2015 was...was...uh...not a good year for Roma. In the calendar sense of the word, the Giallorossi suffered their usual spate of draws and vomit inducing losses to lesser sides before being bailed out by Mapou Yanga Mbiwa in May's 2-1 derby victory, which was just enough to secure (a term used loosely) second place and direct qualification into this season's Champions League. In the current season sense, well, it's been pretty much the same story; punchless draws and pathetic losses. Roma hasn't managed more than two consecutive victories all season.
Not much has gone Roma's way in 2015, and the fact that they were able to hang onto second place in the spring and remain within earshot of the title race this season are minor miracles. Given the depth of that despair, we can problem come up with a laundry list of things the club can address throughout the coming year, but we're going to limit it to a half-dozen. Six things Roma must address in 2016.
Here we go...
Be More Direct
Assertiveness; the trait harped on by grandpas the world over. It's useful in job interviews, in dating and even the grocery store (you want that last pack of double stuffed chocolate cream oreos, move your ass!). Now, we don't mean this in the felonious sense, but if you want something, you have to take it; relying on the kindness of strangers is best left to destitute debutants from Mississippi.
In terms of football, it simply means Roma needs to be more effective in the run of play. Granted, that's a bit of a glib statement; it's not as if the club doesn't understand this or attempt to implement it, but given that 47% of their goals have come via the counter, the penalty spot or from fee kicks, Garcia's attack isn't the most proficient in the run of play... or you know, football.
That's the empirical evidence, to figure out what's gone wrong anecdotally, just watch any match from the past two months. Edin Dzeko, Roma's nominal counter weight to Garcia's wingers, spends an inordinate amount of time away from the goal, pushed far and wide from the face of goal, resulting in a complete and utter lack of threat inside the penalty area.
Speaking of which...
This point naturally follows our first, but if Roma stands any chance at being more assertive and more efficient in the run of play, they absolutely must make better use of Edin Dzeko. While his goal haul remains paltry, the early returns on Dzeko (think early fall) were promising. Although he wasn't finding the back of the net, Dzeko was receiving consistent touches and was getting the ball in dangerous areas, but as fall gave way to winter, that well dried up rather quickly.
As the only true striker on this team, it is imperative that Roma makes better and more appropriate use of Dzeko's skills. While he has been able to contribute off the ball by holding up play and laying off the ball, that is far from the ideal utilization of his still rather large skill set. Garcia's attack is completely unbalanced and too wing oriented, Dzeko is the only player on this team capable of bringing true balance to this frontline.
Lest you think Dzeko is innocent in all this, think again: he HAS to be more clinical in front of goal; every missed sitter pushes us further away from European qualification next year.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
This one is rather simple, but it bears repeating anyway. With the club still fighting on two fronts, and with a dog fight in the domestic top five sure to come, Rudi Garcia simply has to do a better job rotating between his top 11 to 15 players. Through 17 matches, Garcia has leaned heavily upon several players, offering little to no rest for several key players. To wit: Kostas Manolas has played in 99% of possible domestic minutes, Radja Nainggolan 91%, Lucas Digne 88% and Miralem Pjanic 83%.
Through 17 matches, those numbers aren't that concerning, but if that pattern persists, we could be in a world of trouble, as each of those players has already suffered bouts of inconsistency, and we're not even officially half way through the season.
Of course, there is another man complicit in Garcia's man management...
Make a Mark in the Winter Window
As we discussed several days ago, Roma's record in the January transfer window has generally been deplorable, highlighted in recent years by Vasilis Torosidis, Seydou Doumbia and Victor Ibarbo. Furthermore, with real, discernable needs at striker, right back, winger and even central defense, bringing in another journeyman is the last thing this squad needs.
So whether it's Bruno Peres, Stephan El Shaarawy, Cyril Thereau or the ghost of Ludovic Giuly, Walter Sabatini has to give Garcia someone useful, someone versatile and someone impactful if the Giallorossi stand any chance at moving up the table in 2016.
Whether it's because of summer misgivings or Garcia shortcomings, once you move past the marquee names, this club has serious depth issues.
Survive Outside the Olimpico
Even without the support of their most fervent fans, Roma has managed to keep the Olimpico virtually impregnable. Through their first eight domestic matches at home, Roma has taken 19 of a possible 24 points, falling only to Atalanta in a 2-0 embarrassment. Given the doom and gloom surrounding their home ground, it may seem as though they've been flaccid at home, but that's simply not been the case.
On the road, however, things have been far, far uglier. Through nine matches away from home, Roma has taken 13 of a possible 27 points, throwing up three wins, four draws and two losses. While no one expects perfection on the road, dropping two points away from home, especially against the likes of Bologna and Torino, has already bitten Roma in the ass. If this trend continues through the spring, it could cost them millions next season.
Make a $%&*ing Decision
Under the auspices of Thomas DiBenedetto and later James Pallotta, Roma has been under American stewardship since April of 2011. In the ensuing four plus years, Roma has had four managers, two directors of sport and the two aforementioned presidents. Not exactly the picture of stability from a management group that has frequently touted their paradigm shifting project.
While I remain firmly on board with the American ownership, this much is painfully obvious; to date, they've talked the talk but haven't really walked the walk. And yes, we may never really know how caught off guard they were or how many years the project was set back when Luis Enrique resigned, nor do we really know how close they were to Laurent Blanc prior to hiring Garcia, but when you tear the house down to the studs, it doesn't make sense to hire a different contractor to remodel each room.
Roma needs a singular vision, one with realistic and measurable goals, one which the entire organization can get behind, from top to bottom. Rome may not have been built in a day, but at least they had a blueprint.
So those are my half dozen recommendations for the New Year, what are yours?