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Empoli Post Match Discussion: Tactical Changes Produce Results

For the second consecutive week, Rudi Garcia shifted away from the 4-3-3 (sort of), resulting in another goal bonanza. But are these results, or was the level of competition a factor?

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Yesterday's victory over Empoli was the start of a very productive weekend for Roma. Those three points, combined with Fiorentina losing to Napoli and Inter dropping two points against Juventus today has put Roma squarely in second place, ahead of Inter on tiebreakers. Rudi Garcia's crew has run out to a 5-2-1 start, banging home a league leading 20 goals, several of which have come following some shrewd tactical maneuvering from Rudi Garcia. I gathered a few of the crew together to see just how effective these changes have been, or if they've been merely an aberration.

For the second consecutive week, Rudi Garcia made subtle tactical changes that produced tremendous results, opting for a 4-2-3-1 ish, head manned by Gervinho. So what do we think? Are these results more a product of the competition, or is Rudi really onto something here?

Kevin: I think it's a little bit of both, to be honest. Rudi's right to experiment in matches against lesser competition, as there's no better time to try something new. He looks to be onto something, now he needs to see if it will work in matches against bigger teams. He's still a far cry from a tactician, but he's making baby steps in that department.

JonAS:Not really. 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, it all looks the same apart from some meters of space in between. Unless Rudi starts a three men defence, I won't call it that big of a tactical change. He'll always have some sort of 4-3-3 in mind, luckily we have some versatile guys like Daniele, Flo and Falque in the team. Don't forget, this was a trilogy consisting of Carpi, Palermo and now Empoli, including 2 home games. A 9/9 is nice but I'll judge Rudi's ‘change' after Fiorentina and Leverkusen. The return of Castan in defence and Dani in midfield was a smart move, Rudi obviously reads my blog.

Bren: I'm going to have to agree with you here, Jonas. The changes were, at best, minor and came against, well, minor opponents. I highly doubt Garcia would go balls out and opt for a 3-5-2, but Roma does have the personnel to pull that one off. However, permanent and viable changes can be made within a four-man backline setup. That is to say, he can permanently push Totti or Pjanic into the hole behind two strikers. The trouble has always been, and remains to be, how can he get all of Roma's best attacking talent on the pitch at once?

masonio: Anyone who watched the match could see how the best attack in Serie A wasn't generating much offence. Until finally, in typical Rudi Roma fashion it took a moment of brilliance or set piece play to open the match up - in this case both. The last goal against a side that had to attack to get back into the match was nice, but it's always easier to score in those circumstances. Kudos for the goals, they'll pad the goals for stat but they'll only fool the blind eye into thinking our attack has any genius or creativity in it. I'll not complain about the win, though. To answer the question I'll say no.

Who has been the biggest beneficiary of this change? Who stands to lose the most once Dzeko is back?

Kevin: Gervinho has easily been the biggest beneficiary of this change in tactics. Teacher's pet also stands to lose the most once Dzeko comes back from injury.

JonAS: Judging from the numbers: Yao. But Pjanic and Dani also put in good performances. I think Falque might be condemned to the bench, with both Yao and Salah on the wings. Look at the third goal against Empoli, they're far from a Totti, Messi or Aguero but at least they're dangerous and already scored a combined 7 goals in Serie A.

Bren: I gotta go with Florenzi, pushing him further up the pitch maximizes the impact of his off-the-ball movement, of which he is a master, but it's hard to ignore Gervinho's form at the moment. He's about as hot and cold as they come, but right now his usual bag of tricks is working; though that could simply be due to actual playing time rather than tactical changes.

masonio: Gervinho as long as he remains the main striker. It's not expected he will once Dzeko or Totti are healthy, I think. No one loses once Dzeko is back. Everyone wins if Totti is playing.

We've seen almost a full two months worth of Wojciech Szczesny, what do we make of him? Where does he fall on the Roma keeper scale?

Kevin: I still don't know what to make of him, in two months it seems like we've seen both the best and the worst of him. He's probably one of the better Roma goalkeepers in recent memory though, aside from De Sanctis's first season here. He's made a few questionable plays but for the most part has been solid; it would be wise to negotiate his permanent transfer in January.

JonAS: Maybe a small edge over Morgan right now but that's only because I have a weak spot for younger players. I won't mind keeping Woj after this season since both MDS and Lobont will leave come May 2016. But we'll at least need another name in that department.

Bren: Can't argue with either of those. Fingertip saves vs Barcelona have been offset by brain farts against Empoli, so in that sense, he's just like every keeper we've had over the past 15 years. I think he returns to Roma by default. Arsenal still has no use for him, while Roma probably won't pay what it takes to get Salvatore Sirigu from PSG and the Simone Scuffet rumors, if true, are long term concerns, meaning Woj would have a place for a couple seasons at least.

masonio: I remember reading in the comments how he's of world class calibre. Hold up. He's an average keeper who's good for his age. He has nice reflexes but his basics are off. He's not worth getting attached to unless you have some non-football related affections for him.

Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday then Fiorentina on the weekend, give us a prediction. Which match is more important?

Kevin: Roma beats Leverkusen on Tuesday to revitalize the club's knockout stage ambitions, but only manages to draw Fiorentina on the weekend. A few weeks ago I would have said the Fiorentina match was more important, but now that Roma's title challenge is back on track, the Leverkusen match should take priority.

JonAS: Moneywise: Leverkusen. But a win against the Viola probably means first spot in Italy (depends on their result against Napoli). I still believe a top 3 in Serie A is more important than a good CL campaign this season. Roma's squad can't handle both right now so yeah, I'd rather take the win in Florence. Two wins might be a too hard task but a 4/6 is the goal. And quite realistic if the team keeps up this momentum.

Bren: I have to take the opposite tact, Kevin. I'm confident that Roma can beat Bayer, but the Fiorentina match is far more important. Let's face it, while it would be great for Roma to advance in the CL, they're not winning the thing. The S-word, on the other hand, remains a possibility, especially now that the Viola lost today. If Juve takes down Inter today and Roma defeats Fiorentina, they can start to make some space at the top of the table. (written before the Juve-Inter match, which was a scoreless draw)

I'm going all out, 6/6 points!

masonio: Two draws. Leverkusen is a very good side and I think Fiorentina may be starting to come back down to Earth. The bigger match is Fiorentina. This is the year to win the scudetto if you're ever going to do it. I never saw us making it out of our group in Europe.

Finally, yesterday was Daniele De Rossi's 500th match in a Roma shirt, what's your favorite memory of DDR? Is he the de facto second greatest player in club history or not?

Kevin: My favorite DDR memory has to be his celebration after scoring against a Mourinho-lead Inter Milan in 2010. Roma ended up winning 2-1 in what would have been a season defining moment had the team gone on to win the scudetto that year. He's definitely not the de facto second greatest player in club history, but he's certainly in the conversation.

JonAS: A very very tiny detail but his celebration after Luca Toni's goal against Mou's Inter in 2010 (2-1) always makes me smile. After Luca scores, Dani runs to the goal and jumps, holding the bar like a monkey, wobbling and waving. Of course he has scored a lot of great goals and played a lot of stellar games (Real for example, bossing midfield with Aquilani) but that moment in particular is why I and we love Daniele so much. Passion, heart, joy... Only he knows how important this shirt is for a lot of people. Great man, great player. Shame he hasn't won a title yet. If he somehow manages to win a Scudetto, then he's definitely up there with the greatest like Aldair, Conti, Pruzzo, Bartolomei, Falcao etc.

*Notable second place: his celebration with Okaka after Stefano's backheel against Siena.

Bren: You read my mind, guys, and you're absolutely right, Jonas. The pure adulation he showed in that moment, after a goal in which he played no part, speaks volumes about his love for his teammates, the club and the city. This bitch slap on Stefano Mauri was pretty sweet, too. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, yes, he absolutely is the second best player in the history of the club. The titles don't matter in these sorts of conversations--he has no control over that in the grand scheme of things--but for nearly a decade he was one of the world's best and most unique midfielders.

masonio: At times Dani has been my favourite Roma player ever but he's nowhere close to the greatest or second greatest. Not even a little bit. As for my favourite memory, there are so many really. Gosh. One of the first that came to mind was in our win against Inter under Zeman, he was not playing and was wearing a regular Roma polo. The way he celebrated when we scored made him look like just another fan - a great fan of the club. It was an amazing reminder of how lucky we are to see players play for the club they actually love. It's rare.