There are times when being a supporter of a football team can be embarrassing, and for any Roma fan, the aftermath of the Livorno calamity is undoubtedly one of those times. We mentioned in our last Club Focus that the only way Roma could lose this match was if they chose to lose it. We won’t go as far as to say that the entire team partook in the choice, but Claudio Ranieri embarked on it with gusto and verve, and that was enough. “This defeat lends itself to many readings,” the Coach declared at the end of the match, going on to discuss the absence of Francesco Totti and the expense of energy from the Thursday match. Two valid arguments, but let’s not overlook the elephant in the living-room – this defeat was your fault, Claudio. More so than the tiredness, the state of the squad or the performance of the individual players, it was your tactical blunders that handed the game over to Livorno. Let’s go over these together.
To begin with, who were you playing against? Livorno, one of the worst teams in Italy, at their first game with a new Coach, playing far away from their home town. Even Roberto Donadoni could have told you that they were going to play catenaccio. On this account, how could you start Rodrigo Taddei when you had Stefano Guberti ready on the bench? What’s the use of fielding a player whose contributions are purely defensive in nature against a team that has no intention of attacking? More generally, what is the point of the 4-3-1-2 when there is no David Pizarro available? A 4-4-2 with two proper wingers could have done the trick, and that’s hardly a complicated solution to put into action.
Even with Pizarro and Guberti far from the greens, the formation could have worked if the men had been arranged for it properly. We don’t know what Ranieri was smoking before the match, but it must have been something royal to field Ricardo Faty as trequartista. Maybe old Claudio could organise a get-together with Diego Armando Maradona so they could discuss tactics while baking themselves with drugs – surely they’d have a lot in common. If Faty, who is a mediano (and not the best one at that), gets to play as trequartista, then why not place Simone Perrotta as prima punta and John Arne Riise in central defence? They couldn’t do any worse than Faty, who looked lost at sea for the entirety of the game.
When the game started looking ill – the backlash of the Italian Press labelled this as Ranieri’s ugliest Roma, and we are inclined to agree – a need for substitutions became apparent. So Ranieri took our Jérémy Menez. Wait, hold your horses – why Menez? Why on earth Menez? He may not have been scintillating, but there were several other players who really needed to get off of that field – Faty, Taddei, even Mirko Vucinic, who played perhaps his most vaporous game with the Giallorossi to date. And with Menez off, and Totti and Pizarro absent, where was the creativity supposed to originate from? The team went stale almost instantly, only partially rescued by the belated entrance of Guberti.
Finally, with only a few minutes to go and Livorno locked up like Leningrad under the German siege, just to confirm to us all that he was as high as a kite, Ranieri threw Adrian Pit into the fray. It was the coronation of his masterpiece. If anyone has any idea how baby midfielder Adrian Pit of all people was supposed to help in breaking down the Livorno walls, either by technical or tactical attributes, then please do contact us, because we don’t have the faintest notion. The move makes no sense. It seems to have been dictated less by a flash of intelligence than by a sentiment of despair.
When the match was over, Livorno Coach Serse Cosmi walked up to the microphones. He had the dazed, bewildered appearance of a donkey who was woken up from its sleep with a couple of slaps. His statements, which defined his own victory as “an almost impossible result,” can be translated in non-journalistic lingo as ‘I can’t bloody believe this.’ Neither can we, Serse. Perhaps, though, we should have seen something like this coming. Ranieri is a good Coach when it comes to the moral management of his men, but tactical acumen is not really the tip of his spear. This, coupled with the fact that he has been experimenting right and left with his team (something we approve of and have lauded), led to last Sunday’s match – a failed experiment aggravated by a terrible tactical management. In truth, it would have been more obvious to expect it against a big team like Milan or Inter, rather than against Livorno, who were doing everything to lose the match themselves. So be it. The top of the table slides another three points further away, and the next adversary is Udinese. They are accessible, less so than Livorno. Perhaps we should go soft on the experiments in this case. At least until San Francesco is back.
Roma Club Focus 2009/10
The senate is adjourned – August 25, 2009
Houston, we have a problem – August 28, 2009
The time of Penelope – September 1, 2009
Good move, bad timing – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Break means homework time for Ranieri – September 7, 2009
A win that means more than three points – September 15, 2009
Ranieri chases team spirit – September 18, 2009
Champagne! – September 22, 2009
Children of Chaos – September 25, 2009
Catania is beginning to get on our nerves – September 29, 2009
Ranieri has yet to stabilise i Lupi – October 3, 2009
A solid win at a heavy price? – October 6, 2009
Rumours as IFFHS ranks the Giallorossi as best in Italy – October 9, 2009
The strange attractor of two inherently chaotic teams – October 16, 2009
The sound and the fury – October 20, 2009
The importance of being Francesco – October 23, 2009
A shot in the foot – October 27, 2009