Aurelio Andreazzoli makes his Roma debut on Sunday, as he leads the Giallorossi northwards to take on 14th place Sampdoria. The changes don't end on the sideline either, as Andreazzoli figures to change both the formation and the starting XI, placing his own, most likely interim, stamp on the team.
A disappointing 1-1 draw was highlighted by Francesco Totti's 34th minute goal, which launched him into sole possession of 3rd place on Serie A's all-time scoring list. Unfortunately, Totti's record making brace wasn't enough to earn three points, as Gianni Munari made the most of a Maarten Stekelenburg error. However, Totti nearly won the game at the death with a header in the 88th minute. But it was not meant to be and two precious points were dropped at home.
There's really nothing fresh or original any of us can say or write, the Zeman era ended almost as quickly as it began; it was exhilarating, infuriating, and not the reunion either party had imagined. But we've dissected the Zeman era plenty over the past week, so let's take a haphazard look/guess at what Andreazzoli's Roma will look like.
Who's In/Who's Out:
Federico Balzaretti and Mattia Destro remain injured, while Panagiotis Tachtsidis is suspended. Pablo Osvaldo, meanwhile, picked up an injury following a collision with Leandro Castan and will most likely miss this match
Sampdoria may have to contend with the absences of Eder and Mauro Icardi, the former having to attend to a family matter in Brazil, the latter having suffered a knee injury in training late in the week. Icardi is the club's leading scorer, slotting home 25% of Sampdoria's 28 goals.
Beyond Andreazzoli, the happiest man in Rome might be Maarten Stekelenburg, who should resume his role as the number one keeper. Protecting Stek will most likely be the foursome of Ivan Piris, Leandro Castan, Marquinhos, and Vasilis Torosidis.
As for the remainder of the lineup, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi should slot in front of the defense, while Francesco Totti will be reliving his late 20s as a false nine. As for the three men supporting Totti, Erik Lamela and Alessandro Florenzi should occupy two of the three roles. However, with PDO's late week injury, Andreazzoli has a decision to make on that left wing; Does he push Lamela over there and place Michael Bradley or Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the middle? That seems more likely, given Lamela's performance on the outsides this season.
His first week in and Andreazzoli already has to tinker with his chosen lineup...no pressure.
Shapes and Such:
Sampdoria has tinkered with several formations, leaning upon the 4-3-3 most often, but have opted for the ever-popular 3-5-2 in recent matches. Problem being, the ‘2' in that formation, Eder and Icardi, are either doubtful or in a different hemisphere.
Samp is in the lower 50% in both goals scored and allowed, resulting in a -1 goal differential, they are in the depths of the league in terms of shots per game, shots on target per game, dribbles per game and shots conceded per game.
Needless to say, Roma holds statistical sway in virtually every category, except, of course, goals allowed.
Now on to the big question...what sort of team will Andreazzoli field?
Reports early in the week suggested a 4-3-1-2 with Miralem Pjanic manning the trequartista, presumably behind PDO and Totti. As interesting as it would/will be to see Miralem in the hole, the late week injury to PDO put the kibosh on the 4-3-1-2, making the 4-2-3-1 formation the odds on favorite.
It is, perhaps, somewhat fitting that Andreazzoli will roll out the 4-2-3-1 with Totti as the lone man up top in the false-nine role. Fitting because Andreazzoli was an assistant under that formations progenitor, Luciano Spalletti, who turned to that unique arrangement, in part, due to the injuries and ineffectiveness of Mirko Vucinic. This accidental stroke of brilliance paved the way for Totti to flourish in this unconventional role, to the tune of 26 goals and Golden Boot, but that was nearly 7 years ago when Totti was still in his 20s.
But Totti, while enjoying a fantastic season, is 36 years old and can only be expected to take the pounding that comes along with being the lone striker for so long. Many fans and pundits have speculated that Pjanic is Totti's eventual replacement, should Roma ever utilize a classic trequartista again, that is-so it would be interesting to see how Miralem would perform in that role, if given the chance.
No matter how Andreazzoli arranges the team, it definitely figures to be more balanced than the all-out-attack Zeman preferred. I'd expect less forward runs from the fullbacks and a steadier build up through the middle.
However, Andreazzoli recently stated he is not a slave to formations, instead believing the players individual talents and interactions are what truly drives a team. Taking it a step further, Andreazzoli claimed that a coach is at his best when he his noticed least (I wonder what he thinks about Italian referees). If nothing else, he appears more flexible than his predecessor.
With the rumor mill swirling, Andreazzoli won't have much time to prove himself, so whatever formation he chooses, he better hope it works and works well. However, despite his time with Luciano, we shouldn't simply expect a Spalletti clone, Andreazzoli will undoubtedly want to put his own imprint on the team. He may not end up as the man in Roma, but surely other clubs will be watching his first steps as a manager.
With all the controversy and rumors bandied about this week, it was easy to forget what was/is actually going on; Roma is in 8th place, six points out of the Europa league with 15 matches remaining...still plenty of time to close the Europa League gap.
With only one victory in their past six, we better hope Andreazzoli can capture lightning in a bottle and get this course corrected because, believe it or not, there is still something to play for.
PDO is fit and is making the trip