New Years is a time for reflection of all that has come to pass, as well as an occasion to make vows/resolutions for the next 365 days, and in each of the past two years we’ve offered several points of improvement for our beloved Roma. And as much as I enjoy doling out these prescriptions, revisiting the prior year's resolutions is far more enjoyable. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at our 2016 suggestions—how did we do, and more importantly, how did Roma fair?
Suggestion #1: Be More Direct
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 free 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.
Verdict: Nailed it!
Granted, this has as much to do with a change in manager as anything, but the moment Luciano Spalletti took over last winter, Roma relied less on set pieces and penalties and, thanks to Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti and Mohamed Salah, took a more direct route to the goal. Case in point, through 17 matches this season, 64% of Roma’s goals have come in the run of play, a better mark than even Juventus.
Suggestion #2: #DaretoDzeko
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
Verdict: Again, nailed it!
This was less a suggestion and more an opportunity to revisit our most successful hashtag, but the point stood; Dzeko, and Roma’s utilization of him last season was pitiful. My how things have change, Edin Dzeko couldn’t be anymore different this season.
With 12 goals in 17 league matches, it’s safe to say Spalletti has figured out how to use Dzeko properly, though that road was certainly closed against Juventus. The key in 2017, I suspect, will be how can you augment this approach when opponents are keyed in on Dzeko?
Suggestion #3: 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%.
Verdict: Correct by Default
Given all the injuries on the back line and the simple lack of depth elsewhere, Spalletti has had little choice but to rely on the same 12 to 13 or so outfield players. Manolas, Dzeko, Fazio, Nainggolan and even Kevin Strootman are at, or are quickly approaching, 1,300 minutes already. With the return of Mario Rui and Antonio Rüdiger, the pressure on the backline should ease, but with Leandro Paredes’ lingering injuries and Gerson being Gerson, there won’t be much rest for Roma’s midfield in 2017, barring some infusion of talent this winter.
Suggestion #4: 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.
Verdict: Nailed it and then some
We’ll extend this analysis to the summer of 2016, but Roma’s off the pitch work really began last winter when they brought in Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy, each of whom were instrumental in Roma’s torrid run through the spring of 2016. They were ultimately reinforced with the summer signings of Bruno Peres, Thomas Vermaelen and Federico Fazio, the latter of whom has made the largest impact, while the reacquisition of Leandro Paredes bolstered the midfield.
There are still gaps of course, but credit Walter Sabatini with some shrewd signings in what proved to be his last year on the job.
Suggestion #5: Survive Outside the Olimpico
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.
Verdict: Mixed Bag
Thanks to that infusion of new talent on the pitch and sidelines, Roma improved their road record in the spring of 2016, grabbing 23 points from 10 road matches, second only to Juventus. This season, however, the results haven’t been quite as sterling, as Roma has only earned 11 points from nine matches, plodding along with +1 goal differential on the road. Needless to say, Roma cannot drop points on the road if they want to remain in the top three by the end of the 2016-2017 season.
Suggestion #6: Make a 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.
Verdict: Mixed Bag
While most of us were generally excited to see Luciano Spalletti return to Roma, ditto for Roma’s appointment of Monchi as Director of Sport, their respective arrivals still bumped up those turnover numbers a bit—they’ve now had five managers and three directors of sport, while I’ve lost count of all the anonymous executive changes.
So, have they finally found the right mixture of manager and director, or are we bound for further changes in the years ahead?
We’ll still never know the extent to which Luis Enrique’s resignation delayed “the project”, but suffice it to say, the rate with which Roma has changed leadership roles doesn’t bode well for long-term success or continuity.
So that’s it for our 2016 look back, stay tuned for our 2017 Roma Resolutions sometime around New Year’s Day.