Stage one in Operation Rescue Rudi did not go according to plan, as Garcia's charges were outwitted by lowly Atalanta, sending the Giallorossi to their second straight loss. While it wasn't the starkest defeat in Garcia's tenure, the chorus of boos from the half empty stadium effectively captured the mood of the city; people want his head on a plate. Garcia and his boys will attempt a stay of execution as they travel north to take on Torino, whom they have beaten in four of the past six matches.
While Torino looked like an upsetter at the beginning of the season, winning four of their first six matches, the Toros came crashing down the table the minute the leaves started to fall, going winless for six straight matches before righting the ship in successive weeks against Atalanta and Bologna (boy, that's ironic).
Point being, we have no idea what to expect from Torino. But, I'm here, you're here, so let's do this.
As we just mentioned, it's been a season of peaks and valleys for Torino's less glamorous club. However, with two straight victories, we're left to worry: is this the start of another hot streak or were Torino just the beneficiaries of a soft spot in the schedule...again, let the irony wash over you.
Gone are the days when Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile were the twin horns atop the head of this bull. In their place, Torino has found offensive inspiration from two disparate sources: a 32-year-old has been and a 23-year-old kid who has already doubled his career scoring output in only 13 matches this season.
The older half of that tandem is, of course, Fabio Quagliarella, the man who was almost a Roma player, what, eight, nine times? Quagliarella has played in 13 of Torino's 14 league matches this season, bagging four goals while putting 52% of his shots on target, though his 12% conversion rate (which isn't that bad, all things considered) and the fact that he hasn't scored since September suggest that his age may be catching up to him after all. But his track record speaks for itself.
Baselli, meanwhile, is a stock on the rise. The 23-year-old midfielder has been a revelation in his first full season in Serie A. Through 13 appearances, Baselli has four goals and two assists, both of which lead the club, while averaging 1.9 key passes and 1.5 dribbles per match. By no means is he the second coming of Daniele De Rossi, but he's a well-rounded and effective midfielder, one who is quickly rising the ranks.
Despite their precipitous decline through the fall, those two wins on the trot have Torino in 8th place, only three points out of European contention. Given what we've witnessed over the past few matches, these bulls should scare the shit out of you.
Rescue Rudi: Stage Two
By now, you know where I stand on this issue: I think Garcia's time with Roma has come. That isn't to say he's a poor manager and won't find success elsewhere, but the magic/ingredients/circumstances with which he found so much success at the start of his tenure have vanished. If he can turn things around and vault Roma back "up" the table, I'll gladly eat my words. But take a look at those quotation marks hanging in the air and you'll discover the crux of my argument, as it were.
As we've mentioned many times this year, Garcia isn't an imbecile, nor is he an incapable manager; after all, he's delivered consecutive European appearances. However, his inability to adapt, inspire and cope with adversity has prevented the club from getting over the proverbial hump. And while I remain reticent about a midseason managerial change, how many more chances does Garcia need? How many more dull, listless matched and rationalized press conferences must we endure before Roma pulls the plug?
But I digress, on to the heart of the matter, an incredibly tough road fixture against a deceivingly dangerous opponent. Facing yet another week without Gervinho, Mohamed Salah and Francesco Totti, Garcia will have no choice but to rely on Edin Dzeko, Juan Iturbe and Iago Falque upfront in his tried, true and tired 4-3-3.
We discussed Iturbe failings early this week, and while Falque is a steadying presence, he isn't or hasn't been (at least with Roma) a consistent scoring threat, which heaps massive amounts of pressure onto Dzeko, who, as we all know, has thrived in Garcia's wide spread 4-3-3 (sarcasm font). All of this will probably amount to another incredibly frustrating match for Dzeko, as he stands idly by as the ball bounds up and down the flanks.
The midfield should also remain unchanged, as Garcia has neither the time nor patience to deviate from the De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan trio, more in terms of their shape and roles than their actual existence, though you know I love me some Salih Uçan, while the defense should remain the same, thanks in large part to Maicon's suspension.
Between Saturday's trip to Torino and next Wednesday's tilt with BATE Borisov, Garcia is facing two absolute must win matches. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if Garcia is as fond of Roma and his players as he says, he needs to get inventive now.