It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these transcripts, but crunch time in the season is already at Roma’s doorstep. As usual for a club that’s waved goodbye to almost as many coaches as years existed since 1927, the media is working overtime to report any kind of rumour that’d help the Roma comedy show burn along faster for the rest of Italy’s entertainment.
EDF’s character to never duck a question has always been a refreshing antidote to that climate for some like me, who see an ex-Roma player and team manager that directly learnt from two of Roma’s only three title-winning coaches - Liedholm and Capello - about the difference between really aiming for and achieving club success, above and beyond merely selling dreams of it.
However, others will look at the presser below and justifiably read a man who’s far more transparent over tactical questions than he is over man-management.
It lends credit to the stereotype of a ‘nerd coach with a backpack’ who has the track record of winning over young, impressionable and overlooked talent but still has yet to convince when getting into the heads of the bigger names, with their own individual accolades earnt elsewhere, into following his lead through the smokescreen of the Eternal City.
Make of it what you will, but one thing is sure: Roma needs a win against Frosinone.
The team has been in ritiro since Sunday. How are they and how have the last few days been?
EDF: “Well, we’ll really find out in the game tomorrow. But it was a ritiro wanted by the club, wanted by me to reinforce specific things and to also be able to look together at what the actual problems are.”
Your opinion on the summer mercato - was it enough? Was it only enough or was it better than that?
EDF: “For me, it’s a mistake talking about this right now, even if you’re looking to get me to stand apart [from the club] on this. I’ll only say we - and I - have to look to bring out the best in my squad. Something that maybe isn’t showing right now but I’m convinced that we’re only at the fifth matchday and we have to show that we can do much better than what we’ve done.
For that, talking about the mercato or talking about players, when we’re going to play games after Chievo and Bologna... I think this Roma should be superior and so it’s a matter of effort and work. That’s the most important thing. Giving verdicts on the mercato right now wouldn’t be right, especially from me, no. We will see the truth in the games.”
Dzeko isn’t scoring and seems nervous enough. Against Frosinone, is it better to rest him for a moment or playing him so he can find his rhythm again?
EDF: “Well there are plenty of games on our doorstep, that’s what we have to manage. I’m only talking about those two players, either he will play or Schick. Obviously we’re looking at alternating, playing the derby on Saturday and then the Champions League - I’ll judge it game to game knowing that Edin has also played a lot for his country.”
I wanted to ask you about Karsdorp. Are there some physical problems with him or is it only a character problem and even technical one?
EDF: “No, it’s technical in principle. There was no fight with the kid. It’s my choice because I have options - three full-backs - and based on what I see, I choose. For that, all he has to do is work, and work better, to be able to win back the position that maybe someone could think they’ve lost. But it’s always then up to the lads to show their attitude in training.”
Maybe the hardest reaction after Bologna was Pallotta’s, who said he was disgusted with what he saw on the pitch. I ask you if you feel the confidence of your president and if you’ve managed to talk with him directly?
EDF: “Well it’d strike me as worrying if Pallotta said he was happy with what he saw on the pitch, more than disgusted. But I don’t need reassurance from anyone right now.”
Are you worried about the visible nerves of the team on the pitch? Or is this symptomatic of a team that can’t afford to lose?
EDF: “Well nerves show a little from everyone when things aren’t going well. Right now, the ritiro is to understand why things aren’t going well and resolve them together. The idea is only one right now: I need my players and they need me. For that, we can only get out of this together. Without thinking about pointing fingers at one another, or thinking that the guy playing next to me isn’t as good as the other teammate, and all the rest. We’re all aware that we’re not doing well but we need to be aware of what we’ll do to get out of it.”
Immediately after the loss to Bologna, you said that day you’d be looking more for men than footballers. I wanted to know if you’ve found characters showing themselves in this last few days of training at Trigoria?
EDF: “Well that was also to point out the fact that, in this moment when sometimes you can’t pull off the right performance physically or technically, then you need to dig deeper on a mental and character level. On this, we’ve been found wanting a little in all the games this season. We’ve been found wanting in terms of staying in the game. Because the approach against Bologna was good from the start, with many chances to score. But the first shot we give away on our goal, we conceed and the team falls apart on many levels.
On that alone, we have to re-find ourselves. We also have to dig deeper inside to find what we’re made of as men. That’s what I’m looking to find. But let’s move on from that to say the following point: the team I choose against Frosinone won’t be a sign that whoever I don’t pick isn’t considered a man. I need to re-find those who, even in the hard times, show themselves to be also men. Just like in life, like in all things, we need that.”
Rewatching the Bologna game, taking an example. For their second goal, you were five against three... meaning you had the numbers advantage against the three Bologna players... but no one managed to stick with Santander - who doesn’t strike me as the fastest player in the world - and he manages to run practically from his own goal to arrive in Roma’s goal alone by himself. I imagine you re-went over this and made the lads watch it over—
EDF: “We looked at it, yes...”
OK, so how does that happen? From bad positioning of the players? From the fact that someone, at that point in the game, couldn’t manage running back 30 metres to track back and win the ball? That’s what I saw when I was watching the game and I was under the impression you were outnumbered on the pitch yet it wasn’t the case, you were there as five players. The numbers were there. What was missing? Positioning, sharpness, pace?
EDF: “No, I have to say that you cannot be [too] tired [to track back] at the 57th minute of a game. Because if not, we’d have all been in cramps by the 90th minute. It’s a question of sloppy positioning when attacking. That was a phase of the game that’s called ‘delay tactics’. In the sense that you don’t get out of that phase by leaving the game stretched like we did, but you always look to support the play when it’s being pressured by the opponent. We didn’t move well to prevent their counter because, first of all, we lost the ball.
Then if you want to watch it back - and I think you have - you’ll see from that point on the player who got closest to Santander was Marcano. And if you look back, you’ll see Marcano started off as the player furthest away from the ball. What we lacked is that we need to defend with more vehemence, thinking with a pessimist hat on. Meaning that we should always be thinking that the worst could happen before it happens, and it did there. Because even if you have the numbers advantage ahead of time, slack for a moment and you can find yourself at a disadvantage.
Anyway, Santander - it’s not that he’s not as fast as the others. He’s a fighter. And the fact is, of all the players on the pitch that day, he made the most runs and was the most determined of all of them. That’s something to underline but, let’s make no mistake, it was down to our weaknesses during that game.
But I like this question because it’s a tactical analysis of mistakes that come from what I talk about often in these press conferences: the determination to read the game in certain situations, and interpret them better. And there we certainly put in a bad interpretation of that moment in the game.”
When you first came to Roma, you said ‘I’m looking to change the their behaviour’. Right now you can see on the pitch that they’re arguing, nearly coming to blows. But beyond your technical and tactical project, this work on their behaviour - on the mentality of ‘being a Roma player’ and wearing a Roma shirt - something you often remind them of, always. Is this the part of your job not bearing fruit right now?
EDF: “Well it will bear fruit. I’ve been a player, and I can assure you that when we argue, we really argue. But when things are going badly, we fight even more. In the sense that we show the desire to go and take responsibility and to want that sense of belonging that doesn’t mean just playing for Roma, or coaching Roma. It’s real love for putting in real work, which for me is something different [than just talking about belonging to Roma] because otherwise we’d be playing up to the sycophants and the hangers-on in Rome. No. It’s a question of real love for the work, point blank. And I’m convinced that we’re at the point where we’ll either dig deep to bring it out of us, or we’ll all be put outside.
It’s obvious right now it’s tragedy time, and we’re all rightly being questioned, me first and most of all, for what we’re doing. But there’s the desire - the desire - to give answers in a different manner. We haven’t always managed to do that, but now’s come the moment to just do it, end of story.”
You’ve always been convinced about the need to play players specific to their roles. Instead, lately we’ve seen some players maybe adapted to different roles out of need.
EDF: “Tell me, tell me who they are.”
Those could be maybe Kluivert on the right who started as a left-winger, players like Marcano who was used as a full back.
EDF: “Ok so, first of all, last year I did use El Shaarawy on the right wing and he performed a phenomenon there. And he was a phenomenon. Kluivert is a winger. Who’s saying these things? Who told you he only plays on the left? It must have been those Dutch sources that told you he can only play there.
Kluivert can play in many roles as a wide man, he’s a wide attacker. Kluivert has made two or three goalscoring chances on the right. Chances that maybe he wouldn’t have made with the other foot. If he’s doing it, it’s because he’s in the right place.
Don’t tell me that Marcano was out of position. If you tell me that Marcano played full back with different instructions to the regular full backs, then we’re agreed. When looking at the other roles in the pitch and I’m looking at playing players who could be put in trouble, I look to avoid that. I have to look for solutions to prevent against the defensive weaknesses we have. That was the choice behind Marcano playing there. Matiello scored and throughout that whole action, Marcano was moving towards the goal if you look back at it. He was looking to close spaces behind Perotti, who’d played no more than a half hour in his legs. We were looking to prevent against that danger.
So let’s look at things properly if we want to talk about it. Because if Kluivert couldn’t play right wing, we’d be stuck with three left wingers.”
Well, for example, there’s also Pastore, who’s struggling to find his place in the middle of the pitch...
EDF: “And we’ll look to do better with Pastore. He scored with a backheel against Atalanta that maybe you would have immediately said he should be playing winger more often, since he scored a goal.
Pastore is an attacking player. He can be used either as a mezzala or between the lines, in principle. And Pastore has played mezzala in his old team, he told you himself. It’s obvious that he prefers to play the trequartista. We’ll look to help him, that’s what I’m there for. I don’t want to be the one to make players’ lives harder.
After that, it’s normal we can talk about it again whenever you want. But whoever was right will be decided at the end, not right now. I’m convinced that we’re able to give everyone a chance playing in the role they love.”
How is Diego Perotti?
EDF: “Perotti is injured. He won’t be called up because he had a problem with his flexor. The earliest we’ll look to call him up is against Empoli in ten days.”
Last year, before Napoli-Roma, you said that if you reached the point where you didn’t get the right reactions from the team then you’d be the first to leave. I want to ask you what kind of reaction have you gotten from the team in these first matches of this season? And if you see the willingness of the team to follow you to the end?
EDF: “No, don’t claim things I’ve not said. I said that if I see that the team doesn’t follow what I do, in general, I’m the first to understand it and to leave the club. But considering I don’t feel that’s the case, actually, I sense it’s the complete opposite: that there’s the desire to do well.
Don’t put words in my mouth that aren’t there, because I’ve heard so many rumours. Let’s call things as they are. If you want to bring me a recording where I’ve said those things there, then I’ll confirm it for you. But I won’t say things that don’t exist.
It’s like the supposed fight between Florenzi and Dzeko that hit the headlines. There absolutely hasn’t been any fight between Florenzi and Dzeko, absolutely not. There can always be a talk over a pass that one wanted in one way, and the other wanted in another. That’s the everyday life of a football player, it’s something that belongs on the pitch. It’s very common. But what you’re telling me, I can’t respond and give you an answer like any of that is true.”