New Year's resolutions, we all have them, right? Whether you want to drop a few pounds, stop harassing your co-workers, learn Finnish or simply walk the dog more often, we all have things we want to change in the New Year. And by change, I mean stick with it for about six weeks before saying, Ah, the hell with it, where's that ice cream?
Since AS Roma is such a dynamic and dramatic organization, we can't really limit their resolutions to just one area in need of refinement, so here are five things Roma must fix (or maintain) to have a successful 2015.
1. Make more of Mattia Destro
It was right around this time last season that Mattia Destro made his return to the pitch and summarily set the league on fire, scoring 13 goals in only 18 appearances, with eye popping returns in terms of accuracy and scoring rate. Destro could do no wrong and seemed all but a lock for regular minutes in 2014-2015.
Flash forward to this season, and Destro hasn't been quite as prolific, failing to even garner regular minutes. Although, if we're being honest, Destro has still performed pretty well, despite his paucity of minutes, making his absence all the more maddening. Through 13 appearances, Destro has four goals, has put 69% of his shots on target and has an absurd 25% conversion rate. While his per 90 minute goal numbers are down from last season's ludicrous heights, at 0.51 goals per 90, he's second only to Adem Ljajic on the club, so its not as if he hasn't been effective when called upon.
Fortunately for Rudi Garcia, Destro's rise to prominence last season coincided with Ljajic's spring swoon, so Garcia didn't exactly have to be an expert juggler of minutes. No matter what you think of Destro's skillset, if Roma are to be successful in 2015, they need Destro's presence in front of goal, meaning Garcia must find a way to get Destro useful minutes, rather than substituting him in a last gasp attempt to secure points. That's simply too much pressure for a player so young and, quite frankly, not the proper utilization of a player who needs to time to integrate himself into the flow of a match.
2. Figure Out the Fullbacks
We could also title this one "Keep Maicon Healthy". During last year's magical run, Roma won 68% of the matches in which Maicon started, a figure which has risen to 78% this season. Sure, this doesn't in any way suggest a causal relationship, but even using the eye test, Roma is much better with Maicon on the pitch.
But that left back spot...that's another story altogether. Last season, we saw everyone from Vasilis Torosidis to Dodo to Federico Balzaretti and even Rodrigo Taddei man that left back spot, so to call that a source of consistency is almost laughable. Fortunately for Roma, Dodo strung together enough decent performances to keep the levee from failing, while Torosidis was solid in spot appearances, but left back remains a point of embarrassment for this club.
While it's extremely unlikely Roma breaks the bank for anyone this winter, they need to get something (anything, really) out of Ashley Cole or Jose Cholebas, if for no other reason than to ease some of the pressure off Maicon.
3. Beat Who They're Supposed to Beat
I'm going to contradict myself here shortly, so consider yourself warned. However, as we're all well aware, Scudettos are won and lost against the minnows of the league. Roma can't expect to saunter into Juventus Stadium or the San Paolo and take an easy three points, meaning the margins of the Scudetto are fought in places like Genoa, Sassuolo, Empoli or, like last season, in Catania. While Roma has generally run the table against these smaller sides, dropping even two points against clubs like these will make Roma's chase of Juventus infinitely more difficult.
4. Keep Doing Whatever They're Doing to Adem Ljajic
Through 14 appearances, Adem Ljajic has already equaled or surpassed his numbers from last season, indicating that, perhaps, at long last he's added some consistency to his already considerable skill set. Ljajic not only leads the club in goals and passing accuracy per 90 minutes, but he's second only to Francesco Totti in assists, key passes and even shots per 90 minutes.
Simply put, Ljajic is developing into everything everyone ever thought he'd be; a dynamic talent, capable of controlling matches seemingly at will. With Totti's minutes always a factor, and with Gervinho not quite looking as crisp as last year, Ljajic's talents will go a long way to keeping Roma afloat through the winter
5.Maybe...Just Maybe...Beat Juventus
Historically speaking, this has been a tough ask for the Giallorossi. In 168 matchups against Juventus since 1929, Roma has managed only 40 victories, 48 draws and 80 defeats. You don't have to be a genius to notice the relationship there; Roma loses to Juve twice as much as they defeat them. Since the year 2000, Roma has defeated Juve in league play only three times. Three times in fifteen years! Their record is even more pathetic in Torino. This has to change.
While Roma can conceivably win the title by beating everyone but Juve, coming out on top of a six pointer would be a two-fold victory. By directly taking points from Juventus, the Scudetto chase becomes more real, more direct and more meaningful. Rather than relying on outliers and hoping for help, Roma can heap pressure directly upon the Old Lady's withered haunches, ensuring they're the ones who have to walk on eggshells through the spring. Secondly, and though it won't be erased in a matter of months, at some point Roma needs to make serious headway in this rivalry. Roma cannot be considered the top team in Italy if they're consistently Juve's foot stool.
So those are five quick fixes (or maintenances) for Roma in 2015, where else can Roma hope to improve in the New Year?