Can Roma Cut Out Mistakes And Find Form?

After fighting valiantly for the title until the very last game last season, many thought that this would finally be the year for Roma to make that final leap from perennial runners up to champions. Claudio Ranieri made all the right moves in the summer, keeping hold of the core of his squad while adding Nicolas Burdisso on a permanent deal and bringing in Marco Borriello and Fabio Simplicio. Everything seemed to suggest that Roma were set up to mount a title challenge and possibly end Inter’s dominance of Serie A.
So far, though, Roma have been the model of inconsistency. While they currently sit fourth in the league, they are already eight points behind AC Milan at the top. Results such as the 1-0 win over the league leaders and the 2-0 derby victory, while impressive, are the side’s only away wins this campaign and they have often struggled against lesser opposition.
Partly to blame for the inconsistency are the mistakes that have plagued i Lupi all season. Whether it be the rush of blood to the head that saw Burdisso sent off at Cagliari, the goalkeeping howler from Julio Sergio that allowed Chievo back into the game when Roma were two up, or Juan’s two blunders that cost his side three points at Sampdoria on Sunday, mistakes have been a central part of Roma’s season.
The fact is, most of the costly mistakes have been defensive errors. Taking everything into account, Roma’s attack has been functioning well with Borriello quickly establishing himself in the side and Jeremy Menez continuing to grow as a player. Defensively, though, the side has been in turmoil. With a defensive record that is the second worst in the top ten, what can Claudio Ranieri do to stop the mistakes and plug the holes?
Talk of a January move for Valon Behrami were promising as the former Lazio man would have offered an alternative to the shaky Marco Cassetti at right back as well as providing cover for John Arne Riise on the other flank. However, Roma’s creditors vetoed the move and so Ranieri must look within his squad for the answers.
It is not all doom and gloom for i Lupi, though. Clean sheets against Lazio, AC Milan and Inter suggest that, when they put their minds to it, the side can be as solid as any at the back, which leads to the conclusion that perhaps it is a matter of concentration or motivation rather than a lack of ability. Burdisso, Juan and Philippe Mexes are all world-class defenders on their day but they have all been guilty of underperforming this season. Ranieri is likely to look not for replacements but for ways to motivate his defence for games such as the upcoming fixtures against Cesena, Cagliari and Bologna.
If the Coach can get his defenders to approach those games with the same mindset as they are sure to approach next week’s meeting with Lazio, there is no reason why Roma can’t keep climbing the table and mount a title challenge in the second half of the season.

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