Good things come in fives: five fingers per hand, five toes per foot, five players on a basketball team, and, of course, five-dollar footlongs. Five also happens to be the number of subs allotted by FIFA in the current global climate; a strange but necessary adjustment made by football's governing body in the face of a congested schedule brought on by pandemic-related delays. This rule also extends to competitions that may go to extra time, where clubs can make a sixth substitution. However, for reasons unknown, that rule doesn't apply to the Coppa Italia—or at the very least, the FIGC chose not to adopt that wrinkle.
But, as you're well aware, Paulo Fonseca did make six subs yesterday. Following an incredible sequence in which Gianluca Mancini (accumulated yellows) and Pau Lopez (straight red) were sent off within 30 seconds of one another, Paulo Fonseca, who had already made four substitutions by that point, was forced to make a fifth change: swapping out Bryan Cristante in order to bring backup keeper Daniel Fuzato into the match.
The problem, as media all over the world have since reported, was that Fonseca didn't stop there. At the very same time Fonseca was ushering Fuzato onto the pitch, he made a sixth change, swapping out Pedro for Roger Ibañez. Not many of us realized it at the time, but it didn't take long for internet sleuths to shine a light on Fonseca's error, one that would have disqualified Roma from advancing even had they defeated Spezia on the pitch.
In the wake of yesterday's crushing defeat, and living in the shadow of another glaring administrative/procedural error (though the Diawara listing error wasn't explicitly on him), Paulo Fonseca's job, much like Rudi Garcia several years before him, is hanging in the balance after an embarrassing cup defeat to Spezia.
Following yesterday's defeat, Dan and Ryan Friedkin reportedly left the Stadio Olimpico immediately and were rumored to spend the night weighing Fonseca's future. Paulo Fonseca remains Roma's manager for the moment, but time will tell if this was truly the end or just the beginning of the end.
One thing is for certain, though: following collapses against Atalanta and Lazio earlier in the year, not to mention Fonseca's poor record against Italy's top clubs (or the fact that he wasn't a Friedkin hire to begin with), Roma's Portuguese manager is likely on very thin ice.
So, in grand CdT tradition, we're going to run through some possible replacement candidates, starting with a dear old friend.
Just for shits and giggles, check out a few of our past power polls: 2013 (the very first one), 2013 (again), 2017 (part one), 2017 (part two), 2018 (EDF edition), 2019 (post-EDF edition) and even last September.
The One You Always Have to Call: Luciano Spalletti
If you know anything about me, you know that I love me some Luciano Spalletti; I'd welcome him back to Roma's bench at any time under any circumstance. A Roma manager twice over, with 172 wins on his Roma C.V., one can argue that Spalletti is the club's most successful manager ever, even without a Scudetto to call his own.
Even if you scoff at that notion, you can't deny that Spalletti is a quick-fix expert. Look no further than his second stint with Roma. After taking over for Rudi Garcia on January 13, 2016, Spalletti lifted Roma from mid-table to a third-place finish and followed that up with a record-breaking campaign the following season.
Of course, the flip side to that is his somewhat caustic...not personality per se...let's say working style, which has ruffled many Roman feathers over the years. But, when you look at the breadth of his career, he's never really replicated his Roma success anywhere else, so maybe they're made for each other, kind of like star-crossed lovers; it doesn't make sense and sometimes it's combustible, but you can't keep them apart.
The One With Similarish Tactics: Maurizio Sarri
Sarri's Juventus contract, which runs through June 2022, will be an issue, but if you're looking for a manager who could make quick use of Roma's current roster, look no further. While Paulo Fonseca changed to a three-man backline to great effect last summer, let's not forget that, prior to that, he was an acolyte of the 4-2-3-1; the same foundation that underpins Sarri-Ball. There would be a slight adjustment as the squad transitioned back to a four-man system—and they'd have to get used to his unorthodox ways— but Sarri could certainly have fun with players like Gonzalo Villar, Leonardo Spinazzola, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, among others.
Sarri-Ball can take a while to fully upload, but given that he and Fonseca essentially share philosophical roots, his ideas might take hold quicker in Roma than they did in Chelsea or Juventus.
The Front-Runner: Massimiliano Allegri
With 13 Italian trophies on his coaching resume, the Friedkins won't find a more proven manager on the market today, which is precisely the problem. Roma may have an opening soon, but with gigs in Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and possibly even Juventus potentially becoming available this summer, Allegri may prefer to wait for one of those opportunities rather than taking a Roma rescue job.
Allegri won't give Roma fans the most eye-pleasing football on earth, but his tactical intelligence and adaptability are second to none. Not beholden to one formation or approach above another, Allegri could mix and match the pieces of Roma's disparate roster as situations dictate.
The Friedkins are known as quiet and serious businessman, and if they want to replicate that approach on the touchline, Allegri should be their top choice and they should pull out all the stops to land him. Signing Max Allegri would lend immediate credence to their lofty aspirations.
Chances are that Fonseca will survive this disaster, but he will undoubtedly be on eggshells for the remainder of the season. And remember, his contract expires at the end of the season, too, so he was already under immense pressure to perform.
As always, stay tuned.
If Fonseca is sacked, which coach would be the best hire?
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