We'll take a break from our usual Rudi Garcia-themed discussions to focus on the other man perpetually under fire, Walter Sabatini. With Roma a viable contestant in the Scudetto race last winter, Sabatini chose to outfit his squad with Seydou Doumbia and Victor Ibarbo, which is like giving someone caffeine free diet pepsi when they're on the verge of dehydration. Sure, it's a liquid in the strictest sense, but is it really helping them?
While we don't know who will be running this team in the long run, Roma is only four points off the league lead, so this winter's transfer market is as important as any. In light of that, I brought the crew together to discuss what Roma should and shouldn't do this winter.
Just in case some of us have forgotten, in a few sentences, describe Walter Sabatini's transfer plan last winter.
Bren: I can't recall the exact financial figures, but I remember them being quite ghastly. Even if it was only a couple million, Victor Ibarbo and Seydou Doumbia were tremendous failures and reasons enough to fire Sabatini. I still struggle to comprehend what the hell he was thinking last winter.
Kevin: Wait, there was a plan? It seemed like Sabatini was throwing everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to remedy the situation. Seriously, it was like he was blindfolded, throwing darts at the board, and seeing what stuck.
Jonas: Obviously he (and we) all expected that Doumbia would turn out to be a hit in Rome, after scoring a bazillion goals in Russia and Europe. But don't underestimate Rudi, he can bring out the worst in footballers. Doumbia was not a fluke, just look at how Dzeko (also a goal threat before his arrival) is struggling right now. Both had too little preparation time and I don't really blame Walter, the fans wanted a prestigious striker and Saba gave us two big names. It's Rudi fault. Ibarbo, well, thank God BDV gave us some nice jokes and funny references in Chiesa.
Sam: It was an impressive attempt to secure a collective of players who would be unanimously pilloried and disapproved by fans and media alike. The most worrying part about it was the sheer lunacy of the prices that he paid. This is what shits me most about the American reign, so much cash has been wasted on mediocrity.
NANF: Spend an absurd amount of money on bright, shiny, and new things. One could say he really captured the essence of Christmas. Hard to say what the plan was other than spend money.
Without naming a specific player (we'll get to that), which areas does he need to address during the January transfer window and why?
Kevin: DEFENSE. The clean sheets lately are deceiving, the play leaves a lot to be desired. Plus lack of depth is clearly an issue.
Jonas: I hate to say it but the list is long, even longer than I imagined. For starters: a vice-LB for Digne. A new central defender as well, because at this point Castan is AWOL while Gyomber just doesn't cut it, otherwise Gummybear would have already sealed his place in the team, like Rudiger did. I'm still not convinced of the rightback Florenzi while Torosidis has been woeful at times this season. Also, a striker to give Dzeko a breather would be nice since we're still up in the air about Totti's injury problems. And the midfield, although crowded, could use some fresh ideas as well, especially if Ucan leaves. While we're at it, maybe another winger too, Walter?
Bren: Another winger, Jonas? Are you crazy? I don't know that we need a starter-quality centerback, but someone to compete with Rudiger and Manolas certainly wouldn't hurt, but I'll have to agree with you on the striker. Dzeko just hasn't cut it for a variety of reasons, while Totti remains a question mark.
Sam: I know we say this all the time, fullbacks. I'm not ready to throw Dzeko under the bus yet because I'm convinced a new manager will sort him out. For the record, I concur with the plan to secure a quality young goalkeeper.
NANF: I agree with Kevin and Bren on this one. Our defensive record is piss poor, I'm not sure adding another body will fix the disease but since we are unwilling to amputate, it leaves us few options.
Okay, now give us your magic bullet: who is the one name Roma must capture this winter?
Kevin: TGIP (Spaletti). The man, the myth, the legend.
Jonas: Ideally, I'd opt for a return of Paredes, kid's got class and Empoli are doing very fine in Serie A right now. He could give our midfield a new dimension. If we're talking about actual transfers, I'd go for Adriano from Barcelona. Sirigu from PSG and Perin make me feel warm inside as well. Any chance Ranieri could donate us Vardy or Mahrez?
Bren: I'll trudge up a name from the past, Cyril Thereau. He has five goals and two assists for Udinese thus far and would be the ideal backup because he can be the hit man up top, yet his touch and feel for the game allows him to play the quasi false nine role reasonably well. Udine is going nowhere fast, so they might be willing to cash in on the 32-year-old striker.
Sam: Kevin is spot on. Bring the magnificent bald bastard home! I still think Bruno Peres would be a terrific addition to our team.
NANF: If I had to choose a player it would be another player from Torino's backline, but instead of their right back I'd go with their center back, Glik.
Turn it around now, we've seen Iturbe jettisoned, who else can Roma realistically get rid of this month?
Kevin: I would try to sell high on Gervinho, especially given how long he takes to return to form after injury. Even though Roma has a dearth of healthy/effective wingers at the moment, it would still be a good sale. If Garcia gets the sack in January, Gervinho would be the outgoing transfer to look for.
Jonas: Ucan needs to go out on loan, just look a how Paredes improved. Apart from that, I think it's finally time to part ways with Torosidis, I used to appreciate him but now the love is officially over. Florenzi, Maicon and even Gyomber can handle the situation until July.
Bren: I'm going to have to disagree with both of you for slightly different reasons. The window to sell Gervinho is dead and gone. Any team worth its salt isn't going to pay for such sporadic production, and its probably quite telling that the only legit offer we've had came from a lesser league where the owner was just looking for a name to sell tickets. As far as Ucan is concerned, I think he's going to have a larger role in the second half. I think Torosidis' time is up as well, but who's going to give anything of value for him?
Sam: I think this question hinges on having an adequate replacement, so with that in mind I'd happily see the back of our Polish smoker.
Forget the actual transfers for a moment, who is an underutilized player that must receive a larger role in the second half?
Kevin: Salih Ucan deserves more minutes. It's a win-win, as it would help Ucan grow and allow some of the other midfielders to rotate and stay fresh.
Jonas: I'm torn between a couple of players actually. Morgan and Castan because they used to be pillars of Garcia's 2013-2014 team and both still have some gas left in the tank. They deserve more minutes. I'm also interested to see how Sadiq will do after his first goal. He's tall and has good feet. From what I saw, he still needs to buff up, gain some muscles in order to beat tough Italian defenders but I think in the end he can do better than say Okaka or Destro.
Bren: Gotta go with Ucan. Pjanic will inevitably tire out as he always does, though he's having a great year, and Ucan is really the only offensively gifted midfielder we have on the bench. Now that the usual suspects are sniffing around Pjanic again, it's time to unwrap our Turkish toy. (that sounds gross)
Sam: Most obvious is Castan, the boy deserves the time on the field to play himself into form. Second to that is Ucan for the same reasons you guys said.
Who should see their minutes cut in the second half?
Bren: I'll say Lucas Digne, but not for the reason you'd think. In this, his first full-time season, it's clear that he's struggling with some endurance issues, and for the benefit of the team as a whole, he needs to be rested throughout the second half. Then again, if PSG intends on keeping him over the summer, might as well run him into the ground. Ultimately, with no viable backup, I suppose it's a dead issue. Problem is, the guys who need the most rest are the ones without legitimate reserve options....sooo, thanks Walt!
Kevin: Can't argue with that one Bren. It's not that Digne has been bad, he's just been played into the ground and it shows. But without the viable backup, his minutes will probably remain the same unfortunately.
Jonas: Iago Falque. Salah and Yao are a great duo while Iago is less flashy. The first two have already scored quite some goals or gave assists, even Florenzi has 4 goals in the bag. Pjanic has ten! Falque's two goals in all competitions is just too few for that position and he played quite a lot if I'm not mistaken. Maybe Genoa want him back next Summer after their disappointing 2015-2016?
Sam: Rudiger should not be our number one option, with that said I think Florenzi needs to be moved permanently from the RB spot. Let the boy focus on scoring goals!
NANF: Falque; not only is he not scoring himself, but we are scoring very few open play goals when he is on the pitch. It is an experiment that just hasn't worked.
Let's assume Walter knocks it out of the park this month, can Garcia win it all with a true Garcia squad?
Kevin: Hahahaha... not touching this one with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole.
Jonas: Can I lure Candice Swanepoel into my man cave? The answer is the same. Garcia simply has reached his limits as a trainer in Rome, he's no winner. Even when the traditional big clubs were having a hard time (Inter and Milan last season, Juve this season) Roma can't seem to create a gap at the top. On the contrary, they're once again falling behind. Enough said.
Bren: I don't have faith in Sabatini during the winter markets, his record is deplorable, but I sometimes wonder what Garcia could've done with Bruno Peres, Lucas Digne, Gervinho and Mohamed Salah running around, and if Sabatini could somehow sandwich Eden Hazard in there, Id be okay with Rudi taking another shot.
Sam: No. We are coming up against wily Serie A managers who will not be beaten by a speedy one trick pony.
NANF: I don't know Jonas, I think your odds of bagging Candice are greater than Rudi ever winning the Scudetto.