Although he’s only been at the helm for roughly 3⁄4 of a season, my relationship with Eusebio Di Francesco has been quite tumultuous. Due to my undying affection for Luciano Spalletti, Roma could have hired Buddha himself as a successor and I still would have been fit to be tied. EDF seemed too rigid, too boring, too...nerdy? I don’t know, I just couldn’t get completely on board with the move, despite his Roma ties and his record of success with Sassuolo. He was like the perfectly nice and outgoing guy your mom dates after your dad—none of those qualities matter, you’re going to hate him regardless.
But then the season started and he crafted a perpetually underachieving team into Champions League group winners, dusting off the reigning Premier League champions in the process, and bit by bit my faith was being emboldened, but then it happened, the inevitable decline.
Not only did it seem like the league had figured him out during Roma’s winter swoon, but EDF seemingly had no capable or credible response to this tactical shift. And while I tried to remain restrained, it wasn’t long before I fell prone to knee-jerk reactions and began to call for his head online.
And then we were granted a bit of a reprieve when Roma took advantage of a soft spot in their schedule last month. While this was all well and good, losses to AC Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk quickly undid that tide of good feelings.
But, here we are again, Roma has reeled off two impressive victories in a row, knocking off league leading Napoli in a 4-2 shocker and today’s 3-0 roll over Torino, one in which EDF seemingly stuck a middle finger in the air towards all our prior criticisms...but, I can’t shake it, there is still some reason I want to hate this guy, but then he proceeds to give a wonderfully insightful post-match press conference.
Speaking after the match, EDF opened up about those second half changes:
After the break, I lifted Radja Nainggolan to a more advanced role and that helped us find more channels. I could feel the lads were anxious at the lack of wins at the Olimpico and we were making life more complicated for ourselves.
I changed to 4-2-3-1 with Radja closer to the striker and that caused many more problems for the opposition defence.
I mean, if that’s not in-match tactical flexibility, I’m not sure what is—he saw a problem, corrected quickly and it yielded immediate results—and not even the most pessimistic among us can knock that, right?
On the continuing struggles of Patrik Schick:
Patrik Schick didn’t do well in the first half, but none of his teammates did either. He tends to go a bit too wide, but these are players worth waiting for and helping. Don’t forget what Cengiz Under did once he had the chance to play and develop.
We shouldn’t look back at what might’ve been, but focus on what we can still do and the future with these young and talented players still finding their feet.
Again, I really, really, really want to tear into this guy but I simply can’t—he’s 100% correct. While I’d argue the expectations for Ünder and Shick should have been different given the latter’s success in Serie A, the analogy is still quite apt; Ünder was slow to adapt to his new club and new role during his smattering of minutes in the fall, and look at him now. So while Schick does (and should) have higher expectations, that doesn’t mean he should be treated with less patience.