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Opinion: Roma Need to Move On From Di Francesco to Save the Season

All the blame can’t be put on the coach, but Roma need a change in a hurry or the season could be lost.

Bologna FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

I want to start this piece out by saying that I am not normally the type to run around with the figurative torch and pitchfork out for a coach’s head. I am naturally a very patient person and generally an eternally optimistic sports fan. However, I am concerned. I am very concerned. With that concern, my optimism has devolved into pessimism and my patience has decayed into a state of restlessness.

I am in no way saying that all of the blame should fall on Eusebio Di Francesco’s shoulders. That I feel would be blind ignorance. There are many conductors in the train wreck that has been Roma’s opening to the season. Di Francesco may have been the one driving the locomotive when the crash occurred, but others were also part of the engineering that allowed this disaster to become possible.

Certainly, Monchi has to shoulder a large part of the blame, having sent away world class goalkeeper Alisson for a treasure chest of riches. In addition, fan favorite midfielders, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman, were unceremoniously shown the door, despite their desire to stay in the Italian capital. Their leadership, grinta, and love for the crest has been glaringly deficient during the first month of the season.

Meanwhile, Roma president, James Pallotta, also can’t be let off the hook. Remember, he is the one who controls the purse strings and ultimately makes the final economic decisions. After having finally escaped the radar of FIFA’s Financial Fair Play watchdog, Roma look to be worse off from an on the field perspective than during the days when players were sold out of fiscal necessity rather than choice of profit. Remember, when Pallotta famously said that there was no way that Alisson would be sold? That’s just one of many situations where Pallotta has eaten crow.

The players don’t escape without blame either. No matter who is giving the commands and laying out the strategy, whether it be perfect or flawed, the players are the ones performing on the field. Early on in this season many of the players, both holdovers to last year and newcomers alike, look out of sorts. Even if EdF’s tactics are flawed, Roma should have enough talent to beat the likes of Bologna and Chievo.

However, in this era of mercenaries, many in this team have lacked the passion and fight to get the job done, even against the weakest sides of Serie A. Roma have missed Strootman and Radja for this reason alone. Those two always displayed hustle and heart, even in the more dire of circumstances. They were about as close to being roman as foreigners could be. They loved the colors and fought to the death for them.

In this early season swoon, in my opinion, only De Rossi and Florenzi have fought every last minute to pull this team from the doldrums. Unsurprisingly, they are romanisti to the core. They have shown the type of fight and leadership that should inspire a team. However, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.

For all the reasons mentioned above, EdF shouldn’t exclusively shoulder the burden for Roma’s disastrous start to the season. However, in order to save Roma’s season, he will have to be the sacrificial lamb. Roma have looked uninspired and tactically lost during their 1-2-2 start to the Serie A season. Had it not been for a world class strike from Edin Dzeko in the opener, Roma would likely still be winless. This is unacceptable, especially considering the team drew at home to Chievo, and lost away to Bologna, a team that hadn’t scored in it’s first four games.

Di Francesco hasn’t figured out how to make the pieces fit together, nor found a way to fire up the troops. This is especially concerning, considering there were times that Roma looked disjointed last season, despite their miracle run the Champions League semifinals. The team looks clueless when attacking, lacks linkage between the midfield and forwards, and has looked extremely vulnerable on defense. This is in stark contrast to last season when Roma boasted the second best defensive record in Serie A.

Di Francesco’s insistence on the 4-3-3 formation has drawn plenty of criticism, and he looks unable to morph with success; Barcelona victory aside. It seems the book is out on him and he’s been unable to add a new page.

Additionally, what may be even more concerning is the fact that Roma’s stable full of young talents hasn’t seemed to take it to the next level under EdF. This lack of player development is especially unsettling when you consider that Monchi has invested Roma’s current and future success on so much youth.

It’s hard to name a player besides Alisson who has truly taken it to the next level under EdF’s tutelage. This is in stark contrast to his Sassuolo days, when he found a way to get the most out of a roster that included mostly young Italian players like Domenico Berardi, Matteo Politano, and Lorezo Pellegrini, in addition to some journeymen. Now, the same Pellegrini, one of Italy’s top midfield talents, looks stuck in neutral. Additionally, Patrik Schick has been unable to find the next gear that made him a hot commodity at Sampdoria, and Cengiz Under has only teased us with his talents.

It’s obviously harder to judge EdF’s work with the new arrivals. However, Bryan Cristante, who was Serie A’s best midfielder last season, looks like a shell of himself. At the same time, I wonder why Ivan Marcano got the start at left back spelling Kolarov while the uber talented Luca Pellegrini can’t find the field.

All of these things are very concerning and for that reason I feel as if it’s time to make a change. Roma’s season is on the brink of disaster and desperate times call for bold moves. The boldest of moves at this point in the season would be to make a change to energize the team. Who replaces EdF would be another matter, since Roma likely can’t afford the most attractive candidate; Antonio Conte. Yet, no matter who they’d choose, management can’t stand by idly while Roma’s season crumbles to ruins.


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