Let's say this much for Rudi Garcia's Roma, at least they're consistent. From rattling off six straight wins to start the season, to drawing 13 of 21 matches through the winter, to now losing two straight matches by a combined score of 5-0, when Roma finds a groove she likes, she sticks with it come hell or high water. The latest blemish on Roma's dreadful 2015 was a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Fiorentina in the second leg of today's Europa League Round of 16 match, one in which the Giallorossi were done and dusted practically from the word go, surrendering a penalty in only the ninth minute of the match.
Marcos Alonso and Jose Basanta would follow up Gonzalo Rodriguez's ninth minute penalty to end Roma's Europa League campaign in the span of 12 minutes. You know how it goes by now: Roma held a greater degree of possession, took more shots, completed a higher percentage of their passes and created more scoring chances, yet, due to poor finishing, sloppy defending and horrid...and I mean horrid...goalkeeping were left wanting and are now on the outside looking in at UEFA's lesser competition.
Roma's 2015 has drained every ounce of wit and cogency from my fingers, so let's see what the stakeholders had to say about today's debacle.
It was an unexpected defeat...Fiorentina deserve compliments for making the most of our gifts to them, but I am mortified. We had the right desire at the start, but paid a heavy price for individual errors.
An unexpected defeat? See, I told you he was gunning for the scoreless draw.
I'll have to agree with Garcia on this one, though. My rampant pessimism aside, a home match with an away goal advantage in your back pocket is a pretty enviable position, so to see that go for naught, and it such an extreme and embarrassing manner, is a bitter bill to swallow.
Rudi then attempted to bring this loss into greater context, specifically Roma's domestic ambitions/damage control:
Now we have to salvage the season with second place. If we qualify for the Champions League, it will be an acceptable campaign. There are 11 battles remaining in Serie A. It's just the staff and the players.
We can't really fault Rudi on his first point, because he's absolutely correct; this season's ambition always was (as it should have been) qualifying for the Champions League for a second consecutive season; the second step in what we hope becomes an annual rite. However, given how absolute shit they've been, do we even have faith they can take down Cesena this weekend, let alone Napoli the following week?
Garcia then issued an ultimatum of sorts...
I will not let go for a second, we have to lift our heads and get back up. This is what I expect from my players. I spoke to them after the game, telling them that anyone with pride and character will follow me. If anyone is weak, then they do not interest me...In this moment of difficulty that's the message I want to give to the team. The leader must set the example and I remain motivated.
The season can still end well. It's not possible for this Roma to be real. We need more character
As far as the rest of Garcia's comments are concerned, they seem relatively innocuous, if not torn straight from some trite Hollywood script, so I don't put a ton of stock into them, but, broadly speaking, Garcia's words are beginning to sound like nothing more than a series of ever-more elaborate excuses, and you know what they say about excuses and assholes.
While I don't dare say the writing is on the wall, it's looking increasingly likely that one of Garcia or Sabatini won't be around come summer. Draw a line in the sand, it's one or the other, Garcia or Sabatini; two strong willed and intractable men. Which side of the line one falls on depends on your view of Sabatini's actual role; is he constructing the team in his image, based on his ideals, or is he subservient to Garcia's desires?
Whatever you think, credit Sabatini with this much; he's got balls.
We realise the fans were already tense, but we have to look at what the team tried to do. The energy in this game reassures me, then of course it's time to identity responsibility and understand it....This team tonight paid for the mistakes I made. I have to acknowledge that and the Coach paid for my errors too. I made a mistake in January. The team needed reinforcements in attack and I made choices that didn't immediately produce results, so the squad felt that absence.
Now, if you're a Sabatini-hater, you're probably thinking that Walt's mistakes began in August, but there's no denying it, he fucked up big time in January. I'm not the stubborn sort, but you'll never convince me that getting rid of Destro was the right move, irrespective of Seydou Doumbia's presence, while the less said about Victor Ibarbo, the better.
But then Sabatini copped up to passing on Mohamed Salah, who has absolutely eviscerated the Roma defense on multiple occasions now:
Salah is a player to be regretted and another mistake that I made. It is easy to accuse yourself without secondary effects, but what I say now will still be valid in future...I will not resign now, as it would be like running away and I am not someone who does that. I'll think of the points the
A director of sport/general manager resigning at this point in the season is moot anyway; the die has been cast, at this point, it's better to just ride it out and see if his investments start to bear fruit in the short term before a massive, top-down overhaul of Roma's front office.
You can sort of infer which way I lean in this argument, but I think the nature vs nurture, Garcia vs Sabatini debate, is one worth delving into on its own, so we'll table that for a few days.
So, there you have it; Roma will once again go trophy-less. Roma's quest to not completely cough up their Champions League spot begins on Sunday against Cesena.