There was long a plan to follow up the season opening questionnaire with another at the next international break. Only things haven't gone quite as planned, This is the questionnaire, sure, but no one in their right mind expected Roma to be sitting on 7-0-0, 20, 1, +19. (That's fun to type.) So the questions were supposed to be more like "What kind of antidepressant are you taking these days?" and "Has Max Allegri signed a contract already?" and the always popular "Why are you hitting yourself in the face?"
Yeah. Those don't apply here. It's not supposed to be like this.
1. When will the first loss be?
Bren: Wow, this is tougher than I thought. The knee jerk reaction would be Napoli. The pieces are there--an unprecedented high abruptly (and I'd say rudely) interrupted by the international break. It just spells momentum killer. But they've done pretty well against Napoli recently (two wins, one draw in the last four), and when you look beyond that, there isn't a fixture that really scares you until Fiorentina in early December, Udinese notwithstanding. While I can't imagine they'll be 14-0 by the time they face The Viola, on paper everything before then seems entirely winnable; but there is Atalanta and German Denis to reckon with before our annual Roma reunion against Montella & Co.
Dhaw: October 27th or November 3rd.
Jonas: Somewhere in 2015. With a defense of Rosi-Antei-Romagnoli-Jose Angel (you've read it here first).
Sam: Way to kill my mood right before the weekend starts. Jerk. Udinese away is such a prick of a place... to play football.
Vahakn: I'd say Napoli, because there really isn't another logical choice for another month and a half. Even though I don't think they're going to lose to Napoli. So I'm going to say that it's already happened: their total loss of integrity during the latest Philipp Plein debacle.
Marty: 38-0-0, 114. And if not, the first place it rains like hell.
2. Would you like to amend your final table placement prediction? (Ahem.)
Bren: Without glancing back, I think my wild guess was third? So, yes, I would. I'll say second. You can only count out Juve for so long. But, and this is a big and real but (no cheek implants), if they stay healthy, I can see the unthinkable happening...
Dhaw: Nope. 4th/5th. Europa League qualification.
Jonas: Just give me Champions League baby! 2-3 will do, seeing our phenomenal start to the campaign. I refuse to talk about the S-word until January. And anything below (Mambo) no5 would be a disappointment now.
Sam: Yeah ok. The thing that bothers me is that Napoli and Juve are only 2 points away. That doesn't really seem fair considering the insane start to the season we have had. Then if you have a look at our last few games, well shit, Fio, Milan and Juve in the last 5 weeks. It's going to be exciting but you can't help but suspect late penalties may be given. What was the question? Oh yeah, 3rd.
Vahakn: Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. "This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. "This porridge is too cold," she said. So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge. "Ah, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she at it all up. 3rd.
Marty: I'm still trying to figure out what the hell Vahakn was saying. First and second are worser than third? Or everything is just right in general these days, so Rudi is a bowl of porridge? Is the natural evolution of this, "First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the hairy chest?" If so, I say second.
3. Totti for World Cup: yay or nay.
Bren: I say Yay, simply because, as much as I want him to eclipse Piola, I don't think it's going to happen, so this would be an almost Hollywoodesque ending to his career (not that its over, but you know what I'm saying), and I think, in all honestly, they need him.
Dhaw: Nay. (I am not a fan of pulling players out of retirement)
Jonas: Aaaaargh me matey! I say nay. Now go on clean the decks ya landlubber and stop ye whining!
Sam: Yay. Unequivocal yay. The man as a footballing legend deserves that stage. We shouldn't be selfish here.
Vahakn: Totti is a romantic. He's been with his childhood sweetheart his entire life, he retired after reaching the tippy top. Probably used to send his wife snail mail when on the road in Europe. (Little excerpt: "You should have seen Roman's face when Mirko scored..."). He deserves a little spontaneity, a little fun.
Marty: I'm a proponent of walking away with plenty left in the tank while also going out on the high, romantic note. Doing so at the World Cup final while being substituted for his Roman brother is as poetic a narrative as one can write in international football. So while I always want to see Totti playing as many minutes as in-humanly possible until he retires, for his sake, I say he should stay home and sire Davidoff Cool Water Totti.
4. Another slight tweak: Will Totti hit double digits in assists...by November? (Sitting on six, three matches in October remain - Napoli, Udinese, Chievo.)
Bren: Definitely in November, but four assists in three matches? That's a lot to ask, particularly as two out of those three are pretty tough defensive clubs. Having said that, in three matches, he can create 12-15 legitimate scoring chances, so I wouldn't put it past him.
Dhaw: Stop asking silly questions.
Jonas: Aaaargh matey! What is this old scum treachery from me abyss! Down to Davy Jones Locker with ya!........... No wait, sorry, still role-playing. I think he'll narrowly miss it. Nine by November, one against Udine and two against Chievo. I foresee a difficult game against Napoli, possibly a 0-0.
Vahakn: Math says no, peni.. heart says yes.
Marty: I have a feeling they're going to just decimate the Donkeys. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because it falls on All Hallow's Eve and they're playing like monsters this year, or because I associate donkeys with pinatas and pinatas with bountiful candy and candy with Halloween and therefore duh, but nonetheless, I think he does.
5. Francesco aside, who's been the best player so far?
Bren: I gotta go with Mehdi Benatia; he's simply been one of the best defenders in the league, bar none. Marquinhos may be better five years from now, but Benatia is king of the hill at the moment, and I think the results we're seeing are, in part, thanks to that perhaps not so slight difference.
Dhaw: Mehdi should be the pick right after Totti based on statistics but I am going to go with Miralem Pjanic because of his overall play and his value to the team. He connects the dots.
Jonas: Marquinhos. What? He's bossing PSG's defence nowadays. If you mean a Roman player: Benatia. God, I like that guy. And I also got a soft spot for Morgan Batman.
Sam: If Maicon didn't get injured I reckon he would have come close. Benatia's goals put him ahead of a very close pack. (If DDR's headers against Lazio had of gone in...)
Vahakn: I think because we are so used to seeing Daniele De Rossi being world class that even after his return after a year long hiatus, we seem to expect this level of brilliance from him. He tipped over the first Domino with his first goal and now he's ever present, kneeled over the collapsing line muttering comeoncomeoncomeonkeepgoingcomeon.
Marty: That tall glass of French-Moroccan aqua. Obviously it's largely a system-based improvement on the defensive side of things, but he just dominates his area in perhaps a way Marquinho didn't. DDR isn't far behind, but there is a palpable strength via intimidation and aura to that backline - and the Bentan partnership itself - that simply wasn't there with Hos.
6. Why did the chicken cross the road?
Bren: Cause he's the cock of the walk, thats why.
Dhaw: I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.
Jonas: Because Riise destroyed its henhouse with a free-kick after the chicken ate his self-made sandwich.
Sam: Because you touch yourself at night!
Vahakn: Because they didn't have enough points to stay on the nice side.
Marty: To get to Curva Nord.
7. Be honest: How are you dealing with the departure of Coco now? ("Who?" is not an accepted answer, Dhaw.)
Bren: I haven't paid attention to the Premiership because I don't like it, so I can't speak to his actual performance, nor would I say what we're seeing is addition by subtraction, but Adem Ljajic and Gervinho have made his loss practically unnoticeable.
Dhaw: Che ?
Jonas: To be honest, I seldom miss him. Mostly thanks to the performances/goals of Florenzi, Ljajic and Gervinho.
Sam: Sometimes I think about Lamela being our rocket runner on the right and get a little sad. But then when you watch the first half against Inter, you'd sound like a Liverpool fan if you kept complaining about this forever.
Vahakn: Both his "replacements" offer something vastly different from him and from each other, but what they both seem to have is the ability to run at defenders, which is something that has been lacking at Roma since Mancini's stepovers. Both Ljajic and Gervinho, although neither as good a dribbler as Lamela, have a remarkable confidence when going up against two or even three defenders. Plus they both offer way more than Mancini ever did with his direct attacking. Gervinho's speed absolutely rapes opposing defenders. Scratch that last part.
Marty: Only at night just before bed. And in the shower. And when I'm making my coffee in the morning. And when I'm at the grocery store and I think about that thing he did with the guy at the place against the others guys. And when I'm breathing. And the brief moments when I'm not. In short, I'm doing better. (No, but it'll be harder when he's good again.)
8. Nominate a song of the season so far.
Bren: Hmm, Rudi Can't Fail is too obvious.
"The drums will shake the castle wall,
the ringwraiths ride in black, Ride on ...
Oh dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back."
Jonas: I'll even nominate three! ‘Can't stop me now' - Queen, ‘Seven Nation Army' - White Stripes & ‘The Boys are back in Town' - Thin Lizzy
Sam: That song the Kaiser Chiefs wrote about the prophecy of Rudi Garcia
Vahakn: Don't Stop Me Now by Queen sung by Borriello with a mustache, with Osvaldo, Lamela, Hos and Stek in attendance.
Marty: It's Roma. We should know better than this, right? Right? Right...
9. Final tally for goals conceded by Roma this season?
Bren: Well, they're certainly off to a good start...I'll go with 41
Dhaw: Under 40. I'll go with 35
Jonas: 20 (and this is no joke). If either Benatia or Castan get severely injured along the road, please multiply by three.
Sam: A bahjillion
Vahakn: The number of goals conceded minus the number of goals Benatia scores or assists will be less than zero. Currently the tally is at -1.
Marty: They're on pace to concede five. I don't @#$% with numbers, yo. Five.
10. Strootman, Benatia, Maicon, Gervinho, Ljajic. If you had to nix one of those moves from this summer, which would it be.
Bren: Maicon. Garcia clearly knows how to get inside of Gervinho's head, Strootman was the missing piece to the midfield, while Benatia will prove to be one of the best signings of the summer, regardless of the league. I think Ljajic could flourish here long term, it's just a matter of selling him on the merits of Roma versus supposedly greener pastures. Maicon, as good as he's been, is still a gamble, but I choose him simply because his self life is probably the shortest. Plus, you know, Santon.
Jonas: Tough one. Maybe Maicon, simply because he's the oldest and most injury-prone.
Sam: Gervinho, Ljajic is going to be big.
Vahakn: Maicon. I love him, but we would have found someone else to fill the gap. Plus he's only short term and the others have been pretty fantastic.
Marty: The thing with removing one of the two options Maicon or Gervinho (Ljajic is 22 and has scored 3 in 4, or one every fifty-five minutes; he's goin' nowhere.) is they both have capable people to come in behind them. But it's been so damn long since Roma's had a world class RB and they're harder to find than capable attackers, so I'll say Gervinho. It's not easy, though. (Benatia and Kev aren't even in the discussion.)
11. Boxers or briefs.
Bren: Banana hammocks
Dhaw: http://i44.tinypic.com/2vbalb8.jpg (Ed note: NSFW, NSFCIYWTSEA - Not safe for clicking if you want to sleep ever again.)
Jonas: Ever since Zemanlandia, I refuse every type of underwear. Freedom! It sure feels liberating and refreshing. Seriously, it's like my very own Garden of Eden down there, including botanical gardens and magical foutains.
Sam: Boxing used to be cool. But then that dude with the stupid hair ruined it.
Vahakn: Boxer briefs. Beckham commands it.
Marty: This question is sexist. Though any of my neighbors or passersby could answer this. I really need to start wearing pants.
12. There are, at the moment, so few immediate needs in this squad considering their level of play and relatively easy schedule. If Sabatini is to make one move for the future in the winter, what should it be?
Bren: For the future, future....D-A-V-I-D-E S-A-N-T-O-N and a goalkeeper within earshot of 25 years old. For immediate reinforcements, an experienced centerback and, failing Santon, another FB who can play both flanks. Perhaps another offensive minded midfielder to spell Pjanic.
Dhaw: Left Back who can play CB if the need arises.
Jonas: Bring back Perrotta? A LB might come in handy too. Destro will feel like a big transfer as well when he returns. Anyway, depth in defence needs a look at for sure.
Sam: Ah gee, I dunno. How about a Maicon clone?
Vahakn: A pacey CB and if I didn't have so much faith in Destro, a striker.
Marty: Said it once, said it...well, I've only said it once, but you could stick a cardboard cutout in between the sticks and gain the same net result. That won't always be the case and Morgan was bought because he was a bargain basement deal. Investing in a keeper for the near and far future would be a solid move.
13. Favorite non-derby moment of the season so far?
Bren: Hmm. I don't know why, but I really enjoyed Ljajic's first goal with the club.
Dhaw: I have 2.
2) http://youtu.be/YK7yhrfu2DU?t=3m40s Ooof. That turn.
Jonas: Stroot's penalty and following celebration against Parma.
Sam: THE DERBY!!! oh, I see. Umm, that counter attack goal against Inter. Magic.
Vahakn: I'm going to have to go with Pjanic's chipped goal. That type of thing is never a fluke or an accident. It is a clear indication that he's one of the most gifted players in the squad.
Marty: The thing Totti did. You know...all of them.
14. Talk about Rudi without sounding like a boy-crazy preteen girl.
Bren: I can't deny that they've been aided by the schedule, but so what? He's got his tentacles in Roma already, and it's starting to look as if they fell bassackwards into Europe's next great coaching prodigy.
Dhaw: Poobah with hair.
Jonas: -Rudi: "Mmmm bonjour ma petite chérie!"
-Me: "Ow stop it you hihihi" *squirm squirm blush blush drip drip... faint*
Sam: What Rudi and I have is unique. I wouldn't expect you to understand.
Vahakn: I respect and admire the work that Rudi Garcia has done with Roma.
15. Okay, fine. Just talk about Rudi.
Bren: Oh, you were serious? Well, she was my favorite Huxtable.
Dhaw: Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. Rudi is going to fight, and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is at the midst of that battle, he won't lose himself. A man's got to know his limitations and I am certain Rudi knows his.
Jonas: The guy is doing everything right nowadays and is turning out to be a great motivator and big psychological help for the team. He had the biggest impact of all the coaches post-Spalletti. Players, staff, management all praise Rudi. If he can also crack Napoli's safe at the Olimpico, then the sky truly is the limit.But we must not forget to support him whenever things go bad. That is when he needs us, fans, the most. Sooner or later, this will happen, it's unavoidable. Until then, let's enjoy each and every minute of Rudi's gestures on the sidelines. Very very likeable person.
Sam: I was warned out before the season that he was a good coach whose team plays good football. The man has been outstanding. Full freaking marks.
Marty: My secret shame: I'm a closet Francophile. Not actively, but it sort of happened by accident via my accumulation of tastes over the years. I love the food for its culinary qualities, the majority of my closet originates from the spoked streets, my favorite films are French of the 50's-70's, and my general taste in art and design encircles their exports. I just like their style, as they often do things simply yet well. A certain refinement and elegance. And, well...
I fucking love Rudi. He is proving to be uber-French in all the right ways - there is certainly an element of elegance about his football, yet with a soupcon of savagery - and seemingly without the personality. He couldn't be more dreamy. He's like three months away from his own What A Man video, which is the pinnacle of lifetime achievement.