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Decisions, Decisions

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On a day where the full spectrum of decision making was on display, from "stone cold" to "ignorance is bliss", more questions were raised than answers cemented.

Paolo Bruno

There's a reason Stekelenburg yelled at people in Dutch while Rudi Garcia yells at people in Italian. And it's not the reason why one of those verbs is in past tense while the other is present. No, it has nothing to do with dedication or commitment. Rudi Garcia is a romantic. A raconteur. The Legend of Totti, the Prodigal Son Daniele, Roma's Return from Hades, he weaves his tale and we huddle around and listen, entranced. But his true genius is hidden beyond a dark tunnel, we only see the ripples of its effect.

He's a good tactician, he has a solid philosophy which he sticks by. Makes good subs too. But that isn't his strength. The man is goddamn articulate. We see it in his press conferences and interviews, but the real evidence is on the pitch. I don't know how many MLK speeches the man has up his sleeve, but after each half time team talk he's had our players come out, well, Roman. That is the reason he learned Italian. Not to communicate his ideas, not to woo the ladies with a trifecta of romance languages, but to be able to express the words, whatever they may be, which have been missing from Roma for so long.

Forgive me for gushing, but even Football Manager says that he's some sort of Freud (18 mental) and Caesar (17 motivating) hybrid.  I'll attempt to be unbiased from here on out, and as proof, I'll say something nice about a man I lost all respect for in 2008. Today, Roberto Donadoni showed that he is a shrewd tactician. Not a great one, or even a good one, but a shrewd one. That's something nice, right?

And with that segue we can finally talk about yesterday's match against Parma. Like I said, Donadoni knew what he was doing. It doesn't take much to realize that Biabiany is fast and a 31 year old with a ponytail is slow. But the role that was given to him was interesting, and not one that you can easily convince a winger to perform. Him and Cassani made the first half very difficult for Ljajic and Balzaretti by applying both offensive and defensive pressure in tandem. This was epitomized by two moments in the game.

1. The goal. Watch as Biabiany makes space for Cassani, which is exploited. Balzaretti is pulled out and Biabiany is left on the good side of Castan, relatively free to score an admittedly difficult header.

2. Balzaretti's forward run. Sometime during the first half, there was a play when Balzaretti made a forward run, but hounded by Biabiany, passed the ball to Ljajic, who was being guarded by Cassani. Ljajic attempted to cut inside, only to find Biabiany, possibly due to inertia, waiting to tackle him.

These little combinations where abundant in Parma's play, another example being Amauri's and Cassano's classic target man+trequartista link up. Amauri would demand attention in the box, leaving a slightly reclined Cassano to pick up the ball in dangerous positions. Donadoni had his team set up in separate parts, each performing a simple task efficiently. This left his players with two options. Run the play or pass it to a different function.

Donadoni's method of spoon feeding the decisions to his less talented players suited Parma. But Roma and Rudi were on the other side of the spectrum. Roma's current system is based on fluidity and independent parts moving, attacking and defending together. This makes the decision making process for each player much more difficult, and it was clear to see which of the players were more successful in this endeavor.

You have chosen... Poorly.

1. Gervinho. I don't care if he won a penalty, there is absolutely no excuse for not passing to Borriello on the breakaway. None. Especially if you're going to make up for that mistake by diving. Yes he can run and yes he can dribble. But so can those freestyle footballers you see on YouTube. Gervinho, as a professional footballer, has to have some semblance of decision making and tactical knowledge. As of now, he's shown to have zero of both. Plus he's a diver, which makes me think that he doesn't even know that he's making bad decisions. Stop it Gervinho. Stop it.

2. Ljajic. I don't think he's generally a bad decision maker. I actually think he's pretty gifted in that regard, but yesterday he was too eager to prove himself. Plus, he still isn't used to playing without a presence in the box. Going from Toni to nothing would devastate anyone. It's difficult in football too.

3. Balzaretti. He's a solid defender. When De Rossi helped him out, it was tense, but we managed. The one time when he didn't, we conceded. But that has more to do with Balzaretti's speed than decision making. His decisions came into play when he went forward. Due to a lack of understanding and chemistry with Ljajic and some good defending by Biabiany, Balza was pushed toward the middle when he did roam forward. And Balza does not do left attacking midfielder. He was useless in that position, tripping over his feet once and not getting any crosses in (not that they would have helped).

4. De Sanctis. He wasn't as bad as the other three, but goalkeeper mistakes are amplified, and he almost made a terrible one.

You have chosen... Wisely.

1. Totti. Stone Cold, just look at that goal.

2. Benatia. Mr. Fancy didn't step wrong all game. Came out when he needed to, made some nice passes out of the defense, and beat everybody in the air. Every time I see him with his slick hair I can't help but imagine him in a satin Roma robe.

3. Pjanic. He's a class act. Knows when exactly to pass, shoot and dribble. He isn't strong or fast, but he gets past his man with intelligent feints and touches. Whoever said Totti and Pjanic can't play at the same time.

4. De Rossi. Had the easiest decision to make, but the hardest to execute. He made the right choice, as he did in the other two games of the season, and stayed behind as destroyer. It must be difficult for someone of his immense talent to not make the forays forward that everyone knows he is capable of. Garzie Daniele.

5. Borriello. In the short time he was on the pitch, he showed Rudi what he provides to a team, which coincidentally was exactly what had been missing all game.

Rudi's Turn

He's done everything right so far, from the interviews he's given to the players he's chosen. But to be honest, he's been quite lucky to have 3 below average to average teams to experiment against. Now he has some choices to make. It was clear from the start that the team was lacking a presence in the box. Unfortunately, it seems that the Florenzi as inside forward experiment isn't working as well as the team needs. Maicon seems comfortable with attacking the box, but Ljajic and Balzaretti are struggling without someone in the middle to pull defenders and receive crosses. At the same time, Borriello showed exactly what he offers to the team. He tracked back and defended, won headers and made smart runs. He also really wanted the penalty, but he didn't just take it, which is refreshing.

Now Rudi has to decide, does he continue the Florenzi experiment? Does he include Marco? At whose expense? Does he reprimand Gervinho for diving? He has a huge test coming up, probably one of the most defining moments of his career. It's going to be exciting seeing how he deals with it.

My father always told me: "Always do the right thing. When you don't know what the right thing is, do the hard thing."