With Roma falling to lowly SPAL 2-0 yesterday, and with the women getting waxed 4-0 by Juventus this morning, it wasn’t exactly a banner weekend in the Eternal City. With only three matches under her belt, we can safely say that Betty Bavagnoli’s job on the women’s side is safe, but with a record, brief though it may be, of peaks and valleys the same cannot be said for Eusebio Di Francesco. One minute he’s orchestrating epic comebacks against Lionel Messi, the next he’s getting outwitted by a relegation candidate. If I were a sicker sort, I’d say that a man with that much inherent chaos is perfect for this club.
Despite yesterday’s embarrassing display, Roma could, depending on how the rest of Sunday shakes out, remain in the range of sixth or seventh place, which certainly doesn’t put the top four out of frame but it’s a far cry from what they imagined when they went whole hog over the summer, recruiting, I don’t know, 19 new players, or something like that. Who can keep track?
While that last point—the constant and sweeping turnover each summer—is a matter for another day, we’re here to discuss the future of the man charged with making sense of this mess. As the weeks and months roll by, one thing has become abundantly clear: Eusebio Di Francesco is a fine coach, perhaps not a paradigm shifter like a Guardiola, but certainly worthy of a top five or six team, but it’s starting to look as if he’s not exactly right for this club, or more appropriately that this club isn’t exactly right for him.
A point not lost on club president James Pallotta, who is reportedly furious with EDF following yesterday’s loss. Per the Corriere dello Sport, Uncle Jimmy is ready to drop the hammer on Di Francesco but, thanks to the urging of advisor Franco Baldini, has issued a stay of execution for the moment.
Let’s let that marinate for a second. Baldini, the man who led the club at the outset of the American regime, the man who left via “mutual consent” two years later, and the same man who now exists in some sort of nebulous advisor role to the president (you know, the guy who visits the team as often as I see my dentist) is now effectively making high-level personnel decisions.
That’s where we’re at. Wonderful.
Making matters worse, there really is no viable replacement for EDF at this point anyway. Antonio Conte seems destined for Real Madrid, Arsene Wenger is simply an older EDF and Paulo Sousa is positively uninspiring, so it’s not as if the club are spoiled for options here. And unless they dip into the Claudio Ranieri well, there doesn’t seem to be anyone suited for an instant get-this-club-back-into-the-champions-league type turn around.
Eusebio Di Francesco isn’t a calcio savant but he’s a solid coach—he makes changes a bit too late but he makes them nonetheless—and if this sacking comes to fruition he’ll be just another scapegoat for the poor leadership and utter lack of an organizational plan at the top.
I know I said we’d keep this discussion centered on Di Francesco, but football clubs can’t expect success when they’re constantly selling off their top players to the highest bidder, tearing their midfield apart and expecting the man holding the bag to work miracles with kids and retreads.
So, yeah, I fully expect EDF to be ousted at some point, and I fully expect his career to rebound with one of the Milan sides after a brief spell boosting the fortunes of, oh I don’t know, let’s say Genoa.
Eusebio Di Francesco isn’t the problem. He’s yet another victim, not the most ingenious or capable victim Roma’s ever laid waste to, but a victim nonetheless. Sacking him won’t change anything in the grand scheme of things, not until the men signing the checks and the men making the lineups are on the same page.