I can't tell you anything about new beginnings that doesn't already exist in a million cliches, but a fresh start is a fresh start. All the anxieties and misgivings of the Eusebio Di Francesco era, as well as the initial rush of hope provided by Claudio Ranieri, are now dead and gone. Paulo Fonseca is the man in charge, and for the ninth time under the gentle hand of the American regime Roma get a proverbial do-over; a chance to implement a fresh approach and hope that (finally) their ambition and outcomes sleep in the same bed at the end of the night.
Standing in the way of Roma: Year Zero, Day One is the Genoa Cricket and Football Club, arguably the best official name in all of football and last season's 17th place club. The Grifone seldom make much noise on the table, but narrowly avoiding the drop is low even by their standards. However, armed with a few new players (most notably Andrea Pinamonti and Riccardo Sapponara, loaned from Inter and Fiorentina, respectively) Genoa have an intriguing mix of attacking talent, and certainly enough to steal a few points from larger clubs.
Sooo...What Should We Expect?
As we discussed yesterday, when Roma begin a new campaign expectations tend to run at extremes: the sky is either falling or Roma are primed to take over the world—there is no in between. And despite the new man in charge and the new tactics to be employed, the names and faces remain largely the same.
Roma v. Genoa: August 25th, 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Taking a look around the Romasphere one finds probable formations featuring only one new acquisition, goalkeeper Pau Lopez, and given the relative dearth of minutes played by most of Roma's new signings, it makes sense. In due time Gianluca Mancini should make the centerback role his own, but in this first week of action most folks seem to think we'll see a reprise of the Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus tandem we saw intermittently last season.
While the defense will sort itself out in due time, the forward two-thirds of Fonseca's formation should be the flash point for debate this season, so just who he selects to support Edin Dzeko tomorrow could give us a glimpse into his early season preferences. If we use the preseason as any indication, Fonseca will likely roll with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante in the double pivot, with Cengiz Ünder, Diego Perotti and Nicolo Zaniolo slotting in behind the newly renewed Dzeko.
Formations aside, the biggest concern Fonseca likely has ahead of Sunday's match is simply whether or not his players will commit to his tactics with integrity; that is to say, once the nerves of the first official match hit will Roma stick to the game plan or fall back on old habits? Will we see the dynamic attacking football Fonseca became famous for with Shakhtar or will the best of pointless passing rear its ugly head?
If Genoa's struggles from last season continue, Roma may have more room for error than in your typical debut match, but as Fonseca has intimated throughout this preseason, winning while resting on one's laurels is no victory at all; Roma not only have to come out on top but they have to hold true to Fonseca's philosophies to truly satisfy their new coach and to ensure that Year Zero hits the ground running.