After such a tumultuous season, it was only right that we ran it back in our customary round table style. After all, that's how this church was born. We tried to keep the griping limited to the actual season, but it's hard not to look forward to the summer transfer market, where Walter Sabatini can hopefully save some face and cure Roma's ails in the process. Anyway, away we go...
First things first, give Roma's season an overall grade and a two-to-three sentence summary
Zachbquick: I think the most accurate way to describe this season would be getting a B+ on a geography test. Yeah, we were never in any real danger of failing but it was a GEOGRAPHY TEST. My point is we should have done much better given the lack of quality in Serie A this year.
NANF: C, they passed. The Champions League objective was meet. It wasn't anything to write home about but they passed.
Bren: I like Zach's analogy the best. Given their talent and the collective messes in Milan, they were never really in danger of falling too far down the table, but they acted like a senior in highschool taking a blowoff course and only managing a B, which would make my grade for them a C+, does that make sense?
Dhaw: Throughout the season we played terrible football and the lack of chemistry was for everyone to see. The objective was achieved but there was no growth as a team. We didn't take a step forward as a collective unit. Some individuals won some of their personal battles but as a team we lost the war. A big fat D.
masonio: It was a step back from the previous season. We played worse, performed worse and executed worse with a huge monetary injection into the squad. C for barely meeting expectations that shouldn't be a problem for this squad.
Sam: C+ I give them the pity grade. Atrocious football after such a promising start, at the beginning of the year I had very high hopes. If this season was an essay it would probably have too many commas so the sentences run too long and never seem to finish cleanly. And Rudi probably forgot to write his name up the top.
JonAS: 7. It started bright like 2013-2014 but then Roma fell into old habits again. The middle part was plain boring for Rudi's standards but both the CL and EL fixtures put me through the mediocrity. The derby win was a sweet cherry on top of a tasteless cake. (nobody clued Jonas in to the North American-centric grading scale, my fault)
Okay, so what was the high point of the season?
Zachbquick: There were a few sparks in the beginning such as the opening day victory over Fiorentina, the 5-1 win over CSKA and tying Man City. But, the answer to this question is obviously the derby win over Lazio to guarantee second place ahead of them. Classic.
Bren: I have to go with Totti's performance in the first derby, that flying, judo-esque side volley was perhaps his greatest goal ever, which is really saying something. Many years down the road, that will be the lasting image of this season in my eyes, which is oddly reassuring; it doesn't matter what they actually did in the end, simply witnessing what that man continues to do at his age is a blessing.
NANF: Florenzi going to the stands to his nonna.
Dhaw: The high point is that the season is finally over.
masonio: The derby victory in the only match that really mattered since December.
Sam: The draw away to Man City. We played out of our skin and Totti scored one for the ages.
JonAS: I could say the second derby but I'm going for the surprise package this time. It may sound strange but I rarely celebrated a Roman goal like Holebas' one against Inter (4-2 win). What a beauty, totally unexpected. And from José of all people. Derby hero Yanga-Mbiwa is a close second, the 5-1 win against CSKA third.
The low point (please limit yourself to one)
Zachbquick: Many will say the 7-1 loss to Bayern. But, I think Pep's team is fantastic and there is no shame in trying to come out and play them head-to-head and failing. For me it was tying Parma at home. Now that was pathetic.
NANF: Second leg of Europa League against Fiorentina, Monty embarrassed us at home that night from the opening whistle.
Dhaw: Mishandling of players like Mattia, Ashley, Francesco, Miralem and others.
masonio: The current state of management right now.
Sam: The transfer market debacle and resulting pathetic displays of football culminating in shitty draws and shitty dhaws.
Bren: Im equal parts Sam and equal parts Dhaw on this one, but ultimately, Sabatini's winter blunder was inexcusable. We can't rightly say if he made different purchases Roma would have stood a chance, but those moves made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
JonAS: One? Now that's plain cruelty, Bren! Then I'll pick the 0-2 defeat against City in December. Roma had its faith in its own hands but they threw it away like amateurs. Progressing from such a badass CL group would have had a positive vibe on the team in 2015, now it kinda messed up the rest of our season. I would've loved a confrontation with Barcelona, plus the massive financial boost that came with it.
To what extent can we blame injuries or AFCON for Roma's woes this season?
Zachbquick: Castan and Stroots were big losses but every team deals with injuries. Two injuries is no excuse for our play this season. And Vinho didn't exactly save us upon returning from Africa. The answer is "no".
NANF: Not a whole lot.
Dhaw: The club knew Leandro will be out for a long time before the season kicked off. As for Strootman they knew he won't be coming back until the end of the year. The club very well in advance knew that few players will be gone for AFCON. Despite those things Rudi and his coaching staff should have handled the players properly and worked things out but Rudi did not manage to do because he is rigid. Then to top it off we picked up 2 injured players in Ibarbo and Doumbia who certainly weren't going to make an iota of a difference. The blame lies on Rudi and his staff along with Walter Sabatini for an absolute horror of a winter mercato.
Bren: I want to give it some weight. As controversial as he was, there's no denying the importance of Gervinho to Rudi Garcia's attack, and he simply wasn't the same in 2015. I'm not saying he would have equalled what he did last year, but it seemed to take its toll on his legs throughout the spring.
JonAS: AFCON not so much. Gervinho, for example was a lot less influential for this side than last season. Injuries however dealt a big blow to Roma. Balzaretti, Castan and Strootman: three cornerstones were missing for the majority of the season. THREE. Two of them were pillars of Roma 2013-2014 while the third would have been Roma's solution for our LB problem. Maicon (still our most talented RB) also struggled so it's clear the season would have been a lot different with all those players 100% fit.
Sam: You can't, the system of football should be able to tolerate injuries. Our attack was as blunt as a butter knife, I put this down to Rudi over injuries.
What was the biggest difference between this season and last?
Zachbquick: To me it was the loss of Benatia and teams realizing how to guard Vinho 1 v 1. Without Big Ben's ball skills, teams realized they could press our back line and ruin our build-up, and all we could do is hoof it to Tott's head, not an easy target to hit. Similarly, it became obvious to other teams that Gervinho is helpless if you force him to make decisions in tight spaces. Gervinho was a gimmick, useless in certain situations. Serie A's teams adapted to us and Rudi failed to respond.
NANF: Rudi Garcia
Dhaw: Lack of Humility and unwarranted arrogance and lot of nonsense spewed before the game and after the game without any substance.
masonio: Last season we had better centrebacks and more players with higher football IQ playing. And Rudi was better, Gervinho lucky.
Bren: I think you have a point there, Masie. As much as I love Manolas, going from Benatia and Castan to Manolas and Astori/Mbiwa hurt Roma more than many of us had anticipated. But, being the Destro lover that I am, I can't help but point out the correlation between Roma's definitive lack of a forward presence and his lack of playing time and subsequent transfer.
Sam: Last season everyone had confidence in the team and attacked with ferocity. This year we looked embarrassed when we ran onto the field.
JonAS: There were a lot of differences. But if I were to choose one, it would be Rudi Garcia. I'm not alone when I say he has changed. Both as a coach and as a person. He got cocky, self-assured, a bigger ego. Plus he believed his own lies during press conferences. Maybe he should've stayed more humble and straightforward. Some weird substitutions and player choices as well... He really put his job on the line this year but it seems the Americans are willing to give the Frenchman one more shot. A bad start in 2015-2016 and he's out faster than you can say ‘Adrian Pit pronounced Piz'.
What exactly went wrong?
Zachbquick: See above.
NANF: The irony between his change in press conferences to the tactics that were written in stone.
Dhaw: Grandiose delusions.
masonio: The transfer strategy and ultimately tactical execution.
Sam: Tactics were found out and everyone started playing like they were carrying crosses.
Bren: In hindsight, this question may have been redundant, but to narrow it down to one or two things. Managerial shortcomings were exposed and the front office failed to patch them over properly in the transfer market.
JonAS: Nothing went ‘wrong', my dear man. That's just how Roma rolls. Just when you think they stopped punching above their weight and overachieving, they remind you why we all started to support Roma: the drama, the rollercoaster, the thin line between joy and despair, fragileness. And there's nothing you can do about it. For all we know, Roma could win the Scudetto next season but they might as well end lower than Sassuolo or Palermo. It's an adventure and the actual journey is always better than the destination. Don't ever change my love.
Who was your player of the year and why?
Zachbquick: De Sanctis. He was always dependable and the main reason our defense was surprisingly good despite our large drop in quality from last year. He isn't my ideal keeper because he's not so great with his distribution, but my god the man can stop shots when you need him to. I don't recall a single dropped cross or intercepted pass from the back either. If Morgan had gotten injured for any significant length of time I wholeheartedly believe we aren't even in Europa League next year.
NANF: Florenzi. Gave all he had to the shirt. Did whatever was asked of him.
Dhaw: Morgan Batman De Sanctis. Earned us points in games which we had absolutely no right to get. He had to suffer a lot because of the clowns in front of him and despite the stupidity of our defenders he somehow managed to push himself and come out strong this season. Without his heroics most of those draws would've been losses for us.
masonio: I liked Pjanic a lot this year. He gets a lot of flack from most people but even this year the numbers were there, leading the league in assists. I credit the derby win to his substitution. He completely changed the match when he came on. Not bad for playing in a dysfunctional side.
Bren: Through the first half of the season or so, I thought Adem Ljajic was about to be a bona fide sensation, but I'm torn between Radja Nainggolan and Alessandro Florenzi, but I'll give it to Ale for jumping between positions all season and remaining consistent from Week 1 to 38. The future is bright for him, for sure.
Sam: Florenzi. I hate seeming him in RB. When moving forward with the ball he looks a real threat, sort of exactly how Iturbe, Ibarbo, Doumbia and Gervinho do not. Add to that a cannon of a shot and he consistently shows the most amount of heart. Honourable mention to Radja.
JonAS: Can I say Taddei? Pleaaaaaaaaase? No? Then I'll go for Alessandro Florenzi. 35 games, 5 goals. The kid was ever-present this campaign and his work rate, flexibility and passion for our club is something I deeply value. He may not be as talented as Francesco or Daniele but he's extremely likeable and perfectly imperfect. It's good to know the Roman legacy will go on after De Rossi. A player every trainer loves to have on his team.
Who were you most disappointed in?
Zachbquick: De Rossi. He should've been our best player but his play was so poor that Keita deservedly took his spot a few times. He should have been a stabilizing presence in our possession game and in the locker room but he was neither. Very disappointing Daniele. I know you'll do better next year after you tell those MLS teams to kindly piss off. Iturbe also deserves some mention here.
NANF: The collective, they didn't play as a team. Disjointed throughout, hard to single out anyone key contributor to my disappointment because they all had a hand in the cookie jar.
Dhaw: Rudi Garcia.
masonio: A lot of players and personnel performed poorly but most were expected (Rudi, Gervinho, Iturbe, our back line) so I'll go with Sabatini and his transfers. Some complete duds there. De Rossi gets a mention, too; I expected more from him.
Sam: Both Rudi and Walter really gave me the shits this season.
Bren: I gotta go with Walter Sabatini, too. I simply have no idea what the fuck he was thinking this winter. None. Zero.
JonAS: Ashley Cole. And the worst part is: it's probably not his fault. Rudi's simply didn't use him enough (or didn't want to). Why Cole played so little is beyond me. Ok, he was 33 when he joined Roma but Balzaretti and Maicon proved that old fullbacks still have some juice left in the tank. Besides, Italy has a less pacy league than Germany or England, more tactical. So Cole, with all his national and international experience, would have been a perfect fit for at least one season, the ideal short-term solution for LB. 11 appearances (rarely a start after New Year) is sad. A big mistake by Rudi.
Who were you most surprised by?
Zachbquick: Daniele for the above reasons.
NANF: Dougie, oh where art thou Dougie.
Bren: Manolas. I love him, he's Mexes mixed with a Tie Domi. I expect him to be a rock in defense for many years, while also leading the league in bookings.
masonio: Florenzi towards the end of the season but it might just be because everyone else had nothing to play for so he stood out. Kudos for that, though.
Sam: Keita and Cole. How come Keita was good and used all the time and Cole was thrown on the bench? What bizarro world is this?
JonAS: Morgan De Sanctis, again. At the age of 38 he still stands as one of Italy's finest keepers and one of Roma's best since a very looooong time. Remember Goicoechea, Stekelenburg, Curci, Arthur, Zotti, Doni, Eleftheropoulos,...? No wonder our defence was uncertain all this time. Morgan is a commanding presence and wakes up the men in front of him. I'm so happy to see Roma finally have a more than decent Italian (!) keeper in its ranks for the second season in a row. I didn't dare to predict he would have such an influence on us when he signed back in 2013. New keeper in the Summer or not, Morgan simply has to stay for at least one more year, he earned it.
Who was Roma's best signing this season? Their worst?
Zachbquick: Did we have a single good signing? It's obviously Radja if you think he's eligible, but I don't. I guess it was Manolas, who was sort of disappointing himself. The worst was Doumbia. I don't know if he was injured or just plain bad at top-level football, but Saba should have been aware of either. Christ Saba, not your best work this year.
NANF: Ezequiel the tank Ponce, hasn't even stepped foot in Rome so that moves him pretty high up the list for best transfer, because he simply hasn't disappointed yet and I'm a sucker for Saba's South American youth buys. I'll go with loaning Destro out as the worst. That move still doesn't make sense, especially if were going to swap him for Doumbia.
Dhaw: Best Signing: Iturbe was supposed to be that but he turned out to win the Bidone d'oro . Worst Signing: Not one but two. Ibarbo and Doumbia. Hands down. Luckily we have the option to dump Ibarbo but Doumbia is going to be hard to get out of Rome unless we take a big loss on him.
Bren: Best, I gotta go with Manolas, but long term, Uçan has me the most intrigued. The worst? I mean, come on, it's gotta be Doumbia, at least Ibarbo has freakish athleticism on his side, Doumbia just seems middle of the road at best.
masonio: Manolas is the best out of a terrible bunch that had money actually spent on them. Maybe Keita since he was free. The worst was Iturbe but that was known from before it was even official. The Ibarbo & Doumbia transfers are close. I'll say the worst one is whichever takes longer to recoup from.
Best: Keita. Well, best as in: ‘sucked the least'. Not so many stellar signings from Saba this time around. Not even after January (especially not after January). Seydou was solid when called up, scoring two important goals in the process (Juventus and Fiorentina). Not bad for a free transfer.
Worst: Ucan. Damn, I had such high hopes/expectations for this kid. but same story as Cole: Rudi rarely used him when he had the chance. But he opted for ugly variations like Keita-DDR-Nainggolan. Or are we forgetting something? Are we blinded by his afro? Does the staff know more? Maybe they were not convinced by his trainings. Still, I want to see more of Ucan in the near future.
Sam: Best? Does Radja count? No? Manolas was probably the least offensive but he still has a long way to go. Worst - Doumbia. Who is this idiot and what is he doing in Rome in Destro's spot?!
Let's end it on a high note, what or who gives you hope going forward?
Zachbquick: Lots of things give me hope. Strootman and Castan are coming back. The transfer season gives Saba yet another chance to get us a pair of real full-backs. Pjanic might not be sold after all. Finally, I have a hunch Iturbe will explode next year. I honestly think we can pick up from where we left off in 2013/14 if we buy the right players for Rudilandia. However, I'm not sure Rudi knows who those players are. We need less speed and more skill, less Manolas's and Gervinho's and more Benatia's and Konoplyanka's. We haven't bought Ibarbo, Glen Johnson or Ayew yet (although I am higher on Ayew than Dhaw), Gervinho might be sold, and we are linked with actual quality fullbacks. Hope remains!
NANF: The sun will still rise tomorrow. It's another day, another season. Hopefully they all collectively learned something this season and can use it as a foundation to build on. Totti is still lacing the boots up and Florenzi is blossoming into a great player.
Dhaw: (he left his empty, which I can only assume means we're hopeless)
Bren: My knee jerk reaction is to say the impressive cadre of youth working their way towards Rome, but if Garcia remains in charge we'll never seem them play. But, I still have a great deal of faith in the American regime; it's a potentially decade long project, but I'm still on board.
Sam: The money from the 10 shirts that will be sold in Melbourne during the upcoming pre-season tour.
JonAS: My mommy and daddy. AS Roma related: Francesco Totti. Every. Single. Minute.