Note: Choose the "They" in the header carefully.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a warmer-than-usual weekend. Everyone around the Bay were out wearing shorts, drinking copious amounts of fermented liquid bread, and whooping and hollering over the exposed frailties of the Barcelona system, which can apparently -- after several years and countless articles praising it -- be dismantled either by snapping at its practitioners' heels with clinical precision or by parking a double decker in front of Darth Helmet and punting to a poacher whose perm makes James Brown roll in his grave. Or by being the average coach in Italy on a lucky day.
Fortunately, only an old Italian man in a North Beach cafe witnessed my greater pain of seeing all of BarçaRoma's weaknesses laid threadbare in front of an even bigger audience than the Coppa Italia match. I suppose that was better and more merciful than a room full of brosephs that crowded for El Clasico 24 hours before...
Can anyone deny that Antonio Conte put on a masterclass show that's on par with the illusion that those are really his follicles? This team of Lupi looked as skinned as whatever deceased creature now resides on his scalp. Props where props are due**. Even when Juventus haven't looked up to par during the season, they've always fought back tooth and nail. The scudetto race has been neck-and-neck, and we're starting to reach that point where fans of one team in black stripes are bickering with fans of another team in black stripes. Oh, wait, that's Italy...
But my point, ultimately, isn't to lament over this loss. I saw no shortage of tweets saying "bi-polar Roma" in the aftermath of this decisive defeat.
I'd like to address that. There's little bi-polar about a team that's down to its 3rd and 4th string centerbacks. That's the stuff of UK soul classics. This is a squad that's defensively threadbare. You've got a wily veteran whose punched above his odometer far longer than expected and a young defender with shaky confidence who showed up in Rome just in time to avoid dropping a cool grand in the Magath Swear Jar. DDR is undoubtedly a gladiator, but his role as a CB is about on par with asking me to drop into a round of Call of Duty online with lefty controls and telling me to carry my team to victory in Team Deathmatch. Asking Gago to subsequently take De Rossi's role is like asking me to play in those same conditions, only after spiking my water with Something Bad and Hallucinogenic.
The team has undoubtedly been exposed time and time again this season, and much like Number 37 for Barcelona vs. Arbeloa on Saturday, it's the same attempt with the same result nearly every time. Lest we forget, however, that this is a squad that's missing the three CB's that defined it just a year ago. Sabatini, God bless him, apparently did not wait for last Friday to begin adding more-than-just-tobacco to his twice-hourly intake. Thusly, we know where the frailties are. They know where the frailties are. The question is, how much will they invest in them this summer? Bonus question is: "if Pescara don't get promoted, does Big Tom blow on the dice and bring back Zeman if they finally tire of The Barcelona Way?"
Side note: Isn't it funny how just a few years back, we cried for a prima punta? Shoes and other feet...
Jumping ahead: This was a decisive and crushing defeat, but I do believe there is still an opportunity for European nights next season.
Just as I often tell everyone not to blow each other after a huge win, I will tell you to put that noose and chair away. If Roma end up in CL (which could happen, if calcioscomesse comes back to bite Udinese, Napoli, and The Men Who Stare at Goats) or Europa League (still a real possibility with a strong final push), the necessary investments are obvious. Backtracking again to my previous thought, they need a complete defensive overhaul, and a few better pieces in the midfield. We know this. I want Isla, at minimum. Who else would you put alongside Scarface for next season, assuming Juan rides off into the Flamengo sunset, Kjaer returns to being fined by Wolfsburg for his hair sticking out funny in that headband, and Heinze can't roll back the odometer (which is considered fraud in most states)?
Final note: I saw lots of haterade splashed at "Macho Man" Pablo Osvaldo during the match. Before you race to your keyboards, go back and start adding up those 3 points he earned the team. Now look at the table. Now back to those 3s, now back to the table. Fantasize about whatever big name striker your Football Manager game told you to buy last June, this team got Osvaldo*, and he's poached and clawed his way into some goals that we wish Borriello would've nailed last year.
Tonight, and all the way to Fiorentina and then to Napoli, we love and discuss La Roma. And hope to hear some Antonello Venditti.
*I reserve the right to fawn over Borini in future articles.
**Get mad at Lichtsteiner all you want for provoking Lamela; I'll give him credit. I'm glad he can hold that wrist up to show four fingers after giving up two high velocity Derby handballs in a row. At least you can type emails now, Stefan. Congrats.