazzoli before finally settling on the current manager, Rudi Garcia. Garcia’s greatest achievement, before taking the reins at Roma at the beginning of season 2013/14, was winning an unlikely Ligue 1 title at the helm of unfancied Lille.
In his first season in charge in the eternal city, the Frenchman did a fantastic job with the club by finishing in second place and securing Champions League Football for the first time since the American takeover. Unfortunately, while last season looks similar on paper, his performance came under much more intense scrutiny as the team played horribly for long periods of time and crashed out of the Champions League at the end of the group stage. The most troubling thing was that Garcia seemed to lack any ideas whatsoever as to how to prise us out of the rut we had worked ourselves into.
We carried on, week in, week out, with the same line-ups, the same formation and the same tactics, yet inexplicably expecting different results. Garcia’s post-match press conferences were doing my head in as all the evidence seemed to point to him hardly noticing there was any sort of a problem. You might point to our second place finish and say yeah but look at where we ended up. But that table position flatters to deceive and the reality was we got lucky. If we play like that again this season it’ll almost certainly be back to mid-table obscurity and no Europe for us.
There is a lot of pressure on Garcia now to show that he can grow as a manager. But much will also depend on what reinforcements he can get in to plug some of the obvious gaps in the playing staff. Like most Italian managers, he doesn’t have a lot of control over this. That responsibility lies with our sporting director, Walter Sabatini, who nobody can deny is a chain smoking transfer market guru of the highest calibre. Sabatini cops a lot of criticism for being slow to do deals, not least significantly from Garcia who, just this past week, pointedly commented in the media that he finds it hard when defensive reinforcements arrive late… And who wouldn’t? But it’s my observation that over Sabatini’s time at the club, the savings he has made from the bargains he’s secured by taking his own sweet time have created room in the budget to bring in players we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to squeeze in.
So far this summer window, Roma’s most notable additions have been striker Edin Džeko from Manchester City, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny from Arsenal, and wide attacking players Iago Falque from Genoa and Mohamed Salah from Chelsea. All four have impressed in pre-season. But the glaring gap is still the area in which we were weakest last season – the back four, where in particular the wing backs desperately need a complete overhaul on both sides, and the centre backs could use a backup or two at least. All eyes are now on Sabatini to see what he has up his sleeve between now and the end of August.
Unlike the last few seasons, we haven’t offloaded any players who would ordinarily make the starting line-up. The twin departures of Roman born players Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the fan base but the sale of these bench players to Milan for massively overinflated prices was good business plain and simple. Italian international striker Mattia Destro is leaving too, which I find sad, but for better or worse he doesn’t fit Garcia’s dogmatic system.
As far as our main competition are concerned – Milan and Inter have both had a lot of personnel changes but have they bought wisely? It doesn’t really seem so. It will be interesting to see what their pointy heads know that I don’t. Meanwhile Juventus have lost some strike power in Carlos Tevez and a truckload of guile in Andrea Pirlo, but I’m still fairly sure they will be the team to beat once again.
Have we done enough in the transfer window, and has Garcia grown enough as a manager, to bridge last season’s 17 point gap? Can the club rise to the occasion and deliver Totti the second Scudetto of his career that he so richly deserves in what will almost certainly be his last season as a player? *Gasp* – there, I said it… These are the key questions.
We kick off our campaign in Verona at 4am on Sunday morning. Tune in to find out the answers.
Enzo’s ‘take with a grain of salt’ projected starting XIish based on the best information available at present assuming everyone is fit:
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/