The next step is Sampdoria, and there could be no better time in the world to take them on. The Blucerchiati are in free fall and all of their parachutes are broken. Some of their interviews are even beginning to assume a comedic curve. Their Coahc, Gigi Del Neri, was asked what he believed the causes of the crisis to be after the debacle against Milan, and this was his considerate answer: ”How on earth would I know? I’m not the Wizard Zurlì.” It was a funny enough answer before this writer Googled ‘Mago Zurlì’ and found out what the character in question looks like – then it became hilarious. Then there’s Antonio Cassano, who is slowly going back to being Antonio Cassano. A supporter called him ‘touchy’ during a recent training session and Fantantonio responded “what do you mean? I’ll kick your…” You can imagine the rest. The group of supporters looked at each other in comprehensible bewilderment, then all was cleared – apparently, Cassano had misheard the sentence as ‘cowardly.’ It was this particular piece of slander which sent him charging like a raging hippopotamus. Next time he plays at the Olimpico, let’s make sure the Curva Sud know what to sing in their choruses.
The sentences by the two men encapsulate the atmosphere under the shade of the Dorian tree. Confused at best, surly and tense at worst. Three weeks ago, we would have said that confronting Sampdoria away would pitch them as favourites. Today, the match is Roma’s to lose. Their team plays as though they were composed of characters taken from Albert Camus’ novel The Outsider – nobody seems to give a damn about anything, from the result to the trajectories of the ball. Most worrying for them is the state of their defence. Milan has earned a lot of praise for the way they tore to shreds the Blucerchiati, but their backline was an embarrassment to football. We have been critical of the trident that Coach Claudio Ranieri has been fielding in the past, and the play expressed has given some support to our arguments, but all of our skepticism falls away for this particular match. If there is one team that is bound to suffer an offence composed of three gifted strikers, that is Sampdoria.
Of course, a problem is given by the absence of Jérémy Ménez, one of the key elements. Ranieri has the choice between fielding Júlio Baptista to supply for the absence of the Frenchman, or – more plausibly – changing the formation to a 4-4-2. Whichever option he chooses, we will be more than happy. Baptista needs to develop some confidence and get some playing time in his legs, and this is the perfect opportunity. At the same time, Ranieri needs to develop a consistent, viable alternative to the 4-3-3, possibly one which makes use of Roma’s resources on the wing (Stefano Guberti and Alessio Cerci especially, who will otherwise be sold or loaned in January). Either way we win, in terms of tactics for certain, and probably in terms of goals as well.
Sampdoria should not be underestimated, obviously, as no team should be. So Ranieri should be aware that the greatest threat comes from the offence. Cassano seems to be the most de-motivated in that cart-wagon of mozzarella sacks that is the Sampdoria team at the moment, but the possibility of playing against Roma – and, for the first time, against Francesco Totti – might give him the motivational edge to play for the flawed divinity that he is. Also, he is flanked by Giampaolo Pazzini, who always gives his all, even when the ship is sinking. The absence of Philippe Mexès from the Giallorossi rearguard is a handicap, but not an insurmountable one (if anything, the fielding of Marco Cassetti as a starter gives us more room for worry – let’s see if he offers another golden ball to the opposition, just for giggles). It will probably be best to focus on the midfield, letting Daniele De Rossi and Matteo Brighi do their work as destroyers, and the rest will take care of itself.
While Roma head towards the match with a promise in their heart and the image of a group that is ever growing, never shaking, whispers are emerging from the mercato. Apparently, we will get hold of another striker. Also apparently, it will be Luca Toni rather than Adriano, but the Brazilian is the first choice (thank heavens management has at the least the sense to see that). If Toni is hoping to get a starter’s shirt and thus merrily fly off to South Africa next summer, he is in for a very bitter surprise. Then again, if the man is given some motivation to fight for a starter’s shirt, it will only be to our advantage. We are not great supporters of thunderous old Luca, but an extra card in Ranieri’s sleeve can do no harm, provided it is inexpensive. Other needs are more pressing in truth, but until Ranieri decides himself on the formation he wants to field, nobody can tell us what players ought to be purchased. Not even Ranieri himself.
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
Waiting for Godot (and the rest of our men) – October 30, 2009
Win as a team, die as individuals – November 3, 2009
Into the nest of snakes – November 6, 2009
A promise of spring – November 10, 2009
International week (Italy-Holland, Italy-Sweden)
Purgatory is not enough – November 20, 2009
The first leaves shiver – November 24, 2009
The ghost of a future derby – November 27, 2009
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
Black wolves rising – December 11, 2009