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Who Stays & Who Goes: Rudi Garcia v. Walter Sabatini

In the wake of yet another disappointing loss, the city of Rome is thirsty for blood, but whose will it be, Rudi Garcia or Walter Sabatini?

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

After Thursday's humiliating loss to Fiorentina in the Europa League, the mood around Roma become suddenly dour. Sure, for weeks on end, many have questioned what was going in Rudi Garcia's head, but his future still seemed assured; Roma are still in second place, after all. However, combine that stark European defeat with their 2-0 blanking against Sampdoria, and the general malaise with which they've played since late November, and suddenly there's blood in the water, but who walks the plank, Walter Sabatini or Rudi Garcia?

1) Let's not mince words, James Pallotta gives you license to drop one, who gets the chop, Walter Sabatini or Rudi Garcia, why?

Zachbquick: I'm definitely not chopping Rudi, not yet. As crazy bad as we've been in the latter part of the season, we're still in second. So whatever we did in the first part of the season was good enough to balance it out. Why would I fire Rudi for Mazzarri when that guy got fired from Inter, who isn't even in a CL place at the moment? Rudi's contract situation also makes this conversation moot unless he resigns.

Saba on the other hand has made some pretty odd decisions this summer & winter. He ignored the need for a keeper to compete w/ Morgan, added another old fullback in Cole without purchasing a younger one, and franky let the Benatia sweepstakes get out of hand and we ended up with no proper ball-playing CB.

This winter was even worse; Saba once again had the opportunity to address all of these problems and failed to address any of them. Instead he replaced Destro w/ Doumbia (a nearly like-for-like move) and randomly acquired Victor Ibarbo. No fullback, no keeper, and Spolli. This winter was a disaster, and for that reason I vote Saba off the island over Rudi.

Dhaw: Walter Sabatini. He has failed miserably this season starting from the Benatia fiasco up until the end of the winter mercato by landing players who were absolutely not ready and absolutely not required and wasting money on some young purchases who were never supposed to be in the first team to begin with.

Bren: I honestly don't know, and I'm the one who made this thing up, how stupid does that make me? Perhaps its the American in me coming out, or simply the baseball fan, but I think Walt's strategy of buying talented, cost controlled youth will pay off (as it often does in baseball), but does anyone associated with this club have the patience to see that through? I suppose I'm willing to give him a giant benefit of the doubt due to the fact that he's only been "the man" for, what, two years now? And I think (or at least hope) that his eye for talent will translate to actual team-building. Of course, the €22m he spent on Iturbe could've gotten an established player to sort of bridge the gap b/t the aging and the youth, so I can certainly understand that argument, then there is the colossal mishandling of Benatia; somebody bluffed, somebody blew it.

You know what? This just came to me, give him his own title. Just like the tail end of The Office, let Sabatini be Jim and handle the big picture, five-to-ten year player development side, and bring in someone to play the role of Michael Scott, handling the day to day, year-to-year decisions.

Problem solved.

NANF: If I had to choose just one, I'd take Rudi's head on the chopping block; failure to adjust, failure to change anything. From the outside looking in the room looks lost. Where his leadership was invaluable last season, the words are no longer hitting their mark or making the intended impact. Also press conferences just shut up and play good football. Ever since he said something along the lines of things getting better when he has the players he needs at his disposal. It's the manager's job to do their best with what is at their disposal, and I don't think Rudi is doing that anymore.

Masonio: Neither because I don't think there's anyone realistically available that would handle things better. Maybe I would look at it again in the summer if the club continues to suffer. I'm not in the know of who is readily attainable in the director of sport position, but if I was, I'd probably let Sabatini go first. Someone else might be able to spend all that money a whole lot more efficiently.

Sam: Bit of a chicken and egg question here. I'm leaning towards Rudi. The dodgy substitutions and sheer lack of tactical changes have done a number on me. Also, something is clearly rotten in the locker room right now. Serious candidates should have already begun being canvassed. Mr Andreazolli need not apply. This doesn't mean I'm happy with Saba either, the Christmas sale he went on simply beggared belief.

2) Regardless of who you think is to blame, what was each man's biggest mistake this season?

Zachbquick: Rudi's biggest mistake is failing to get this team to build out the back, get between the lines, and penetrate. I realize I'm basically saying "failing to get them to play good football" but that is supposed to be Garcia's greatest strength. It would be one thing if we were just not finishing chances, or we were susceptible to counters. But there is an underlying failure of this team to basically play coherent attacking soccer, which is supposed to be Rudi's bread & butter. That is unacceptable. Also his bizarre obsession w/ making Gervinho, and not Totti or Pjanic, the centerpiece of A.S. Roma.

Sabatini's biggest mistake was getting Ibarbo and not a ball-playing centerback and/or a two-way left back. Seriously Sabs, wtf?

Dhaw: Arrogance and their stupid theatrics in front of the cameras and microphones. False Promises.

masonio: Rudi's tactical inflexibility is a flaw, not a mistake. One of his mistakes this season will be managing fitness levels of the squad. Whether that's down to more fixtures being played or some of our key players having a World Cup to play last summer, they're getting outrun by players on Parma. Walter's mistake seems to be not doing his homework before signing players this year. It's like a parent giving a child a big bill to go pick up something at the store and the kid grabs the first thing they find.

Sam: Rudi not being able to get Destro on the field and firing in a formation with Totti at the same time. I truly mourn the loss of that boy. I also didn't like all the theatrics following the Juventus loss. The focus should have been beating them on the field not obsessing about conspiracies.

Bren: I'm gonna have to agree with Sam regarding Garcia. After what Destro accomplished last season, particularly with Gervinho, to see how his role absolutely disappeared was quite shocking. We could also fault him for his general managing of squad rotations coming off a World Cup summer, but all top teams have to face that. As far as Big Walt is concerned, he obviously had a horrific winter market, and I'm wondering the extent to which he and Garcia communicated prior to acquiring Juan Iturbe

3) Which player should Sabatini absolutely not have signed? Which player should he have signed?

Zachbquick: Ibarbo was an awful choice who addressed none of our needs while being redundant to what we do have. Vertonghen, however, is someone we've been linked with that could play as a classy CB or a solid LB. He's literally perfect for us and his only drawback is that there would only be one of him to use at one time.

Bren: It's hard to make a rational argument for signing Ibarbo, not only was he redundant, he's simply not that good, at least not for a team with ambition; even as a winter, depth signing, I can't see the reasoning. I don't have too much fault with grabbing Ashley Cole over the summer, mostly because my expectations were that he'd simply be average, but that obviously hasn't panned out in any respect.

As far as who he should have signed, well that depends on how realistic we're being, and to what extent that fictional signing would have impacted the real signings. What I'm getting at is this: give me Antoine Griezmann every day of the week over Juan Iturbe, though I'm still high on him. I also really, really, really think we missed the boat on Shkodran Mustafi; cheaper, slightly younger and just as good as Manolas who, again, I like, but that could have freed up some cash. Then there is, of course, Davide Santon, he would've been a decent mid-year gamble.

We could go on and on with this one, they didn't need much, but he leaned a bit too heavily on potential rather than present contributions, which might be his undoing.

Dhaw: Should have strengthened the backline in the winter mercato. Stacking up the front line with idiotic buys like Ibarbo & Doumbia was plain foolish. I can cut him some slack for Doumbia because Destro decided to leave but can't accept the childish error of signing Doumbia without a proper medical examination.

NANF: Spolli, I just don't see the point if he isn't even going to see a minute even if it is on loan.

masonio: There are so many that it's hard to choose just one. I'll go with Iturbe since the money never made sense and it's the biggest failure financially. I love(d) Griezmann but I'm not sure how realistic it could be. Maybe we could have outbid Atletico but would he still want to come to Rome? I'm not here to play football manager so I won't bother tossing names, but picking up a couple, or even one, fullback that wasn't a bargain deal would have worked. It's ridiculous that the exact same thing happened in January when we signed Ibarbo & Doumbia. I'm not saying spend all that nearly 60 million on fullbacks, but it's been a need ever since the new management took over.

Sam: Making Yanga Mbiwa a permanent mood was an odd one but then along came Spolli! Seriously what the hell? Did they get him to make training more interesting because he sure as hell isn't doing anything on game day. The cash splashed on Iturbe certainly should have landed us a bigger fish. I'm reading Zlatan's autobiography right now, its hilarious, so how about him? Realistic choice, I'm a fan of both Jovetic and Pastore and would love to see them in the giallorosso however a dominant left back or confident centre back is a clear gap in this team that needs to be filled.

4) Which player has Rudi Garcia mismanaged the most? How would you change that? Has his handling of any player improved this year?

Zachbquick: Rudi has probably effed up in his use of Totti more than anybody else. He keeps taking him off while leaving Gervinho on. That's pretty self-explanatory.

However, I think his management of Ljajic has been something of a silver lining. Adem has made an unexpected comeback this year, and I'll give Garcia some credit for that.

Dhaw: Florenzi & Totti. If I have to pick one out of those two then I pick Florenzi.

None of the players have improved under him this year. Absolutely no one. I wouldn't even put Adem here because Adem is a talent who needed time to settle in and understand Rudi's game but to say that he personally "improved" his game is something I don't agree with at all. Even last year, his treatment of Adem was atrocious but it didn't matter that time because things were going fine as a team. This year his treatment of Destro was horrible as well and it's an absolute shame to see Destro leave because of false promises given to him week in week out that he will get game time.

Come to think of it. This management surely knows a thing or two about making false promises. They know how to talk but can't walk their talk on the field.

NANF: The backline. Sure injuries and (insert random excuse here) don't help. But neither did the constant shuffling. There was no cohesion between any of the CB pairings, not that any of them have really warranted keeping together for any good reason other then at least letting them be shit together consistently. On a slightly more serious note, I'd say the midfield. Radja isn't a direct Strootman replacement, so don't play him with the same exact tactics as last season with DDR and Pjanic. Play to the players strengths. In much the same way Taddei would come in last season and our midfield looked completely different in function yet was still functional.

masonio: All of them, really. There are so many players unfit. I'll pick Florenzi since he's got the bonus of not being given an actual role on the squad. He'll have trouble developing anything beyond a utility player.

Sam: Destro, Destro and Destro. Giving him away to Milan so we could bring in that muppet Doumbia is just heart breaking. Also, stop dicking Florenzi around at RB and give Gervinho a kick up the arse rather than hugs and an untouchable spot in the starting XI.

Bren: Hard to disagree with Sam on this one; what changed between Garcia and Destro between last season and this one is beyond me, but beyond that, the one that comes most immediately to mind is Florenzi, of course.

5) Okay, let's pretend Garcia gets the axe, who's your ideal candidate? What qualities must they possess in order to be successful with Roma?

Zachbquick: Most people will say Carlo or Spalletti, but I prefer Montella. Carlo is great but he takes great sides and brings them over the hump. We aren't mid-2000's Milan, Chelsea or Real Madrid. Spalletti hasn't been in Serie A for a while now and I wasn't privy to football tactics when he was in charge, so I find him difficult to judge. Montella knows the territory, he's young, and he has the kind of possession-based attacking philosophy that I (and management) want.

Dhaw: I've said this for the last few weeks and I'll repeat it again.

Dream Move : Carlo Ancelotti.

Romantic Move : Luciano Spalletti.

Realistic Move : Walter Mazzarri.

Bren: Something tells me Eusebio Di Francesco will get more than a cursory glance, but you can't resist the allure of reuniting either Montella or Spalletti with Roma. Whoever they choose, they need to be tactically flexible, and, as much as it pains me to say, they need to have the courage to relegate Totti to a lesser role, or at least fewer minutes, for his sake and that of the club.

masonio: The qualities the next manager needs is the ability to handle pressure in Rome, the egos in the squad and have some level of tactical nous to compete in Serie A. That's it.

Sam: Spalletti! Bring that bald dome of magnificence back into my life! But I'm not opposed to Mazzarri, I loved the way his Napoli side broke forward with the ball a couple of years ago. If Carlo wants to come, that's obviously a no-brainer.

6) Flip it around, suppose Sabatini is shown the door, who's your ideal candidate? What qualities must they have to lead Roma over the next five to ten years?

Zachbquick: I have several years of experience playing Fifa manager modes and stand ready to build Roma in my image.

Dhaw: I'd absolutely love Pantaleo Corvino to become our next DS. If I may add that this idea of next 5 years and 10 years doesn't work with Roma. Just take it 2 years at a time.

masonio: The next director of sport should have experience with a large budget and a track record for team building.

Sam: Jesus, I don't know! How about someone who outright refuses to buy washed up EPL stars and puts a cap on the number of young South Americans?

Bren: I'm not really up on what executives may or may not be available in Italy this summer, so I'll defer to Dhaw on this one, but the candidate MUST be able to balance short term needs with long-term planning. If we've learned anything about the new administration, it's that they're long-term planners. So while hording U23s seems good on paper, they need someone who can also deliver the goods and broker the deals in the here and now.

7) Lastly, let's assume calmer heads prevail and the whole band comes back, what must they do to launch a serious assault on Juventus? Is there one purchase or one sale that must be made? Is there one thing in particular Garcia must do differently?

Zachbquick: We need to be able to build out of the back if Rudi's gonna thrive. That means ideally having a goalkeeper, defenders and a CDM who can all use their feet. De Sanctis and Manolas are both good players who deserve to be a part of this team, but they aren't great w/ their feet.

Getting a young modern keeper like Geronimo Rulli and a defender like Fabian Schar would change everything. Then you get two technical fullbacks like De Sciglio and I think our midfield and attack will be just fine. Even De Rossi would rediscover his form next to other technically competent players, especially when Strootman returns.

Dhaw: Needs to start talking a little less and throw his acting career out of the window because he is a horrible actor. He needs to be honest and not be someone's little bitch (puppet). Once he is done with that he needs to come up with a Plan B. If he is our manager next season then he has the pre-season to try new things.

NANF: The only change I want is mental. They need to get their fight back. Play for the shirt on their backs again. If it takes another thrashing like this last week so that they can rise again then so be it. It is a vicious cycle but on I've just come to expect.  Can't learn to run before you can walk. Roma went from life support to a sprint in record time. So I expected stumbles and falls as part of the learning process they just skipped. I just expected them to still view this as a process and not a finished product.

masonio: Buy some quality fullbacks. Prepare better. Don't go to Disneyland and don't go on any other trip. Focus on the football. Go rafting.

Sam: Start playing for each other on the field. More off the ball movement and run like a man possessed when you lose the ball. Forget Juventus, this sinking ship needs to be patched first and to do that we need to develop our swagger back and start stepping on the smaller teams. Rudi, please for the love of god change some tactics on game day. And Saba, buy us a godamn LB and RB!!!!!

Bren: I think they just need more operable depth; players that Garcia will actually use to augment the aging legs of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi. Beyond that, Florenzi needs a reliable role and something, anything, must be done about the fullbacks, be it Matteo Darmian or Mattia De Sciglio, while someone like Petr Cech would be a great two-to-three year stopgap at the back. I think the pieces, by and large, are in place; they just need to augment them with players Garcia will actually use!

So, what does everyone else think? Who stays? Who goes? Both? Neither?