Despite their near comeback (or drawback, I suppose) yesterday, Roma was behind the proverbial eight ball from the word go. After falling behind BATE Borisov in only the eighth minute, things only got worse for the Giallorossi. The Belarusian club would tack on two more goals by the half hour mark and looked more like the club that spent tens of millions of Euros this summer.
In the wake of yet another excruciating performance against an inferior side (again, my confidence in that statement is shaky), calls for Rudi Garcia's head have grown louder. Despite two straight second place league finishes and automatic Champions League births, Garcia's words are starting to fall on deaf ears and his once invigorating tactics have grown stale.
So, can Rudi Garcia recapture the spirit of 2013, or are we now beyond the pale? I checked in with some of the crew to gauge public opinion.
I'm sure we're all on the same page (or close to it) about Rudi Garcia, but, if you can, get him off the hook. Give us a scenario or reason in which someone else is to blame, be it the players performance, questionable sales, the front office, etc.
Bren: Given how chaotic and back loaded (in terms of the timing of the deals) each of the past two summer transfer markets have been, it's fair to question what sort of relationship Garcia and Walter Sabatini have; there appears to be some sort of disconnect between those two, so it's tough to tell who really calls the shots. We also have to account for how much talent they've lost--real talent--particularly Mehdi Benatia and the health of Leandro Castan. I like Kostas Manolas and even Rudiger, but there's no accounting for experience. At the end of the day, Garcia has the most immediate impact on the team's performance, so the buck stops with him.
Dhaw: The time for excuses and blame game is over. If this management has any intention of "winning" then they need to know how and when to make harsh decisions. Everyone at the club has failed in someway or the other. Let's start with Rudi first and then second in line should be Walter Sabatini. They were given a job and they have failed. So time to move on.
Kevin: Roma's failures are the fault of the club as a collective. From the president and CEO, to the director of sport and the manager. Not all of this can be pinned on Garcia, however a large chunk of it can; the problem with Garcia is he hasn't recognized his part in the club's failures, nor has he shown the ability to learn from his mistakes. As a result, management should show him the door.
Sam: I think Rudi has so far been given a stay of execution from the Americans as the ‘project' they preach about revolves around stability and consistency. I have no doubt if the Sensi's (or any other Italian family) were still in charge Rudi would be out on his arse.
masonio: The failure starts at the top. When the new management took over they expected Champions League football from the start, quite clearly underestimating the rest of the league and what it really takes to be a Champions League club. Spending more money than everyone else doesn't guarantee anything, either, nor does giving more priority to the bottom line than results. It's fine if that's the case but then say so. Don't go each summer selling (read: flipping) players and expect things to take care of themselves on the pitch. It has been a collective failure between management, Walter Sabatini & every manager that has taken charge so far besides the one record breaking season.
JonAS: Maybe we can blame the players as well. The loss against BATE was dreadful and the team was a total shambles. Rudi had a limited squad at his disposal and he can't really be blamed if the players don't show up or miss chances or fail to follow his orders. Manolas' own goal against Sampdoria was plain bad luck, something Garcia himself cannot foresee. Also some questionable moves on the market: keep Yao while we give away Adem, letting Balzaretti go while we clearly have a big gap behind Digne (imagine he gets gravely injured) etc. That said, a trainer is supposed to make players better and fight for each other. Yet, the chemistry is gone, the magic is gone, the displays have downgraded, results are often a hit or miss... There's only one thing the management can do in mid-season: sack the trainer.
Following that, what has changed with Garcia since his magical debut two seasons ago? Is he completely without redemption, or is it possible he's a victim of circumstances?
Bren: Hmm, tough to say, so much of that season--looking back on it now--was like lightning in a bottle. Good schedule to start off, Benatia was a revelation and Destro caught fire in the winter, so perhaps it wasn't attributable to Rudi at all, but there's no denying that the league caught up to him and, as we've seen, he's struggling mightily to adapt. Having said that, there is still this extremely tiny voice in my head that wants to cut him slack simply because of the results, which have been markedly better than anyone since Ranieri was in town, and when his football does work, it's beautiful, but he's been given virtually everything he's asked for, so I don't think we can blame external circumstances.
Kevin: Much like players can be figured out in Serie A, so can managers. And that's not a slight to the people who get exposed. Serie A pretty much figured out Mohamed Salah towards the end of his Fiorentina loan, yet he's still finding a way to be effective in matches. Garcia is a good manager, however he's taken this club as far as he can due to his failure to adapt. He's a manager with a high floor and a low ceiling, which is what Roma has figured out the past two seasons (two second place finishes, but no chance at winning a scudetto).
Sam: Screw the results, the football is consistently disgusting to absorb. I think the big thing is that Rudi's system relies very heavily on individual brilliance. What we've seen since then is a gradual weakening of the team talent-wise, through both injuries and transfers. As a result of that Rudi's dodgy system sticks out like the proverbial dog balls that it is.
masonio: He's been figured out and has failed to adapt to the league. In fact, it started towards the end of his first season here, it just didn't matter at that point. Juve had won the title and Roma had a considerable cushion on the rest of the league. He has no tricks beyond his original pony, which worked incredibly for a time. Instead of figuring out what's wrong he has made excuses or pretended as if everything is great.
JonAS: Rudi Garcia is not a bad trainer. He proved himself at Lille (winning the title) and also at Roma (two second place finishes + a record 85 points in one season). Guys like Kevin, Maicon, Yao, De Sanctis, Benatia, Radja, Castan etc. all excelled under him. But after two seasons, his head isn't firmly on his shoulders anymore. What I mean is: he lost the plot. Talk about a Scudetto, being a big bad football club, fake promises,... The pressure has only enlarged since 2013-2014. Mix that with a so-so mercato by Sabatini and an inflexible constraint (fear to try something different) and Roma's a dead trap for Rudi. Garcia is not a shrewd tactician, as a trainer you simply need fresh ideas to survive, reinvent yourself or you get figured out, especially in a league like Serie A. A big wallet to buy the best players iin Serie A might also come in handy. Which, sadly for Rudi, Roma hasn't.
Okay, let ‘er rip. What's your biggest gripe with Garcia? What makes him unfit for this position?
Bren: It has to be his extreme reliance on wing-oriented play, right? Couple that with his pigheaded obsession with Gervinho and Roma is in a world of hurt. I think that's why I was so excited about Edin Dzeko and Lucas Digne, two guys who could provide some balance in the squad, but that balance hasn't produced results yet because Rudi always falls back on the same variation of the 4-3-3 we've seen for two and a half years.. It's hard for me to imagine a professional manager, one who has accomplished some things like he has, would be so ignorant, so I'm honestly at a loss to explain what's changed since he got here. He should know how to adapt, he should know what formations work and which ones don't, he should know how to make wise and effective substitutions. He should know all these things, and yet here we are. At the end of the day, it's his inability to make the necessary adaptations--in-match and week to week--that has soured him for me.
Dhaw: Lack of Ideas. Tactically he is just not up there with other managers. You can't be so shrewd and stubborn and not be willing to try different things over a course of time. He is just stuck with one brand of football and refuses to do anything else. There has been nothing but talk from him. Every given opportunity he has run his mouth without any substance. Some people will probably be happy with the 2nd finishes but let's not forget - you don't spend so much money and hope to finish 2nd and think it was an achievement. There is no growth as a club as a team. No player has improved or gone to the next level under his management. If anything they have lost their way and that's not a good sign for a club who claims to be a lot of things. Look, there is a cycle. Very rarely one manager stays at a club for 3+ years, especially in Italy. Rudi's cycle is about to end - at most we can pull one year out of him if the fortunes of this club changes in the next few months but what after that ? How long are they going to be happy with what we are witnessing ? Will Roma win anything under Garcia ? NO. If the club has any vision and claim to get their shit in order then they have to make tough decisions now. They cannot let this continue and expect everything is automatically going to be fine.
Kevin: Tactical inflexibility. Time and time again opposing managers have thrown curveballs at Garcia, and he drops the ball every time. Especially with regards to in-game managing, which is a necessary part of being a coach. The worst part is he hasn't shown improvement in that area, he just seems to still get it wrong most of the time. A good manager learns and perfects his craft on the job, which Garcia doesn't do. He has a low ceiling as a manager as a result, so Palotta should give up on the idea of Rudi being Roma's Ferguson.
Sam: What they said. Nothing is changing, we are an easy target for a decently coached team. We offer very few surprises in attack and our defence is horrifically inadequate for a scudetto aspiring team.
masonio: Ultimately his ego and lack of tactical wit.
JonAS: He's too conservative. A 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 4-3-1-2, ... They all proved their worth at Roma before. Why not try them out again? I'm fed up with that same 4-3-3 formations and tactic, let alone a midfield consisting DDR-Keita- Radja. Given, you need the right players for the right job but Roma has nearly every type of player now: tall and quick CB's, infiltrating fullbacks, a regista, box-to-box midfielders, workhorses, a tall striker with a good shot, wingers with pace, aerial threath, experience and youth,... Surely a change of formation is worth trying with this group?
Let's be realistic, Roma invested a lot in the transfer market this summer and a lot in Garcia, how likely is it that he's actually sacked?
Bren: (hoping nothing changes before we publish, fingers crossed) I don't think BATE was the death knell, but if they fall on their face against Palermo or Empoli, we might have a new manager by the time we face Bayer Leverkusen. That would seem to be the point of no return, one in which a new manager would still be able to salvage something. We don't want a three managers in one year fiasco again.
Dhaw: I don't think he will be sacked even if we screw up against Palermo. I think he will be in charge till the Bayer game and the result of that game will determine whether he stays or not. Just don't think the management is capable or in any position to make such a big decision. Time and time again they have shown us that for them it is all about the money and let's not forget firing Rudi is going to cost them shit loads of money and I don't think they are in a position to do that and have any hope of hiring a big name like Carletto or Klopp.
Kevin: He might not be sacked after this match, but if Roma lose or tie against Palermo I would expect to see a change. I'd be surprised if he lasted any longer than that at this point. I honestly never imagined Roma would lose to BATE Borisov. Although management would have to pay bookoo bucks if Garcia was sacked, I'm sure the last few matches have made them seriously consider taking the hit.
Sam: I'm not sure he will even be sacked this season. The suits made a call on it last year when the football was rubbish so I don't think they are going to top him halfway through this season, despite our dismay and rumblings. Dhaw has hit the nail on the head, these guys aren't making decisions to win championships they are trying to quietly pump up the bank balance and topping Rudi doesn't fit in with that.
masonio: Once it's painfully clear that he and Roma have made a step back or down then they might start to think about it - so not very. As long as he qualifies for the Champions League and finishes as runner up for the title I expect management to turn a blind eye. Not capitalising on Juve's start might make some rumblings, should they not repeat as Serie A winners this season.
JonAS: He won't be sacked now, and probably not after a loss in Palermo (which is a very hard trip mind you, I don't like the Stadio Barbera at all). So unless Roma plays another woeful game in Sicily, he buys himself a lifeline once again. But the double Empoli-Leverkusen after the international break could prove vital. Nothing else than a 6/6 and he's out. Then we appoint Montella just in time for Fiorentina-Roma on October 25! Hey, why not?
Is there any scenario in which a midseason managerial change can keep Roma in the title hunt and in the race for Europe next season?
Bren: Guess I sort of addressed that before, but I think it would be one or the other. If they fall too far behind Inter (tenish points or so), the new guy might only be able reach third or fourth place, putting Roma within shouting distance of the Champions League next year, or they might catch fire right away under a new manager and upset Bayer, setting the stage for a run at the knockout phases, but like I mentioned, I think October is the cutoff; you can't make a change past that and expect to remain in contention.
Dhaw: Their objective is Champions League qualification for next season. There is no way in hell this team is capable of winning the Scudetto. Don't have the fire power to do so and certainly don't have the manager to do so. We made a push with Claudio Ranieri - so we can surely make a push with the new guy too but it's not going to be for the Scudetto. It's going to be for CL spots and we should be very happy if that is achieved.
Kevin: Absolutely, but as Bren said, it has to be by the end of October if Roma wants to remain in solid positioning to qualify for next year's Champions League. A managerial switch certainly spells the end of a title challenge, but it might be what's necessary to survive the season and achieve the club's stated objective, which is to qualify for next year's Champions League.
Sam: Yeah for sure, mainly because the rest of Serie A is unbelievably weak right now. Seriously this year's scudetto should have an asterix next to it. Remember when Claudio came in after Spaletti? That was freaking sweet.
masonio: It's possible since it has happened before but I don't see it. If that's the plan then the sooner the better.
JonAS: It all depends on the new man in charge. I'm hoping for another 2009-2010. Ranieri was the right man at the right time. Only Ancelotti has what it takes to let this Roma side challenge for the Scudetto until May. All the other options out there (Montella, Mazzarri, Spalletti, Di Francesco,...) are decent but would only keep Roma in narrowly in top 3, nothing more.
Okay, who would that man be exactly?
Bren: I'm sure Carlo Ancelotti is the name atop everyone's wishlist, but that just seems too far fetched for me, at least as a midseason replacement. Maybe next summer, who knows. The question we'd have to ask, then, is if Garcia is sacked, do they grab an interim manager or hope for a long term solution right away? For my money, I'd love Luciano Spalletti to come back--he'd fill both those descriptions, making an immediate impact while having the vision and experience to stick around long term, though Klopp would also be quite exciting.
Dhaw: If we fire Rudi, I have absolutely no hope for Carletto or Klopp. Those are 2 expensive managers we are talking about and I don't think Roma is in any position to get them to sign up for us unless of course they hand them big contracts. My money is on 3 guys in the following order :
- Walter Mazzarri.
- Luciano Spalletti.
- Vincenzo Montella.
Kevin: Tough question to answer given the economic factor of paying Garcia still too. My list of candidates would be Vincenzo Montella, Luciano Spaletti, and Juergen Klopp.
Sam: I think Vincenzo is the best bet at the moment, but I'd sure as shit love to see Luciano back in the seat!
masonio: The realistic candidates right now are probably Montella, Mazzarri or something like Andreazzoli. It's hard to say if they could reach expectations right away. Garcia is being paid a lot of money, so sacking him would make any new manager instantly expensive.
JonAS: Apart from the usual suspects who have been mentioned before, I might also want to throw in Di Francesco from Sassuolo in the mix. His side play entertaining football, he likes youth, a likeable character and a fan of Roma, cheaper option than the others... I know it's one hell of a risk but I think appointing Mazzarri, Spalletti or Mazzarri are risks as well, albeit smaller than Eusebio. But just imagine it works out between us and him, it could be a match made in heaven!
Finally, assuming James Pallotta is true to his word and has faith in Garcia, what has to happen for Rudi to right the ship?
Bren: Oof, getting Dzeko back and scoring goals would cure a lot of ails, but they need to find a consistent rotation, to figure out, once and for all, who covers Miralem Pjanic and Dzeko when they're not available. Simply put, Garcia just needs to be more flexible, which his first 100 matches in Rome show is an impossibility. But I'll credit him with this much, he ain't no punk; you don't see him taking the coward's way out like Luis Enrique did.
Kevin: Nothing can right this ship at the moment.
Sam: Ah man, well how about everyone stop getting freakin injured! I think we need teams to tactically fall apart against us so we can find some space for our quick players to run into. That big bomber of ours must stay on the field and the other dudes coming in and out of the final third need to catch fire sooner or later.
masonio: Spikes in form from any number of random players would help. It's unlikely Rudi will start experimenting with new ideas. If he lasts long enough, a player like Benatia or Strootman arriving that tips the pitch in Roma's favour so much that it hides his flaws. Other clubs imploding, making it seem like Roma isn't as awful as it really is.
JonAS: Cling on to top 5 come January and hope for a golden mercato. Hope the other big teams keep disappointing in Serie A and keep our injuries at a minimum. But after this season, Pallotta and co should really consider sacking Garcia for the greater good.
So there you have it, the collective CdT taste for Rudi Garcia has soured, what do you think? Can Rudi reclaim the hearts and minds of Rome?