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Roma 2016/17 – Only happy when we’re miserable

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“There is a sense of excitement and optimism around Roma that hasn’t been seen for quite a while.” – Chloe Beresford in Football Italia’s Roma season preview

Roma fans? Excited? Optimistic? Um, have we met? Honestly, it’s like Football Italia don’t even know us at all…

I certainly haven’t seen much evidence of any excitement or optimism from English speaking Roma fans online this August, or any other August for that matter. Misery goes hand in hand with being a Romanista and we wear it well. Generally speaking the people I talk to online think we are doomed, the defence is as effective as a soup fork, we’re selling all our best young talent, the owners don’t know what they are doing, and we might as well give Juventus the scudetto right now and save everyone the bother.

So I don’t know where Football Italia are looking to see the excitement and optimism around Roma. Maybe it’s the Italian tifosi (although that’s difficult to imagine…) Or maybe it’s a relative thing. ‘We might be miserable now, but you should see us when our team truly sucks!’

That’s not to say there isn’t tangible cause for optimism. We are, in the eyes of most objective observers I think, looking down the barrel of a much improved Roma outfit.

Unlike the beginning of last season when confidence in our then coach Rudi Garcia was shot to pieces, this year we have a man at the helm in Luciano Spalletti that we all know and love from his pervious spell with us. And what’s more, since he took over again back in January, he has done much to inspire optimism. With 14 wins, four draws and only one Serie A loss (to Juventus in his second game in charge) since his return, maybe this is cause to get a little bit excited?

No?

How about our pre-season form then? Five wins from five games, 24 goals scored and just three conceded? Ok, one of those teams was Pinzolo but beating Liverpool in St Louis Missouri wasn’t half bad!

No? Fair enough…

Well if that can’t get the most hardened Romanisti excited, then our transfer market surely will. Obviously we’ve lost a key playmaker in Miralem Pjanic, but good riddance to that traitor. Left back Lucas Digne has gone to Barcelona. But apart from those two, touch wood, we haven’t lost anyone too crucial. Meanwhile, we’ve shored up our defence big time with central defenders Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona) and Juan Jesus (Inter) along with left back Mario Rui (Empoli) – although Rui has picked up a medium term injury since joining us. We’ve also acquired promising young goalkeeper Alisson (Internacional) who looks like an exciting player, and the big surprise is explosive right back Bruno Peres (Torino) who isn’t confirmed yet at the time of writing but looks all but done. Not bad, huh?

There are also many established players to keep an eye on, if for no other reason than to see if they can all deliver the answers to a few outstanding questions. Chief amongst them is Edin Dzeko – will he fire? He’s been deadly in pre-season but a lot will depend on whether he can carry that form into the competitive season, or will he be back to the Captain Blunderpants we remember from last year. It’s Totti’s last year, maybe De Rossi’s too. Can Totti continue his run as a super sub, will De Rossi lift from his disappointing form since Zeman’s coaching tenure, and will the team lift for both of them to deliver our talismen a scudetto to send Totti at least off in style.

With the arrival of Peres, Alessandro Florenzi will finally be released from his right back purgatory. He is the heir apparent for the mantle of the compulsory Roman born flag bearer within the team. This season will be the one that shows us what he’s really made of.

Kevin Strootman is returning from a long term injury. Can he rediscover his form of old after a year on the side-lines? If so, he’s got the ability to make up for the loss of Pjanic, along with Radja Nainggolan’s continued great form that he carried from us into the Euros for Belgium.

Are we ok enough at left back between now and the return of Mario Rui with Juan Jesus supplying cover? Will young hot talent of 22 year-old Argentinian midfielder Leandro Paredes, back from his loan spell at Empoli, remain with us? Or will he be sold to fund future transfers before the window slams shut?

That last one is a question that may well be answered on the pitch in the next week or two one assumes…

We’ve got FC Porto to get past if we want a place in the group stage of UEFA’s elite club competition and so much depends on this home and away tie starting on Thursday morning (New Zealand time) in Portugal. Not just for the fans, but for the books as well. Management are waiting to see if there will be Champions League money forthcoming before committing further financial resources to strengthening the squad any further.

And the biggest dampener of all on the mood of Roma fans is probably the fact that as much as we appear to have strengthened, the gap between us and Juventus only looks like it’s getting wider. They have splashed some big money around, stealing Miralem Pjanic from our clutches, luring former Roma defender Medhi Benatia back to Serie A from Bayern Munich, and bringing in former Napoli goal machine Gonzalo Higuain to name but three massive signings. They say goodbye to Paul Pogba, but that will be more than compensated for by their reinforcements.

But while one option might be to look at Juve and say ‘it’s all too hard’ and give up before we even start, they don’t call me Pollyanna for nothing. I don’t subscribe to the doom and gloom brigade amongst our fans. I say that even though Juventus is strong, we only play them twice. The rest is up to us.

Even if we don’t make it through to the Champions League group stage, and this is the squad we go forward with, I still think we are certainly good enough to at least push Juventus hard. If you were to hold a gun to my head and demand a prediction, I’d say we will come second with a slight glimmer of hope in my eyes that it just might be first…

It would be so great if we could pull it off. Not least because I’ll be interested to see what we’ll have to be miserable about if we do!

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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