Following the ceremonials by which Claudio Ranieri was welcomed as the new Roma Coach as well as the inevitable declarations of delight and satisfaction by everyone involved, Trigoria has fallen under a cape of silence. It is only logical. Time is not on the side of the Giallorossi and Ranieri must be squeezing experience out of every minute he has to absorb his new reality. Chatting with the press must be the last thing on his mind at the moment.
The international break comes with perfect timing. It gives Ranieri an extra week to get know his players, their attributes and their state of form, as well as the opportunity to test them in a few different formations. He has lost no-one but Daniele De Rossi to the Azzurri, too, so most of his squad is there. Given the silence and inward concentration of the team at the current moment, there is little left for us to discuss. The only major question relates to how the next match against Siena will be confronted.
Much like fate has been kind in giving the Azzurri fixtures immediately after Luciano Spalletti’s resignation, so Ranieri has been fortunate in being faced with Siena for his first match. Marco Giampaolo’s side is in a state of reconstruction at the moment, having lost several important players over the summer transfers. Their offence should not be a source of great problems in and of itself – little is known about Michele Paolucci, their new acquisition from Juventus, but Reginaldo is hardly a player of tempestuous quality. Their defence is experienced but bland, even though an eye must be kept on their goalie by all Romanisti – Gianluca Curci has long been considered a very promising keeper at Roma, and his loan to Siena was long overdue. Considering Roma’s current problems in finding a reliable keeper, he may become an important asset next year if he can just prove that he is worth it. This writer thinks he has been slightly overrated. When wearing the Giallorossi colours he was far from impressive, and while he has shown signs of growth in the hands of Giampaolo, he was completely overshadowed by Cagliari’s Federico Marchetti. This year will be decisive in his evaluation. The stakes are high for everyone involved, and now that he faces the Giallorossi themselves, Curci will be keen to impress.
The key question to this encounter will be the formation. We hope that Ranieri will mould Roma into a 4-4-2 on the long run, but there is the possibility that he will not impose change so early. These players know each other and they know how to play with each other, and Ranieri is aware of that. He might send out the old 4-2-3-1, with only some minor adjustments to fix the defence. It is not what we hope to see, but it might be a better alternative to sending out a team of players who do not know what they are doing. We shall find out on Sunday.
One of Ranieri’s main (and most immediate) aims must be to fix the defence. This introduces a tension in the team – Roma’s best young players are also their most offensive, notably Jérémy Menez, Stefano Guberti and Alessio Cerci. In order to sustain an effective defensive line, Ranieri will have to field older players like Simone Perrotta and Rodrigo Taddei, who have already proved their worth (or lack thereof) in the defeat against Juventus. Ideally, the team will eventually find a balance – one experienced and defensive player on one flank, and a younger and more offensive one on the other. Even better, Ranieri should teach the young guns how to defend – though that looks unlikely considering his track record in handling youth. It is also important for us to understand what Ranieri plans on doing with Menez. If the formation does turn into a 4-4-2, then the Frenchman must either be fielded on the left wing, which is not his ideal position, or he must pair up with one of the strikers, and there is much competition for that spot. Either way, we hope that he is not benched – the kid can become an impressive resource for the aging squad of Roma in the coming years, and he needs to start gaining experience now.
The tension between youth and experience is bound to be one of the underlying themes of Roma’s entire season, this year, especially since it is not a field in which Ranieri can be called a specialist. Obviously, this long-term problem overlaps with the immediate problem of the formation. The tactical deployment that we will witness next Sunday must then be read in light of this tension and what it will say for the future. This, alongside the work that has already been done with the Roma defence and the performance of Curci, will be the most interesting aspect of next weekend’s game.
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