While I've been at the helm here for nearly a year, the first stones in our beloved church were set several years ago. Through a series of virtual roundtable discussions, my predecessor and his cohorts did what any good Roma fan would do; seek out those who share your delusions and, through a series of confessions, affirmations and penances, come to terms with your co-dependency.
Although the names and faces have changed, I think you'll find the spirit is the same; none of us really know why we're here or why we keep coming back, but you can't imagine giving this much of yourself--your hopes, your disappointments and your cautiously guarded optimism--to any other club.
So, in keeping with tradition, here is our Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire 2014. It should be noted that, due to some scheduling conflicts, we answered the questions at different points over the past week or so, so some responses were made prior to the Champions League draw and transfer deadline day.
1.Optimism is high after last season, what needs to happen for Roma to actually win the Scudetto?
Jonas: Too much to be honest: Benatia and Destro staying, Juve, Napoli and Inter to fail in the competition, keep injuries at a minimum, Totti to keep up his form, a blockbuster transfer from Saba on August 31, Church needs to be kept intact and not blown up by Roman extremists, Lady Luck by our side for at least thirty weeks...Winning a title depends on a lot of factors. Time will tell.
Sam: See, the thing that I don't like about this is that I can't read what the others have written (Editors Note: Sam was right, I should've used Google docs. My bad). Surely someone has said that we need to have more points than all the other teams or win more games? On a semi-serious note we need to convert those shitty draws into wins, the Olimpico must be an impregnable fortress and the defence must remain the best on the peninsular, with or without Mehdi.
No Apple No Fiesta: Basically they need to not be Roma for a season
Masonio: What needs to happen...Manolas has to replicate Benatia's performance from last season, Cole needs to be a revelation, Gervinho will have to at least equal his total of mis-kicks that end up in the net and one of Ljajic or Iturbe chip in with a solid share of support in attack. It would also help if Castan, De Rossi, Nainggolan, Pjanic, Destro & Totti are healthy all year; Strootman comes back completely recovered two months early and Destro (or his replacement) pots 20 goals. The Milanese clubs having a repeat year, Allegri limiting Juve to around 75-80 points and Napoli struggling just enough wouldn't hurt, either. A lot needs to happen.
Dhaw: Get knocked out of Champions League Group Stages, Get eliminated from Coppa Italia, Juventus gets caught in Calciopoli 2.0. We just don't have enough firepower to go all the way to win the Scudetto but we surely will challenge all the way till the end. It's very simple for me : I want them to play for the shirt, for the city, for the fans. Winning and Losing is part of this game, I want to see boys become men and men become legends.
Bren: Health and luck. If everyone remains on the pitch and Roma plays the way they did last season, they should be right in the thick of it. Luck in the sense that they'll need Juve, Napoli and probably Inter to drop some points along the way and/or suffer injuries of their own.
2. Okay, be honest, where do you think Roma will finish?
Jonas: Second again, sigh. I actually predict a similar season like last one, maybe fewer points due to European midweek games. But Garcia's magic is not over yet and there are enough bodies to survive and qualify for the CL 2015-2016. A Scudetto winner, however, is the most consistent team in the league (see: Juventus) and Roma is still too much... well, Roma. One of Napoli or Inter might even sneak past Roma between round 35 and 38.
Sam: 2nd I've had this nagging feeling of uncertainty ever since the World Cup I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but then I remembered that I was a Roma fan. The hardest thing about this season is the expectations. If I tell you all 2nd now then later in the year I'll try and convince myself that I shouldn't be throwing random objects at strangers walking past my house should the S word fail to eventuate.
NANF: Depending on which side of the bed I wake up on it goes back and forth between second and sixth.
Masonio: 3rd if Roma crash out of CL/EL rather quickly, 5th if otherwise.
Dhaw: Always the bridesmaid never the bride. We have a team that should qualify for next year's Champions League. Now whether it's 2nd or 3rd I don't care, as long as they qualify.
Bren: A lot of variables are at play here, if they crash out of Europe and can devote more resources to the league, then I think they've got what it takes to win, but common sense and good reason says second again.
3. If Roma can't capture the title, who will?
Jonas: Juve pulling a Scudetto poker (‘four of a kind'). As long as Roma plays in a ‘full house' every two weeks and we ‘flush' Lazio down the toilet, I'm fine with it like a ‘straight' guy having ‘two pairs' of chicks in his bed.
Sam: Surely that Parmalat team is due? Juve appointing Allegri was a laughable own goal so I'm going to say Napoli. Honestly they should have achieved more in the last 5 years. Beware a fit Fiorentina.
NANF: Anyone but Juve would be fine, so Viola.
Dhaw: Juventus. Max Allegri has inherited an amazing team from Conte, those players can adapt to Allegri's game and those guys are winners, they know how to win and Conte has done a lot of good work with them, they are not going to forget how to win just because Conte left.
Bren: Juventus is the easy answer, Napoli certainly has a shot, but they've got some issues, plus everyone in Naples makes Lorenzo Insigne cry, so I'll say Juve, which will make Allegri a genius, right?
4. Flash forward to May, at the end of the season the top five teams will be...?
Jonas: The mind: Juve/Inter/Roma/Napoli/Fiorentina. The heart: Roma/who cares/who cares/who cares/who cares/who cares
Sam: In no particular order - Roma, Inter, Napoli, Juve, Fiorentina. At end of the season could someone please arrange them in the correct order so I beat Jonas?
NANF: In no particular order Roma, Viola, Inter, Napoli, Cagliari
Masonio: Juventus, Napoli, Internazionale Milano, Roma, Fiorentina.
Bren: You know what? I AM gonna go in a particular order: Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Inter Milan, Fiorentina
5. Relegation clubs?
Jonas: Sassuolo can't repeat their trick of last season and go down, Palermo might just make it thanks to its five different trainers. Empoli and Cesena better keep their bags packed, they won't last long in Serie A.
Sam: Sassuolo, Cesena and Chievo
NANF: Cesena, Empoli, Chievo, As much as I want to see Palermo go back down. Zamparini just makes life more interesting.
Masonio: Let's say Sassuolo, Cesena & Empoli.
Dhaw: Empoli, Sassuolo, Cesena
Bren: I think Sassuolo has more than enough firepower to remain up again, so I'll go Empoli, Cesena and Chievo
6. Capocannoniere and how many will he score?
Jonas: Luca Toni, 24 goals. And I keep saying this until the man retires.
Sam: Gonzalo Higuain 23, pipping Destro who will get 20 (but for which team!?)
NANF: Ibarbo, 24
Masonio: Gonzalo Higuain, 18.
Dhaw: Di Natale. I'd love to see Di Natale end his career on a high
Bren: For the sake of my fantasy team, I hope its Luca Toni, but I'll go with Higuain at 21 goals.
7. Best Serie A transfer of the summer?
Jonas: I'm gonna stick my head out here: Osvaldo to Inter. He might even reach the 25-goals-mark.
Sam: The non-sale of Destro. Seriously, I don't think anyone has gotten a player this year that has really captured my imagination. Dodo will do well at Inter, but I mourn him not.
NANF: Balotelli leaving is the best thing to happen to Serie A this summer.
Masonio: Nemanja Vidic, Inter Milan or Mario Balotelli leaving Italy (& Milan).
Dhaw: Mario Balotelli
Bren: I think it's going to be a toss-up between Iturbe to Roma and Kingsley Coman, it all depends on playing time
8. Best Roma transfer?
Jonas: Was gonna say Iturbe but I choose Ucan. Kid's got class and he's got a lot more flair than say Urby, Cole, Paredes or Keita.
Sam: Did I just stutter? I really, really, really like the look of Ucan, maybe not this year though. Ashley Cole could be very important for us winning some key games.
NANF: Not having to see Marquinho for a whole year is going to be nice. But on a more serious note, I'll go with Astori not because I think he was the best, but he needs to be the best for Roma to succeed this season.
Masonio: Going by bang for the buck, I like Salih Uçan.
Dhaw: Dodo Out, Ashley Cole In. (Juan Manuel Iturbe was an excellent addition)
Bren: I just said Iturbe could be one of the best moves in the league, but outside of him, I'll say Ashley Cole. I just have a feeling he'll have some big moments this season.
9. Roma's Top Scorer?
Jonas: My mind: Destro. My heart: Totti. My pants: Borriello.
Sam: The flag grinding, corner heading, semi-bearded Mattia Destroooo! Do not sell this man!
NANF: Iturbe. Him and Totti will develop a telepathic connection by November and blow our minds. Probably setting the bar to high but that's what we Romanisti do.
Masonio: Unless he leaves in the next three days, Mattia Destro.
Dhaw: Gervais Yao Kouassi.
Bren: Hmm, this is a tough one, but if he gets close to 2,000 minutes, I think Destro will benefit tremendously from the pairing of Iturbe and Gervinho on the flanks; he should get plenty of easy chances
10. Roma's Top Assist man?
Jonas: Pjanic or Ucan. Whoever gets most minutes in the end. Both have a killer pass.
Sam: Ce` solo un Capitano. And Miralem.
NANF: Totti, I think Ljajic keeps it close though.
Masonio: Francesco Totti
Dhaw: Miralem Pjanic
Bren: Another close call, with all the speed surrounding him, Totti can easily rack up 12 assists this season. Pjanic, Gervinho and possibly Iturbe should be close, however.
11. Totti and Gervinho came close last season, so will anyone knock out a double-double? (goals +assists)
Jonas: If you count in CL and Coppa, one of those two should actually reach a double-double. But 1) Totti won't and can't play 40+ games this season and 2) Yao will participate in the Africa Cup of Nations and will thereby miss a chunk of Serie A so chances are slim it's one of those two. Maybe Iturbe if he explodes on the big stage.
Sam: The obvious choice here is Totti and Pjanic. But if Stroot gets fit again I reckon he is a real contender.
Masonio: Nope, unless you count European fixtures but let's not.
Dhaw: Gervais Yao Kouassi.
Bren: Jonas brings up a good point re: playing time, but if anyone can do it, I'll say Gervinho, his speed is just such an incredible and unrivaled weapon, and with Destro in the middle, he should get a fair number of assists.
12. What will Totti's stats look like at the end of the year: appearances, goals and assists
Jonas: For Serie A: 28 apps, 9 goals, 11 assists. During this time, approx two hundred babies will be born in Rome thanks to his magic.
Sam: You guys know I'm not much of a stats guy mainly due to my deep-seated laziness. I'm going to say they look very impressive but directly in correlation with the appearances column. So 16 - 7 - 9.
NANF: 24-16-10, Symbolism always wins.
Masonio: Serie A: 32 appearances, 7 goals, 14 assists, Total: 42 appearances, 13 goals, 20 assists.
Dhaw: 24 - 8 - 10
Bren: I'll go 25 appearances, 9 league goals and 11 assists
13. We benefitted from a few resurrections/career seasons last year, who is bound to fall back to earth and why?
Jonas: There are a lot of possible victims here: Maicon, Strootman, Gervinho, Florenzi, De Sanctis, Castan, Nainggolan...They all have a lot to prove after last season's display. I think Maicon is gonna have trouble in the bigger games (age, motivation, tempo) while it's still unsure how Strootman will return after the injury. We might have to wait until season 2015-2016 to see Kevin back to his best... in Manchester. Whoops!
Sam: That's a very Roma centric question and I commend you on breaching this topic. Morgan De Sanctis (gasp!).
NANF: Gervinho, with the increase in minutes for everyone I think his average stats are finally going to be exposed for being average
Masonio: If I have to pick anyone it would be Gervinho or Rudi Garcia. Both overachieved by a lot last season. Sue me.
Dhaw: No one will. Rudi's game suits every player we have and confidence is high and every player prevails when the confidence is high plus we have players who support and back the guy next to them on the field, it's a collective effort. Each one of them carries the other on their shoulders. They play for one another and that really goes a long way.
Bren: I have to go with Maicon, this summer isn't proving otherwise, either. I think we captured lightning in a bottle with him last season, but with no other option out there, he'll still get plenty of minutes, which could be the problem.
14. Okay, flip it around, who will be Roma's breakout player this season? Why?
Jonas: Ucan. Why? Because he can.
Sam: All hail the return of Kevin Strootman! If you don't count that as breakout I'll go with Iturbe, I like him and was pleased we signed him
NANF: Does Cole breaking out of England count? If not, Iturbe seems like he is going to fit in here well. He really impressed me these last couple preseason games and if he keeps his confidence up, he could make that 30m seem like nothing.
Masonio: Ljajic. If he gets some continuity and makes the most of it, he could have a good season. He can't really go anywhere but up anyway.
Dhaw: Miralem Pjanic. He had an amazing start to the 2013 season and was fantastic up until January, then his game dropped and he started to disappear in games just like Coco did. I expect a lot from Miralem this season, he is a very important piece of puzzle in Rudi's set up. Miralem is immensely talented and a very technical player who controls the pace of Rudi's game and for us to reach the summit Miralem needs to remain consistent throughout the season and this year I believe he can do it. He is the brain in that midfield of ours.
I'd also like to mention Adem. He needs minutes and if Rudi gives him the minutes, he can really be a very very important player for us. There is no questioning his talent, he just needs to be serious about his football.
Bren: I'm gonna follow Dhaw's lead here. Pjanic is already a well-known entity and one of the league's best players, but I think this is the year he really makes a name for himself. With all the attacking talent on the team, his key passes and assist numbers could go through the roof, while he seems to be asserting himself as the top FK taker. He's mature enough, acclimated to Roma and has a top notch supporting cast, this will be the year we're faced with some serious offers for him, I'm sure.
15. Can Alessandro Florenzi actually be a full back?
Jonas: Alessandro can be anything he f*ckin wants. He can be a fluffy unicorn or Nutella jar as well, with the right kind of imagination. He's versatile enough to play RB but Juve, Napoli and most teams in the CL are gonna burn him. It's good to know we have a decent third-option-RB in case of emergency though.
Sam: Only in the sense that his name can be put there on the team lineup sheet. Freaking ridiculous thing to do.
NANF: Florenzi might eventually make a capable right back but it would be a waste of his talents to do so.
Masonio: Yes, but only for a Serie B club.
Dhaw: Absolutely not.
Bren: I'll have more to say on this in a separate post, but I think if anyone on the club is capable of a massive position change, it's him. Does that make him Roma's best option at right back? Of course not.
16. How many appearances will Mehdi Benatia make for Munich?
Jonas: 30 games for Bayern, 4 for Roma (short loan spell in January). What? Sabatini can pull that off.
Sam: Extremely disappointing piece of business, Mehdi we all loved you so. He will go to Bayern and play most of their games.
NANF: Less than Totti will for Roma.
Masonio: Around 50 across all competitions.
Dhaw: Don't know, don't care
Bren: I ain't mad at ya, Mehdi. With Javi Martinez out all year, Benatia should start nearly every match, but with AFCON coming up, it will be interesting to see if past injuries catch up with him and take some of the bloom off his rose.
17. Describe Jeremy Menez's return to Serie A in eight words or less.
Sam: Where do butterflies go when it rains?
NANF: Wait, Jeremy Menez is back in Serie A?
Masonio: He's on Milan, right?
Bren: You get one chance at a first impression
18. Okay, you can bring back one recent former Roma player to round out this squad, who do you choose and why?
Jonas: Marquinhos because the CB-position really needs class if Benatia leaves. ‘Hos and and Castan could form a great Brazilian partnership thanks to the language.
Sam: Be still my beating heart! I yearn for the Aquilani that knocked out Real Madrid in 2008. Oh what a night! Mind you the logical choice here would be Eric Lamela. Ah fuck it, Luca Toni. Win me a trophy Luca!
NANF: Marcos. This whole Benatia side show makes me miss him even more. He is one year wiser and he has Champion's League experience, he also loves us
Masonio: Mehdi Benatia. Because he's a good defender.
Dhaw: Marcos Aoás Corrêa. Fantastic kid, I'd give away 10 Romagnoli's for 1 Marcos Aoás Corrêa. The boy is very special, very mature for his age and his football IQ is tremendous for someone who is only 20 years old. Every aspect of his game oozes class plus defenders like him don't grow on trees. I'd love to have him back and keep him here for the rest of his footballing career.
Bren: I'll tell you what, I'm gonna say Stefano Okaka. Being somewhat realistic, Roma will never see Marquinhos again, but Okaka actually looked effective during his brief spell in Sampdoria and would give Roma more athleticism at the reserve forward spot than Borriello. I'd also toss Simon Kjaer a bone, too. He seems to have settled in at Lille, he always had the size, skill and temperament to succeed in Roma, the timing was just off.
19. Look ahead to the Winter Transfer Window, which area is in need of reinforcement?
Jonas: Left back. By then, Cole's 34 and Urby is just here to bridge the gap to Summer 2015. It's finally time for a star LB. Why not try for Kolarov again? Or buy back Dodo after he scores five times and gives eight assists in his first ten Inter games.
Sam: Depends if we get another central defender, but give me a right back.
NANF: I hope no one because that would most likely mean injuries were not a problem. Reinforcing the Primavera would be nice.
Masonio: Backline, probably left back.
Dhaw: Don't think Roma is going to spend anything in the winter, unless of course they advance from the Champions League group stage. If they do spend, I'd like to see them get a fullback in the form of Darmian or Santon.
Bren: Dhaw stole my answer, Matteo Darmian or Davide Santon would cure a lot of ills for this team as it's currently constituted. Although, at this point, I guess we should keep an eye on Adrien Rabiot.
20. No kit sponsors again, what gives?
Jonas: I'd just slap a picture of Rodrigo Taddei in boxers on the shirt. The ultimate fashion and beauty icon and the opponents would piss their pants while laughing, leaving a lot of space for Totti and Gervinho to work their magic.
Sam: The American suits seem more intent on offloading our best godamn defender and striker.
NANF: Uncle James realized that away kit would look like absolute shit with a sponsor so for the good of the brand he decided to leave it off
Masonio: Holding out for a company to throw a hundred million Euros over 5-10 years.
Dhaw: Has a lot to do with branding. They have a very, very good Nike shirt and getting a wrong sponsor just for big money can ruin the entire shirt.
Bren: It's surprising, that's for sure, but those things are gorgeous, no need to ruin them with a sponsor.
21. Roma Cares, about what?
Jonas: Money. "It's all about the money. It's all about the dum dum didudumdum." (see YouTube, Meja)
Sam: Roma cares about ensnaring our love and infatuation and then taking us to the peak of the mountain of euphoria only to tip us backwards into a den of despair. Hitting several branches of bewilderment on the way down. Then as we lie in the pit cursing her name, she reaches out her seductive hand and helps us back onto the base of the mountain. Come climb with me Romanistasses!
NANF: Roma cares about you. Realizing trophies were too tall of a task, they went ahead and invested in designing some pretty shirts for every occasion and are even thinking of building a fancy new stadium to enhance the viewing experience, so caring of them
Masonio: Growth. No explanation necessary, something ambiguous and non-specific fits perfectly here.
Dhaw: "Brand Roma"
Bren: I think they earnestly care about making Roma one of the world's greatest clubs, it'll be a long road, but I think they're committed.
22. Any clubs you'd love Roma to meet in the Champions League? (this was created before the draw, but we could meet them in the knockout stages)
Jonas: Liverpool, just for the American connection. I'd love to face a tonload of teams: Atletico, Real, Barca, Bayern, City, Dortmund, PSG... I guess Roma feels like a kid in a candy store. But most of all, I want Anderlecht. It's been way too long since Roma faced a Belgian side (Ghent in 2009 I presume?). So I can finally watch them live.
Sam: Give me the Arsenal! Ideally when they start to hit their best form. I would love to see Rudi crush Wenger. With that said, beating any EPL team would be super sweet.
NANF: Wherever Benatia ends up, Barcelona, and Galatasaray, If Enrique and Prandelli had to come back to the Olimpico I would be content.
Masonio: No. Maybe Juventus.
Dhaw: Barcelona & Bayern Munich were on my wish list because of Lucho & Pep. I wanted to see how we do against teams who like to keep possession just like we do. Also, when Mehdi was sold to Bayern, I really wanted Bayern. To be the baddest and biggest football club in the whole world, you gotta beat the big boys and I absolutely love our group
Bren: Real Madrid is always fun, but I'd love a shot at Chelsea at some point.
23. For that matter, will Roma even survive the group stages? (again, see above)
Jonas: All depends on the draw, baby. Surviving the group stages would be a success, third ok. But during and even after the group stage the attention should go to Serie A. Roma can't make the same mistake like 2008-2009 and 2010-2011. Roma now needs back-to-back CL-campaigns to keep the money coming in.
Sam: I think so. For me, this is easily the most exciting prospect for this season. I'm confident Rudi's brand of football will hold up really well in Europe and our midfield has the firepower to step on some fancied sides. Love playing with the big boys!
NANF: Yes, I'll go ahead and make another prediction on this one. Roma's record in the group stages will be better than their record in first six league games.
Dhaw: If Roma can live up to its potential then surviving doesn't even come into play. I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride and not have any stupid expectations. Take one game at a time, Keep Calm & Say Forza Roma.
Bren: I actually think they can, taking maximum points from CSKA Moscow will be key, but if they can do that and steal a point here or there from City or Munich (and hope they beat up eachother), they can finish second.
24. Will this be the year Roma finally captures that elusive 10th Coppa Italia title?
Jonas: Nope. I honestly forgot about the Coppa. Too much emphasis on the Champions League and Serie A this season. The Coppa is just to entertain guys from the second team like Skorupski, Emanuelson, Astori, Keita, Paredes and Borriello.
Sam: Nah, no way is Coppa going to be anything close to the priority this year. Champions league takes a physical and mental toll. I do look forward to beating Juve again though.
NANF: Yes, beating Rube to the Silver Star should be top priority.
Masonio: Yeah, like any other club gives a fuck about the Coppa anyway.
Bren: If it weren't for the CL, I think they'd go all out, but it's just not a priority. I just hope Juve doesn't win
25. What are the odds Roma wins the treble?
Jonas: About as big as me getting involved in a threesome with Destro and Balza's wifes, curing cancer, buying a Justin Bieber cd and landing a role in The Expendables 4. On the same day.
Sam: About on par with Peace in the Middle East.
NANF: 1 in 700,000 or the odds of being struck by lightning any given year.
Masonio: 1- 124 999. Not entirely sure I did that right. I don't play videogames.
Dhaw: Stop it
Bren: About the same as a coordinated leak of celebrity nude....oh, wait.
26. Finally, Roma's player of the year?
Jonas: Borriello. For celebrating a goal against Lazio while undressing in front of the Curva Sud, thus impregnating thousands of women at the same time. That's no small feat.
Sam: Is this one of those questions where we aren't allowed to say Totti? Because, Totti. I'm also excited to see Miralem Pjanic build up a head of steam, especially on the continent. Hopefully by the end of the season we can nominate Castan as the most underrated player on the park.
NANF: Totti seems unfair. So let's try another Roman, DDR is set for a big season with the uncertainty around our backline and Cole he is going to need to have a great season in order for that defense to remain at the level they set for themselves last
Masonio: Daniele De Rossi.❤
Dhaw: Miralem Pjanic
Bren: I think Totti has one more Boss Hog performance in him before he cedes authority somewhat. At the end of the year, he'll rank high in goals, assists, shots and key passes, so he's still a safe bet.
Okay, now it's your turn, have your say!