Lots of things have been lacking in Rome over the last seasons. A title, for starters. A consistently good goalkeeper. A prima punta who can play and produce over the course of a full season without infuriating the masses. A decent Brazilian attacker. A Swede. Someone with glorious hair. Even neck tattoos have disappeared entirely with Fernando Gago and Cicinho's contract. Go figure. But nothing has been so absent in Rome as a coach who can consistently turn around a club in the locker room at the half. Nothing.
And it's nice to see some change, finally.
If you want to erect a statue to Luciano Spalletti outside of every Roma-owned or rented property this side of Saturn, I'm there with my hands forming to perfection that man's bronze buttocks. I'll even give up partial custody of the kid I don't have to shine his glittering bald head at each memorial every other Saturday and once a month on Wednesdays. (It's the thought that counts.) And if he wants to return to Rome, he can sign the contract in my blood if he'd like, just get someone to hold my hand and tell me it's going to be okay first. The man's a legend. But in this respect, in the ability to turn around what is so clearly wrong, he is no Aurelio Andreazzoli. Neither was Claudio Ranieri, nor Vincenzo Montella. And Luis Enrique could turn diamonds into coal. Somehow. In this one respect, if only - and probably only - this one respect, Aurelio stands above the rest.
This match didn't parallel the Torino fixture on the weekend. No, it was an indistinguishable copy for the first forty-five minutes, Pablo Osvaldo goal-wise nod aside. Roma was poor against a poorer team on paper and deserved some corporal punishment in the locker room at the half. What happened during that fifteen minute sojourn? We don't know. But what we know is this: a different side emerged for the second half, and it was brilliant. Not Barcelona, oh-my-god-I-can't-handle-this-much-dominance type of glittering showpiece, but a ruthlessly effective whole making use of its parts.
The Federico Balzaretti sub gets a great deal of credit, and it well should considering the circumstances, but I'm not sure what other move there was to make. Marquinho was being exposed defensively in that first half and with Alessandro Florenzi injured, the easy move was to push Marquinho - still having a decent game in other respects - a bit higher while bringing in Balzaretti, who's actually been a solid defender this year, merely let down by his inability to do anything else at all. Sub made, team solidified, result won. So a hat tip to Florenzi for seeing this all during the dying moments of the half and injuring himself for the greater cause. Hero.
More than one single move, however, was that there is an indefinable, nigh palpable aura of improvement to the Roma of the second half versus the Roma of the first half, something which is no longer a wonderful surprise, but a pattern. Obviously going from a D- to a D+ doesn't do much in the grand scheme some weeks, but it's something, and something is better than nothing. That in and of itself should get Aurelio Andreazzoli a longer look at the coaching position than perhaps the naked eye would indicate. At the absolute least, he understands how to read his own players in the first half; there's a distinct ability to read the opposition as well. Put the right pieces in house and you'd be shocked at how far something so simple can go, or even how lacking in modern top-flight football it really can be. His subs were once again perfect, and his ability to read the match over the course of ninety minutes was more than necessary for a simple result. This match didn't change everything, but it certainly cast the brightest light of all on Aurelio. The only question is how long the glare will last.
If Aurelio Andreazzoli was 39 instead of 59, he would be AS Roma's permanent coach right now. Does that mean anything? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll know shortly, one would assume.
Oh, and there's Mattia Destro, but we've done that already. He's the complete package and he's in the midst of his arrival. Enjoy the ride.
- One of the reasons Erik Lamela and Ivan Piris linked up so well from October on was a shared ability to play at a high pace. It's kind of that straightforward. Erik's fast. Ivan's fast. They can play and move at a similar pace. Partnership formed.
The brilliance of Lamela's vision on Mattia's first goal veils that fact that it was inch perfect. Because guess what? Mattia Destro is the only player in Rome getting to that ball in stride. Angle, pace, ability to read space.
Those two are a dream pair for more reasons than their respective individual talents.
- Erik's brilliant. Been there, done that. New toy to play with.
- Aurelio really does make good, solid subs. Though the Balzaretti switch seemed the obvious move, a lot of coaches would've brought in a like-for-like replacement such as Simone Perrotta. It's another underrated area in which he excels.
- For whatever reason, Daniele De Rossi and Michael Bradley struggle together. It's odd because usually two players who can't play with one another demand more of the ball or command the same space in the box or...whatever. Two combative midfielders? That should be fine. Perhaps it's a function of Bradley enjoying the middle far more than being shoved out to the right. (Michael was one of the players who made an individual leap from the first to second half.)
- Vasilis Torosidis had an absolutely awful match.
And then he scored that goal.
- Maarten is playing his way out of Rome. Deflection or not, he has far too ingrained a habit of not moving for shots which land in the back of the net or close. Even the appearance of effort goes a long way. Unless you're a surgeon. In which case...yeah. Do your work.
Handanovic, for the record, stopped a near identical goal to the one scored by Inter in the first half. It's not one Stek should have been expected to make, but it'd be nice to finally have a world class keeper in Rome. My physician approves.
- There are rumors that the coach will be decided before the final in May, which obviously leaves out the idea that an emotional victory could sway the decision via public outcry. Of course these rumors are probably untrue, but they do exist.
- This derby counts 1.5x, so it is truly a best of three. Because I say so.
May 26th, Coppa Italia final, all for the silver star and a guaranteed spot in Europe. Small matter of it being a derby, too. This will be the biggest match in years and years. Perhaps since the last sell-out in Rome.
Whatever happens, we're to be thankful this team has finally offered us something lingering cruel like the eternal carrot over the last years: a true occasion.