Reasons to coach Roma:
- Lifelong Roma fan.
- Distaste of a comfortable life.
- People (outside of Italy, used to) like them.
- That Totti guy sure is good.
- My significant other has landed a job in Rome and I don’t really think I’m the stay at home type.
- Those club polo shirts aren’t too bad on the eye.
- "You are going to pay me millions of dollars, just to tell a group of guys how they should kick a ball around a paddock on a Sunday?"
- I want to steer the Titanic away from the Iceberg and be lauded as ‘the guy that saved the unsavable’.
Reasons NOT to coach Roma:
- Guaranteed to mortally offend at least a third of the cities population at any one time over a host of issues.
- No Europe = No prestige.
- Enjoy the quiet life.
- Calcio is only a game after all.
- I like to rub shoulders with world football’s big boys and I hear German is all the rage these days.
- "Your transfer budget is a bag of onions, now bring me Zlatan."
- Game day public transport is a nightmare.
- Achieve irrationally good results or we will put your head on a spike. Yours truly, I Tifosi.
Whilst by no means a European household name, Garcia presents an admirable enough coaching CV with Champions League experience at Moneyball prices that more than adequately lives up to the presently (and forcibly) modest ambitions at Trigoria.
Garcia was a modest French footballer forced into an early retirement at 28, following injury. Whilst certainly not of the Jose Mourinho wunderkind coaching school, he worked his way into football management where he cut his teeth at the lower end of the scale. After a couple of seasons working odd jobs at Saint Ettiene, Garcia actually did a work experience gig observing Rafa Benitez at Valencia. Reports from this time, alleging a goatee beard and tracksuit pants game-day combo, are yet to be foundered (I can’t back this up, I didn’t even look).
Once he gained his coaching certificates he took up his first post and successfully steered Dijon (a side whose lunchtime sandwiches must surely have been without peer) into Ligue 2 and on a cup run into the semis.
His performance was rewarded with a contract coaching in Ligue 1 with Le Mans where his team performed well enough to draw the attention of the bosses of his former club, Lille LOSC. The rest, I am sure, you are well briefed on. Under the svelte eyes of Garcia, in 2011, Lille went on to win their first title in 56 years and added the cup for fun. Playing a fluent 4-3-3 (adapting to 4-3-1-2 ) with aggressive fullbacks, the northerners shook up a rather sedate and predictable league.
The high-flying Frenchmen also set about establishing a plucky reputation on the continent where they scored impressive victories against Fenebahce and Liverpool (2010) and away to CSKA Moscow (2011). But what the statistics of Garcia’s reign in Lille do not display is the arterial bleeding of talent from his squad.
The loss of players like Cabaye and Hazard in their prime are hardly the blueprints for sustained success. And once the dressing room becomes a departure lounge for the team’s best, there is only so much emergency surgery a coach can perform (Milan, anyone?).
It was then with somewhat reduced fanfare that Garcia announced his intended departure from Lille for season 2013/14. What did tickle the curiosity bone though, was his chosen destination. AS Roma.
Seriously dude, what the hell?
You have to admit, his name was a little scary, wasn’t it. My mind went straight to centre back lateral passing fests with occasional nippy runs by little dudes around the side of the box. Fortunately for those who made it through the Enrique era, he is Spanish in heritage only and far more pragmatic with his football style.
Monsieur Garcia certainly ticks the boxes as a coach with plenty of ambition who has enough faith in his methodology to give the bold new world of Serie A a go. Indeed, the ghosts of Spalletti’s past still echo through the Olimpico with sweet promises of free-flowing football yearning for the devotion of an audience enraptured in the moment, screaming "never slaves to the result."
In Garcia, they might have just found their man to take them there.
From what we have seen so far, there has been an emphatic return to the value of team ‘grinta’ with aggressive and fluid performances. Garcia came into this partnership fully schooled on the circumstances surrounding Roma, the American ownership aches as well as the fiscal thirst for Champions League runs. The club is a sensible match for a man who has clearly shown an aptitude for getting a little bit extra out of that little bit less.
Although not as quotationally spectacular as Zeman, Garcia certainly isn’t afraid to give the media something to write about. His media performances have so far have been refreshing and brash enough to gain respect amongst the hard nosed Roma faithful who are a little nervous about handing the keys to the shed over to foreign neighbours again.
Garcia’s handling of Vice Regals Totti and De Rossi has been masterful and thus far he is yet to pain himself a target for the fury of the ultras. Most interestingly though, has been his stance on the no-sale of Miralem and his publicised heel digging on the eventual heist of Lamela to London. In doing so, Rudi is drawing a clear distinction between his dressingroom and the murky smoking quarters of Sabatini and the American Blackberry charging stations.
It is this line that must be masterfully treaded in order for 2013/14 to repair the last two years. In simple terms, the fans need a team they can be proud of and that includes a solid showing of local Roman boys heading the vanguard to a tilt at the top five spots of Serie A. On field success with his current crop (curtain haired and nutella fiends inclusive) is needed. The occasional result against Milan or Juve will not be enough. This team needs to efficiently churn out the points against the lower half of the table. And yes, I agree we at Chiesa should adopt a fine system for every time this no-shit statement is trodden out throughout the year.
The purchase of Maicon was a bold statement of intent. And the injection of his marauding runs have so far placed a welcome relief from the ‘pass it to Totti no matter what,’ game plan served under the Andreazolli era. Likewise, the unchaining of Florenzi to run himself within an inch of his life is another crowd pleasing move (in midfield and attack) that will hopefully place less attacking focus in the hands of Michael Bradley and De Rossi chips over the top.
It is the coupling of this aggression with a newly solidified defensive mid pairing of a re-born DDR and Kevin "I crush children (but only the bad ones) in my steel Jaws" Strootman, that gives us enough reason to be excited. These two guys place the armour behind the shield, giving the side that little extra bit of backbone and hopefully concretes over our ultra concedable reputation from last year.
It is however, with a slightly squinted and flinching eye that I cast a nervous glance at our front three. First things first, Ljajic and Florenzi are class kids that will thrive in most formations. But it is the centre of the front three or the current lack thereof that sticks out its most unwelcome of heads.
Yes Totti CAN play the front spot in a three. But really, is that the best way to drive a Ferrari? If we truly want to be the balls against the wall attacking powerhouse that makes visiting teams quake and reduce their attacking width, then we need someone to get on the end of crosses and knock in goals inside the box. I doubt Rudi can in all good conscious order the team’s mentor and idol into a ramming job week after week.
This of course leaves us with Destro and Borriello. I don’t know enough about meniscuses, except that if I had my way their injury would be outlawed from sporting contests. Borriello whilst ticking all of the boxes appearance wise of a #9 was certainly not on Rudi’s speed dial and is fast evolving into a late night booty call.
Gervinho. Well he is officially in the team, so might as well take up some space in this column. Gervinho on his day will be perfectly acceptable. The problem is, Roma is a rather temperamental beast and trying to sync the fluctuating waters of tifosi, squadra and calciatore just seems a bridge too far. I don’t think he’ll make it.
So what’s our Andalucian bloodlined Allenatore to do?
Well the first thing he has to do is actually play a team who actually possess a credible attacking threat, I guess. Until that is delivered up, mindless speculation and what ifs remain the only sensible way to forge a successful season.
Truth be told, Rudi Garcia the coach hasn’t really been tested against the so far respected ideals of Rudi Garcia the man. In opting for a stylish nouveau chic French approach, Roma are trying to offset the cultural cringe that has descended upon Trigoria following the Unicredit deal.
It may seem a little odd, French cigarillos being smoked in a whiskey bar. But I’m of the firm belief that in this smart Frenchman we have ourselves a figure that has the balls and brains to patch the haywire ego of this team back into something more used to being seen on Tuesday nights in January instead of Disney stores.