Club Focus – Roma – All I know is a door into the dark

Beware, beware, I have come with my red red hair, and I eat men like air. Luca Toni’s hair may not be red, but he certainly has all the other credentials to qualify as Roma’s Mister Lazarus. The way he tore the Chievo back-line to shreds on every long ball was awe-inspiring. The man is slow, but he is also unmovable like marble. The latter quality is something that offsets him sharply against virtually all of Roma’s other forwards, which explains why his presence on the field does so much to change the face of the team. And thank heaven for that.

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Il dopopartita, the aftermat(c)h – a shower of compliments. Toni claims that he is pleased, Claudio Ranieri says that he helped the team greatly, Rodrigo Taddei calls him a campione, and the Press sounds like a chorus singing Verdi’s Va pensiero in reference to Roman thought flying on the wings of promise. Then there’s us, the eternal sceptics. Are we sold? Sold. But with reserve. The truly pleasing thing in the match against Chievo was not the sight of Toni himself (combative but ancillary) as much as the movement of the team around him. For the first time in what seems like years, the midfield was finding a stable pivot to whose reference they could channel their efforts. Taddei was sending crosses and there was actually someone there to pick them up. David Pizarro was producing long balls, which is not the best kind of game in itself, but they were actually being received and turned into possession, rather than lost in foreign mists.

It hardly made for beautiful football, but that would be an unfair criticism for a team that played 80 minutes in numerical disadvantage. Under the conditions, they did very well. Had Pizarro converted that penalty, it would have been the first time in five matches that a Roman forward earned us a goal (albeit indirectly). There were some problems which needed solving, and one of these was the rather pathetic display that Mirko Vucinic continues to offer on the left wing, but the organon – the team’s function as a collectivity – was healthy. This may still be defensive football, but it no longer qualifies as catenaccio. Roma has its true striker, at last.

The only thing that this writer was hoping from Toni’s arrival was that he would transform the tactical physiognomy of the team, and this is exactly what seems to have happened, early as it may be to cast final judgments. It remains to be seen how exactly the team is going to change. A perceptive commentator on a Roman blog pointed out that as long as Toni is on the field, Roma can only play a 4-4-2 (or slight variations thereof). This is entirely correct, and entirely positive. Since Francesco Totti can no longer play as trequartista, he would have to partner Toni up-front for them to play together, and since they are both very slow, the need for two dynamic wingers is incontestable. We may well ditch the 4-2-3-1 in the end. On the other hand, who shall become the designated wingers is something we cannot tell. Benching Vucinic would be a shame, but using him on the wing would be a waste. Taddei is undergoing such a stretch of form that every time he touches the ball, the television commentators can barely hold back and they start singing ‘Supercalifragilistiexpiralidocious’ in Italian (forgive the hyperbole, but the man’s recent and miraculous return to excellence is hard to explain by anything but an intervention by Mary Poppins). He is the present of Roma, but the future belongs to Alessio Cerci, so maybe the younger man should play as well? And what of Stefano Guberti? And can Simone Perrotta find some space on the flank? The answers are blowing in the wind.

A promise of change is in the air, although we cannot read its outlines yet. Roma’s certainties, at the moment, amount to a superb defence and a winning mentality. The credit for both goes to Ranieri. What we are missing now is a penetrating tactical game. Much of the team’s future depends on this, and we honestly do not know whether the Coach can achieve it. His portfolio has never included tactical brilliance, and recent games marked a certain incompetence in the field. Toni is simple to use. Let this be enough to lend us hope, and let the rest of our future take shape from the next game onwards.

Roma Club Focus 2009/10

Week 1


The senate is adjourned
– August 25, 2009

Week 2


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

Week 3


A win that means more than three points
– September 15, 2009

Week 4


Ranieri chases team spirit
– September 18, 2009


Champagne!
– September 22, 2009

Week 5


Children of Chaos
– September 25, 2009

Week 6


Catania is beginning to get on our nerves
– September 29, 2009


Ranieri has yet to stabilise i Lupi
– October 3, 2009

Week 7


A solid win at a heavy price?
– October 6, 2009


Rumours as IFFHS ranks the Giallorossi as best in Italy
– October 9, 2009

Week 8


The strange attractor of two inherently chaotic teams
– October 16, 2009


The sound and the fury
– October 20, 2009

Week 9


The importance of being Francesco
– October 23, 2009


A shot in the foot
– October 27, 2009

Week 10


Waiting for Godot (and the rest of our men)
– October 30, 2009

Week 11


Win as a team, die as individuals
– November 3, 2009

Week 12


Into the nest of snakes
– November 6, 2009


A promise of spring
– November 10, 2009

International week (Italy-Holland, Italy-Sweden)

Week 13


Purgatory is not enough
– November 20, 2009


The first leaves shiver
– November 24, 2009

Week 14


The ghost of a future derby
– November 27, 2009

Week 15


The front needs work but the back looks good
– December 1, 2009


The only game in town
– December 4, 2009


We need an alternative, fast
– December 8, 2009

Week 16


Black Wolves rising
– December 11, 2009


The Imbecile
– December 15, 2009

Week 17


Pass the Parmesan, please
– December 18, 2009


The defence does everything, where is the rest?
– December 22, 2009

Winter break


The man to give (us) a shove
– December 29, 2009


It’s quiet…too quiet
– January 5, 2010

Week 18


No offence intended
– January 8, 2009


All I know is a door into the dark
– January 12, 2009

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