For the first time in god knows how long, I find myself wanting for words leading up to a Roma match. The blank page (or screen as it was) can be a daunting foe under the best of circumstances, let alone when everything you've grown to tolerate about a club suddenly changes. My paucity of perspicacity stems from the fact that I never had to the chance to write about Roma during Spalletti's original tenure. While I admired Luis Enrique, enjoyed ZZ's temerity, respected Andreazzoli's professionalism and eventually grew tired of Rudi Garcia, I was never flummoxed by any of them.
Each man had a method, a moment and a manuscript. With no secrets and no surprises, predicting and encapsulating each man's approach became quite easy, and damn near formulaic. The same cannot be said for Spalletti--he is the repurposed piece of furniture or the renovated house; flush with memories but now imbued with a greater purpose and sense of style.
But then it hit me, I shouldn't have to fret about selling Spalletti short because I have heard this tune before, but this time it's different. This time it actually has a greater capacity to move, to inspire, to make you want to dance.
You know what it is? It's the Remix to Ignition!
First things first. How fucking great is that song? All these years later and it is, in the words of Tom Haverford, a banger. Certain songs perfectly encapsulate the era in which they were made, espousing everything good and bad about that particular moment in time. R. Kelly's 211 seconds of genius reflects the devil may care attitude of the early 2000s, back when the size of your rims was more important than the size of your retirement account. I only make $35,000 a year and you're going to approve me for a $450,000 mortgage? Fuck yeah, sign me up! What's the worst that could happen? Hmm, I don't think all the Hummers on the roads will have adverse climactic effects ten years from now. Shut up and get out of my way.
I like to think of myself as a good bullshitter, but even I can't draw a cogent parallel between Spalletti and R. Kelly. Something about giving Spalletti the tools and support he needs to truly make his vision a reality reminded me of remixing a song with better a producer and it just popped into my head, plus it's from an album called Chocolate Factory, so, you can see how my hands were tied.
Anyway, onto more pressing matters, Spalletti's first match on the Roma sidelines since August 30, 2009.
How Will Luciano Line ‘Em Up?
The question on everyone's mind, naturally, is what formation will Spalletti choose and who, if anyone, will be left out in the cold?
While several varietals were floated around the internet this week, we can safely assume that Spalletti will opt for some variant of the 4-2-3-1, which, depending on who he fields in the forward part of that formation, can easily morph into a 4-5-1 or even a 4-1-4-1. But all those dashes are giving me a headache, the takeaway is simply this: Spalletti's formation is a bit more malleable than we're used to seeing around these parts.
Okay, now that the studs and joists are in place, who will actually make this house a home?
While Francesco Totti will undoubtedly have a larger role under Spalletti, he doesn't seem quite ready start just yet, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. One of the standard complaints against Rudi Garcia was the manner in which he used Edin Dzeko; which is to say, poorly. In Spalletti's more balanced formation, no longer will Dzeko be left to flail on the periphery. With Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan directly behind him, and with Mohamed Salah and Alessandro Florenzi running off him, Dzeko is free to return to his role as a proper striker, the one Roma never managed to equip Spalletti with the first time around, a fact Spalletti has already commented on.
The one thing Spalletti's return can't change (at least not yet) is the gaping hole at fullback. Florenzi may be ideally suited for the Simone Perrotta role, but with Maicon's ever fluctuating fitness, Spalletti may be left with no other option that to keep Ale at right back. While we certainly hope this isn't the case, Spalletti, much like Garcia before him, may have no other option.
The eleven faces marching out of the tunnel Sunday may remain the same, but keep an eye on Spalletti's rotation pattern. While Garcia leaned on Seydou Keita, William Vainqueur, Vasilis Torosidis and, of late, Sadiq Umar to bail him out, we simply have no idea who Spalletti prefers coming off the pine.
He could opt for Gervinho's athleticism and speed as an instant game changer, or he could attempt to mold Willy VQ into a serviceable combo midfielder, but if anyone can figure out how to maximize latter day Francesco Totti, it's Spalletti.
Whether he's spelling Dzeko, Pjanic or even Salah, Spalletti can insert Totti and maintain the status quo or completely flip the script, changing the entire direction and dynamics of his attack--having an option like that in his back pocket could win Roma a lot matches down the stretch.
Whatever path he chooses, gone are the days where we'd have to listen to the same tired song week after week. Luciano Spalletti is here, it's the freaking weekend, baby, and we about to have us some fun.