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The Pros & Cons of Positivity

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Let’s talk about the talk we’ve been talking about.

AS Roma v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

If you’ve been following our transfer coverage this summer, then you no doubt know that we’re not the biggest fans of Monchi’s moves thus far, and while there is still ample time before the summer transfer window closes, Serie A action starts in roughly six weeks, so there isn’t that much time, so you’ll have to forgive us if our patience is already wearing thin. Because of the relentless pace of this year’s transfer rumors, our constant coverage therein, and our criticisms of those moves, we (or at least me) have been painted as relentlessly negative, as the Debbie Downer of the Romasphere.

Despite that reputation, I believe that, in totality, we offer pretty balanced and neutral coverage. I try (in most instances) to frame the benefits and drawbacks of every move as much as the data and, more importantly, time allows, but with each passing critique of Pallotta and Monchi the reputation grows stronger and I find myself constantly engaged in the same debates, and were I a 14-year-old girl desperate to curry favor of the popular and/or lit crowd, I’d throw up some flowering prose singing Pallotta’s praises to the moon, but I won’t, and not because I’m some sort of Allen Ginsberg wannabe, but simply because it would be disingenuous of me.

So, rather than lecturing from my virtual bully pulpit, I thought we’d take a look at some of our recent debates, breaking down each side of the argument. This isn’t a summative assessment on which side holds more merit, so let’s just call it a look at the pros and cons of positivity, and at the end, hopefully we’ll understand each other a little better.

Point #1: Roma Now vs. Roma Then

The Argument

Roma is better off under James Pallotta than they were under the Sensi family, particularly during Rosella’s reign in the late 2000s. The debate centers along the comparative results under each regime, as well as the trajectory of the club during their respective endings and beginnings.

What You Say

Since the Americans took over in 2011, Roma has finished 7th, 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd, qualifying for Europe in four straight seasons, even reaching the round of 16 in the 2015-2016 Champions League. In addition to their results on the table, Pallotta’s regime has engineered a kit deal with Nike, made progress on a new stadium and significantly expanded and improved the club’s digital presence and embarked on multiple North American summer tours. Furthermore, Pallotta and friends have kept Roma in the top 20 of Deloitte’s Football Money league in three of the past five seasons.

What I Say

In the last six seasons under the Sensi family, Roma finished 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 6th, 2nd and 6th, qualifying for Europe in all six seasons either through direct means or via the qualification rounds, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League in two consecutive seasons from 2007-2008, losing to Manchester United each time (grrr). The Sensi’s also had the framework of a stadium plan in place, though we can debate about the relative plausibility of each, and had kit and sponsorship deals in place for much of their tenure, sporting WIND on their kits during the Rosella regime. Furthermore, Roma was in the Top 20 of Deloitte’s Football Money League in each of their final seasons under the Sensi family, cracking the top ten twice and never falling lower than 18th. They made as much, if not more, out of their finances than has Pallotta.

Point #2: The Helping Hand of Calciopoli

The Argument

Roma’s run of success in the mid to late 2000s stemmed largely from their competitors being stripped of points and/or relegated following the legendary cheating scandal, thereby opening the door for Roma to reach heights they otherwise may not have.

What You Say

Roma’s run of second place finishes and the financial gains during this period were products of the sanctions handed down to their competitors in the wake of Italy’s most famous cheating scandal. With their direct rivals either docked points or relegated, it was only natural Roma would flourish, giving their results an asterisk of sorts. Rosella and friends were no more skilled or prescient than Pallotta, they were simply in the right place at the right time.

What I Say

Well, for starters, I addressed that very point two years ago. In the here and now, let me just say this: what’s changed? One can argue that the only reason Roma has remained within sniffing distance of Juventus the past several seasons was due, in large part, to the mess in Milan, as both sides have been woefully mismanaged and struggled mightily with their finances and/or decision making. Furthermore, during the post-Calciopoli era, Roma was still second fiddle, finishing second to Inter Milan in three straight seasons. So all that has really changed was the club berating and demeaning Roma. In the years prior to the cheating scandal it was Juventus, then once they fell it was Inter, and once they fell, it was Juventus again.

Quite frankly, neither side of this argument holds water because the circumstances were out of Roma’s control. You can’t blame them for taking advantage of Juve’s cheating anymore than you can blame them for usurping second place in the Milan sides respective absences. Call it wash. Second best is second best; perhaps that’s simply Roma’s lot in life.

The real litmus test will occur over the next several seasons, though. Barring any cheating from Juventus (fingers crossed), Roma is now running smack up against an historically dominant Old Lady, two resurging Milan sides and Napoli, who have consistently been on their heels over the past several seasons, so if Roma can maintain or even exceed their recent level of success, the balance may tip towards Pallotta after all.

Point #3: It’s Too Soon to Judge

The Argument

We purposely saved this one for last because it’s the most subjective. With several high profile sales completed and a couple more rumored to be in the works, Roma has offloaded several key figures from last season’s squad, pulling in over €100 million in the process (potentially), and has yet to spend a commensurate amount on incoming transfers, resulting in some pretty heated exchanges about the club’s current transfer policy.

What You Say

It’s only the (blank) of July, it’s absurd to cast judgement on Monchi’s transfer campaign. Sure they lost a couple of high profile starters, but were any of Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rüdiger or Leandro Paredes world beaters? Were any of them irreplaceable? The work Monchi has done, while not high profile, has made the club infinitely deeper. The signings of Hector Moreno, Maxime Gonalons and Rick Karsdorp gives Roma more options in the lineup and off the bench, and all coming for a relatively paltry sum, less than what Roma reaped off one sale alone. Give it time and you’ll see Monchi was correct; this is a long play.

What I Say

Mohamed Salah was a nearly unparalleled talent in Serie A and was far and away one of the best right wingers in the game, even making his €50 million price point a bargain for Liverpool, while Leandro Paredes proved in the final two months of the season just what he was capable of; he was a playmaker amidst a horde of brutish but talented midfielders, and Rüdiger, while frequently injured throughout his career, showed no serious signs of regression once he returned last year; he’s agile, athletic, versatile and only scratching the surface of what he might become. And while the captures of Moreno and Gonalons are indeed great depth moves, they should be just that; cover for multiple competitions, not direct replacements for younger and more athletic players. And Karsdorp, while full of potential, came at a rather hefty price and is now looking at two months on the sideline and presents, at best, a marginal upgrade over Bruno Peres, though that is extremely debatable.

Good moves one and all, but not ones that make Roma better in this moment than they were when Totti walked off the pitch in May. Furthermore, where is all that money going? Where is the big corresponding purchase? Roma needs top talent to even maintain second place, let alone capture the title. I like Monchi’s resume and his reputation, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, color me extremely skeptical that he can repeat the magic in Rome.

Conclusions

While I feel it’s important to remain true to my convictions, I’m not so ignorant as to ignore new, viable information about any transfer or club decision, and quite frankly, I have heaped praise upon Roma ample times during my five years here at CdT. I was one of the first people to jump on the Stephan El Shaarawy bandwagon last winter, my very first piece here at CdT lauded the club for their efforts in expanding the brand to America, I wrote a glowing piece about the impact of getting Nike, and shit, I even wrote a piece praising Rudi Garcia on his way out the door.

Point being, while I have been pretty pessimistic about Roma’s summer moves, painting me or us as unfailingly negative shows a bit of recency bias. Taking it a step further, from a pure “artistic” (using that term loosely) standpoint, constantly writing about how much I love Roma or how special she is gets old...like, real old. I’ve done that inside-out and upside-down; that well is beyond tapped. I don’t like reading it, I don’t like writing it and it just seems like pandering to me. After five years and thousands of pieces, I would assume that you all know how I feel about the club already.

Granted, there’s a difference between being sycophantic and simply being open minded about club business, but as I just laid out, for myriad reasons, I’m simply not yet on board with the summer plan, but that can and hopefully will change. But covering the team every day has a way of jading you. If I had the luxury of simply checking in once a month, then sure, I’d take a broader view of things, but the in-the-moment responses is simply a byproduct of our approach here, which is to cover this club as closely as possible given that we all have other professions outside of this.

At this point I’m rambling, but my hope is that our excessive criticism doesn’t equate a disdain for the club or it’s administration. I’m sure they’re all fine people, but the constant upheaval, the unfulfilled promises and the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach has diminished our faith in them. I also hope that we can establish and maintain respectful and civil debate about these topics, knowing full well that the intensity of these debates is cut of the same cloth, a passion for Roma.

I’d love to, well, love everything this club does, but it would be disingenuous of me and would do a disservice to you, but the amazing thing about faith and hope is that they can be repaired and emboldened.

So I can’t promise that we’ll always be effusive in our praise, but I can promise that we’ll always keep an open mind.