After only a few matches during the seemingly temporary Aurelio Andreazzoli era, the comparison was Claudio Ranieri. Today, the comparison is Claudio Ranieri. The similarities are undeniable, from the manner of their play to the devil may care approach to team selection - Dodo? Really? - but it all comes down to one thing: philosophy. The end is the end is the end; the means are whatever convoluted journey one needs walk to get there.
When Ranieri first danced into Rome, there was a cheat sheet of shorts floating around the internets. Though memory fails, I believe they were from his book, but perhaps it was simply an interview. In it, he detailed his methodologies. Most were rather simple, as was his approach to the game: worry about your team only, play simple football, defend well and allow individual talent in the final third to score goals, et cetera, et cetera. And Roma did. Though 2009-10 was a far cry from the swashbuckling, sanity-shunning, neutral-wooing Spallettimania, it was, if we can say, more successful over the short term. (Ranieri is still Roma's best coach statistically in the last years.) The football wasn't quite as appealing, but the results were easier to swallow.
And here we are in microcosm once again. Remove Zeman, proponent of the progressive; insert Aurelio, preacher of pragmatism. Only Zeman didn't nearly lead Roma to multiple titles, he simply had a pretty decent run in December. Ish.
The first 45 minutes against Torino were the worst these eyes have seen from Roma since, well, I don't recall. This was worse than That Match against Livorno, because this time, they actually showed up. It wasn't as though they didn't care or had walked out solely for the paycheck; no, there's only one word to appropriately encapsulate those minutes: outclassed.
Outclassed by Torino.
It's not a bad squad, but it's not a good one, either. Certainly not one which would challenge for Europe unless eight starters were replaced, and it's not one which will put fear into the heart of its challenger. See: Roma's lineup on the day. Yet they completely played Roma off the pitch in the first half, dominating possession, both in quantity and quality, and putting the defense to task time and time again.
Actually, they outplayed Roma throughout. The only difference in the second half was Roma appeared to be, at times, a fully capable opponent. Truth told, Torino deserved three points, maybe four or five. But they didn't get it, because Roma closed down the six if not the eighteen (finally), Maarten made one excellent save (the free kick) and in doing so, they allowed individual talent and the more mid-table-reliant set piece goal to get them two goals. Three points. Easy as pie. Mmhmm.
The Erik Lamela goal is simply confirmation of his celestial talent at the sport. There is an ample amount of talent in Rome, but none with a ceiling so high - if there exists any ceiling at all. Less the manner of the goal than the ease with which it was executed. He scored that goal with all the strain of me putting on a pair of pants, and damnit, can I put on a pair of pants. Twas almost as though it was second nature to casually place a perfect ball into the top corner from thirty meters while being hassled by two defenders. Because no biggie.
Pablo Osvaldo? The week of Pablo got more enticing, because he did what he does: score a goal and do naff all for the remaining ninety minutes. Well, that's not entirely true - there was an outrageously skillful turn somewhere late in the second half, but that's all. So do you still sell? Sure, but every goal bumps the price just a little higher. No harm there - and the goals are nice too. Thanks for the parting gift.
Despite the nature of the match, despite the goal of Erik, the most telling conclusions came from the approach: this match was forgotten before it'd even begun. The focus was always Inter - the lineup was indication enough. The performance of the B-team then led to the more telling conclusion: they weren't poor because played beneath their capacity; they were poor because this club has little quality in depth. Talent, once again, is not quality.
A true work in progress, this one. Perhaps Europe isn't the promised land it appears to be.
- Back when Alessio Cerci was writing his ticket out of Rome, it was plainly obvious he had talent, but simply needed to mature before one day being the type of player Roma - at the time, anyway - could use. He is technically gifted but was often very selfish and guilty of incredibly poor decisions.
He is much, much closer now.
- The Dodo placement was slightly odd, but if Aurelio was resting bodies, it's not a bad option, because while he may have been bought as a leftback, he's not one. The only problem with moving him higher up the pitch is his one overwhelming skill clearly comes with the pitch unfolding before him, using space to run, beat his opponents over a vast stretch of green, which obviously works better when beginning from a position deeper in the formation. In this respect, he's a lot like Cicinho, just younger and soberer. So the left prong of a 4-3-3 is far from ideal. His skill set is so skewed that he's almost a player whose capacity to perform in a team will be system-dependent. He'd be much better as a wide midfielder, for example. He'd also be infinitely better on loan for 48 months.
Dodo is a chip. You send him on loan but keep hold of the contractual rights to the talent and see how he turns out. (Similar to Panagiotis Tachtsidis.) For the ambitions of Roma, he's not quite up to snuff.
- Commentary on Walter Sabatini's capacity to build a team versus spotting talent here. His eye is brilliant, but he needs a partner to construct a complete squad. This is, right now, a collection of bodies, and a fitting display of just why someone so system-dependent as Zeman failed.
This club does not have two squads to compete in Serie A and Europe, given the demands of rotation. It just doesn't. This is why clubs like Atalanta and Chievo make Europe one year and get relegated the next. Roma may not get relegated under such strain, but walking this squad out once every three weeks over the course of a full campaign will sit you in tenth pretty quickly. They might just be one more year of serious overhaul away.
- The thought of "resting" Marquinho and Torosidis, both having been completely exposed in the last weeks, is absolutely frightening for the long-term.
- Sad though it is to say, Nicolas Burdisso needs a gold watch and a handshake. Oof.
- This club has too many "tweeners". Dodo is neither a left wing nor a left back. Same with Marquinho. Erik Lamela is in the no man's land between striker, winger, and playmaker, because he got lost on a milk carton until he found his good stuff once again. The goal masks an incredibly poor performance from him. (Again.) Michael Bradley is lost as to his role in the midfield half the time, not unlike the majority of Roma's men in the middle, and much can be said of a number of players. Federico Balzaretti is neither a left back nor a passable professional footballer. Ivan Piris was sitting back far too much - he and Erik didn't repeat the interplay which had become so successful in the fall - which was perhaps as a result of his recent role as a centerback and the need to cover Torosidis' runs. The adaptability is wonderful, and a huge asset to the club in the long run, but from time to time, it's just a big glob of, "And what the fuck are you doing today?"
- Like, what the hell happened to Federico Balzaretti. Not today, but in August. Maybe Prandelli isn't such a great idea - he seems to be destroying Roma's established internationals for club play.
Coppa on Wednesday. Given the club which is already in the final, this is huger than huge.
I need a third derby. Just one more time.