With Roma's next match nearly two weeks away, and reportedly another make or break for Rudi Garcia (as preposterous as that sounds), we're left with nothing but off-the-pitch concerns to discuss. Chief among them, the tectonic rift being torn between Roma's usually cohesive fan base. In Wednesday's analysis of the situation, Sam quite rightly described it as a cold war. Armaments won't be unleashed because we all love the club, but that won't stop Roma's respective Regans and Gorbachevs from taking shots at each other, veiled or otherwise.
This is perhaps the most divisive issue I've encountered since I began writing about this club four years ago, and with calls for a near complete organizational change showing no signs of abating, I thought we'd examine this war point-by-point, looking at the merits of each argument and leave it up to you to decide who has the staying power.
We'll start off with the man in the middle of it all, Rudi Garcia.
Rudi Garcia's meteoric rise in Rome is slowly hurdling back towards earth, burning upon entry and becoming a point of giant contention. The victory over Genoa notwithstanding, the club has struggled mightily over the past couple of months, leading to calls for his resignation, while others plea for patience.
Garcia's tenure has been, despite the recent struggles, one of the more successful in the history of the club, particularly in the last decade. In his rookie season, Garcia led the club to a record point total, one which would have captured the Scudetto in nearly any other year. And in this, the winter of his discontent, he still has the club in fifth place, only four points off the title pace.
And yes, the team has looked sluggish and uninspired many times over the past few months, but he's been without two of his most important assets (for his style of play), Gervinho and Mohamed Salah, for significant stretches this season. Furthermore, he's had to make do with Maicon's bloated corpse and the increasingly miscast Alessandro Florenzi as his starting right backs.
Things are bad at the moment, but they're not as bleak as the press (and CdT) would have you believe, stay the course, have faith in the plan
Come on, bro. That's your argument: things haven't been that bad? Is that our standard now, settling for being okay? Aim for the middle? Garcia may be a fine manager in small doses, but he's been exposed for what he is, a one-trick pony who seldom deviates from his master plan, despite the implacable face of reality.
The wing play was enticing at first, but the league has more than adapted and figured out how to stop them, to the point where Roma can barely register a goal from the run of play. Through 17 matches, Roma has managed 32 goals, 47% of which have come from either the counter, free kicks or the penalty spot; those figures aren't sustainable over the long term. You can't simply hope the opposition will fuck up--there is no mutually assured destruction in Serie A.
The Curva Sud
All clubs have rabid fans that, through their passion, creativity and commitment, create an aura of inclusion and invincibility for their team of choice. In Rome, these fans have historically staked claim to the southern end of the Stadio Olimpico, where their voices simultaneously lift and sooth the souls of their fellow fans while exalting the players like no other fans on earth. Unfortunately, these groups actions aren't always magnanimous, as members of the Curva Sud have flirted with the boundaries of good taste, if not the law several times in recent memory.
As a result, the powers that be have segregated the Curva Sud with a safety barrier of sorts, effectively drive a wedge through the heart of Roma's most hearty fans.
The mere fact the club allowed this to happen speaks volumes about their understanding of Roma fans; real Roma fans. The chants, the banners, the flags and even the flares are part of what makes the Olimpico such a unique place for fans in general and creates a hostile and intimidating environment for the opposition.
Allowing this feature to be torn asunder strips the stadium of its voice and its heart; it's just the latest step in the blanding of Roma and it the course must be reversed.
The members of the Curva Sud just need to grow up. Big deal, you can't throw flares on the pitch or rain blows upon people while watching a football match. They're immature and selfish. If they were real fans, they'd show up, security partition or not. Furthermore, the decision came from local officials and was out of Pallotta's hands. Get over it and support your club.
With hits like Kevin Strootman, Marquinhos and Mehdi Benatia rebuked by misses like Seydou Doumbia, Victor Ibarbo and Juan Iturbe on his ledger, Walter Sabatini has experienced the highs and lows of a ten year term of office in only three seasons. Roma's director of sport is, depending on who you ask, an underappreciated genius or the architect of Roma's destruction.
Sabatini has done a remarkable job getting Roma value at relatively low costs, or at least upfront costs (see Benatia, Marquinhos, Dzeko, Digne, Strootman etc), and hasn't had more flubs than any other director of sport. Considering Roma's financial limitations, at least in terms of salary commitments, he's done the best he can. Furthermore, Roma's youth ranks are busting at the seams with intriguing prospects thanks to his eye for young talent.
If Roma's financial situation ever becomes more stable, or at least more apparent, Sabatini can land the big fish to truly take the club over the top.
Dude, are you serious? I can easily negate every single one of your claims. Strootman aside, all of your positives have been virtually erased. Benatia and Marquinhos, and even Erik Lamela, were needlessly sacrificed. Making matters worse, those profits weren't invested wisely (hello, Iturbe, Ibarbo and Doumbia), leaving the club wanting in the very positions they soldâcentral defense. And he gave away Adem Ljajic for virtually NOTHING!
Sabatini does have an eye for young talent, there's no debating that, but to date he hasn't been able to translate that prescience to the senior club. Roma needs someone with greater negotiating tact and someone who can navigate the transfer market with more efficiency and without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
This one necessarily follows, or precipitate's depending on one's view, the Curva Sud issue; namely, the worthiness or validity of Pallotta's American ownership group. Roma fans have long held the club's inherit Italian-ness and, more importantly, Roman-ness close to their hearts, and any person or entity that threatens that bond is destined for controversy. With a focus on expanding the brand, Pallotta's ability to stay true to Roma's roots has come into question in recent times.
Part of what makes Roma so special is the manner in which they've resisted overt commercialism and supported Italian players for so long, and have done so while remaining one of Italy's top teams. Pallotta seems more concerned with growing the brand via flashy media gimmicks and world tours, rather than substantial infrastructural investments. And when he does manage to land a cost effective on-pitch asset, he quickly flips that for a tidy profit.
He may be a shrewd businessman and will no doubt line Roma's coffers, but if that comes at the cost of all that makes Roma special, is it really worth it?
Take it easy, drama queen. The myth of Roma is just that, a myth. AS Roma is a sports business like any other; billionaires don't line up to lose money. It's the most popular sport in the world and savvy entrepreneurs will always be attracted to investment opportunities. The best sports tycoons are those who can keep an interesting, entertaining and winning product on the pitch, while also placating fans and making money for themselves.
Pallotta can do this, but given the circumstances in which he bought the club (in debt, no European play, aging stars) and the realities with which he must deal (an obstinate local bureaucracy, a lousy broadcast deal and competing with the EPL and La Liga for the hearts and minds of neutral observers) he's done a remarkable job so far.
It hasn't even been five years, give him time, he knows what he's doing.
Roma's biggest summer signing, the one whom they chased for four months, was expected to change the form and function of Roma's attack. He was the top-level striker the fanbase had craved since Luca Toni's brief cameo several years ago. Dzeko wasn't meant to singlehandedly lead Roma to the Scudetto, but oodles of goals were expected along the way. With only five goals in 21 appearances (all comps), Dzeko has been underwhelming and has become, in some measure, the personification of Roma's 2015 troubles.
See, there was a reason Manchester City didn't really put up much of a fight during that protracted transfer negotiation; Dzeko's best days are long behind him. Sure, he has a sterling resume and still looks the part, but he's woefully slow, inaccurate and far from clinical. In short, he's been the complete opposite of what we expected; he's not finishing off the attack, he's dragging it down with him, the missed sitters are just the sour icing on this terrible cake.
Umm, don't you think a lot of your criticisms really stem from Garcia's tactics? Dzeko is a shot taker not a shot maker; he can't do much without proper service. Watch any match from the past two months and take note of where Dzeko has been receiving the ball: far away from the goal and way, way out wide. What can reasonably be expected from him under that scenario?
Dzeko is only 29-years-old and has a skillset that should age well, but in order to reap those benefits, you have to create an environment in which he can succeed, and to date, Roma hasn't created that habitat due largely to Garcia's schemes.
The Plan for Peace
There are many other issues bubbling under the surface of this Capital Cold War, some large, some small, but this much is clear: Roma needs an exit strategy. Carrying on in this manner--constantly shuffling coaches, tactics and transfer strategies every 18 to 24 months--only serves to delay Mr. Pallotta's ambitious project. The club has no direction, primarily because it can't decide on one.
The lesson here: Don't half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.