With Roma and Udinese set square off on St. Patrick's Day, there is still plenty of time to unpack your green jumpers and increase your tolerance for Guinness, so, in the meantime, let's take a trip around Trigoria and see how the Giallrossi are filling their work week.
Let's start things off with everyone's favorite Nutella fiend, Adem Ljajic.
Following the sale of Erik Lamela this past summer, Roma swooped in so quickly for his nominal replacement, Adem Ljajic, that we hardly had time to process the particulars of how he fit in with Rudi Garcia's squad; was he a starter or a super sub? Is he better equipped for the left or right? Is he more effective on or off the ball? Important questions for any player, but they carry added significance with a player as young, as talented and as seemingly mercurial as Ljajic.
Well, we're nearly three-quarters of the way through the season and Ljajic's role in the team has been anything but consistent, having failed to play a full 90 minutes since January's victory over Livorno. Furthermore, with the return ofMattia Destro--who is now suffering bouts of inconsistency of his own--Ljajic was not only relegated behind Destro, but found himself second choice to Gervinho, Alessandro Florenzi and Francesco Totti.
Follow the formula here: young but tremendously talented player + somewhat checkered history + late summer sale + fleeting moments of brilliance + lack of playing time = increased odds of a transfer. With two thirds of the forward rotation all but guaranteed before the season even started, the only open competition was on the left; making this bit of made up math an issue from day one.
Given that Gervinho and Rudi Garcia had already formed a mutual admiration society, the job was, for all intents and purposes, Gervinho's to lose. Although he's been streaky, Gervinho's tenure in Roma has been successful, leading to Ljajic's banishment to the bench.
However, if you look over the past six matches, you'll notice a disturbing trend on multiple levels. Over those half dozen matches, Roma has won two, dropped two and drew two, scoring only four goals in the process, three of which came against lowly Livorno.
Complicit in this stagnation of Roma's offense has been the depreciating trend of Gervinho's performances. Where he was once dangerous, efficient and effective, Gervinho has been relegated to intermittent bouts of excitement, with large amounts of ineffective posturing thrown in for good...err, poor measure. He still looks the part, don't get me wrong, but he hasn't scored since his double against Napoli on February 5th.
So what does Roma do? Do they gamble on Gervinho and hope that his run from November through late January can be repeated on a more consistent basis, or do they give more minutes to their enigmatic Serbian?
Given the makeup of the roster, this really is a zero sum game; its either Gervinho or Ljajic. One is inconsistent, the other unproven. It's a risky venture no matter what they choose, but it may be the story of the summer.
Facing the prospect of losing Miralem Pjanic to PSG over the summer, while simultaneously coping with Kevin Strootman's rehab, Roma is reportedly looking for help at White Heart Lane, targeting Spurs midfielders Paulinho and Sandro.
Paulinho, 25, has four goals and two assists for Spurs in 23 appearances, while Sandro, one year younger, has been a bit player this season, making only 14 appearances. At least on the surface, these would both appear to be massive downgrades from Pjanic and Strootman, though one can make the case that Sandro would still be a good depth move, particularly with Europe on the horizon next season.
Of course, Roma can avoid this scenario by working out a contract extension with Pjanic
Everyone's favorite Roma rumor mongerer, Gianluca Di Marzio, touches upon several offseason topics in this interview. He mentions the Paulinho and Sandro connections, citing the defensive merits of each midfielder, while also touching upon Roma's now eternal quest for a striker, though he doesn't mention any names, Mandzukic, Benzema or otherwise.
Inserting a top striker into Roma's already potent mix of attacking talent could make this one of the games most enticing squads, but they've been relatively tight lipped about their targets. Nevertheless, between the World Cup, the continued growth of Roma's youth and a hopefully more cash equipped transfer market, this promises to be one of the more exciting summer's in recent Roman lore.
Strootman's stakeholders certainly aren't wasting time in making haste of his recovery. While the locale or surgeon has yet to be determined, it seems certain that Strootman will go under the knife next week. The one upshot of surgery in Belgium...Jonas can stop by and bring him flowers.
For a side reeling from injuries and suspensions, the return of Totti, no matter how remote, would be a boon to the club's spirits. While there isn' t much meat in this link, but you'll notice an interesting appointment on the training agenda--separate training sessions for Alessio Romagnoli and Tin Jedvaj. With Maicon suspended this week, Rudi Garcia will have to make some additional defensive adjustments, so we should take this as a positive sign that the young 'uns are getting some focused training. *edit: apparently it's more of a physio session*
The other Azzurri visited Trigoria this week and at least one of their behemoths, Martin Castrogiovanni, thinks Daniele De Rossi would have made a fine rugby player. He's got the tenacity, the sometimes psychotic look in his eyes and the requisite beard, so, yeah, I think Castrogiovanni might be on to something here.