Statistics don’t make great reading for Claudio Ranieri at present. His Roma team have conceded an alarming 15 goals away from the Stadio Olimpico already this season, the latest two of which at Chievo on Saturday carelessly cost the Giallorossi what looked like being a routine win. Their two-goal headstart at the Bentegodi got literally stuck in the mud as the hosts punished Roma’s comatose second half performance to fight back and salvage a point. It was the fourth time the capital Club have thrown away a two-goal advantage this calendar year.
If fortune smiles on Ranieri, this will prove a useful away point gained but right now it looks very much like two crucial ones dropped towards their tilt at the Serie A title. A win on Saturday would have put Roma in fourth on 25 points but instead they sit eighth on 23, behind Napoli, Palermo, Inter and Sampdoria, the latter three sharing the Giallorossi’s total but with superior goal differences.
Last week, our Club Focus suggested that Ranieri might look to utilise both Adriano and Mirko Vucinic, not only tactically but with a view to maintaining morale amongst those players who are not considered automatic starters. It was no real surprise, then, to find both these strikers included from the kick off, along with centre-back Philippe Mexes. The Frenchman’s selection was an enforced one due to Juan’s absence for personal reasons but it further proved that Roma can ill afford to lose Mexes.
Along with Nicolas Burdisso, the Giallorossi are making good use of all three of their quality centre-backs, and would be seriously weakened if one of them were to leave in January, regardless of any replacement arriving. Scudetto-winning teams are built on solid and long-standing partnerships, especially at the back. That’s not to say Roma’s defence is impregnable – the stat quoted at the top of this article proves this conclusively – but a new face could be a hindrance rather than a help if it meant the defensive unit suffered. A case of better the devil you know, you could say.
The draw with Chievo looked unthinkable after a decent first half Roman effort. The pitch was truly terrible, more suited to growing onions than playing football, but Ranieri’s men managed to create chances and Fabio Simplicio scrambled in two goals. Perhaps the ease at which they controlled much of the first 45 minutes induced the reversal of fortunes, which almost allowed the Gialloblu to take all three points at the final whistle. Stefano Pioli’s men came out for the second period battle-ready, whereas Ranieri’s Roma came out ready for a bath.
As the game slipped away from I Lupi, the Coach introduced Marco Borriello, Rodrigo Taddei and Jeremy Menez, but these switches did little to improve the play or the attitude. With the field resembling a bog, the dribbling of Taddei and Menez was neutralised and with that went any hope of a Roma win. They barely held on and things got incredibly worse as Daniele De Rossi’s idiotic streak was finally enticed out of him. A wild lunge at his opponent’s shins resulted in an immediate red card and he could now miss the absolutely vital Milan game. His challenge was both indefensible and completely absurd.
As luck would have it this poor result can be quickly archived, with the business of Champions League qualification just around the corner. Roma must avoid defeat with Romanians Cluj on Wednesday to ensure a safe passage to the knockout stage. Europe has not been kind to Italian clubs thus far, and so despite this relatively simple task on paper of getting a point at the Group E minnows, Ranieri would do well to show a video of Saturday’s second half performance to his players.
We expect to see Francesco Totti, Marco Borriello and Jeremy Menez as part of the starting eleven. Brazilian full-back Cicinho could also get a chance, which would allow Marco Cassetti a chance to recuperate. This is especially important as Aleandro Rosi has some fitness issues, potentially leaving little cover at right-back. Paolo Castellini failed to shine on Saturday, but in fairness the muddy pitch hampered every player. He will undoubtedly get the left-back shirt on Wednesday to prove his worth as good cover for John Arne Riise.
In amongst the football, the sale of the Club is gathering pace and the current name in the frame appears to be Giampaolo Angelucci and his backers. The Italian entrepreneur has long been linked with the purchase of the Giallorossi, and his consortium was very quick to deny reports that they had pulled out of the running.
As discussed before, off-field wranglings do little to aid efforts on the pitch, and so come the New Year everybody concerned with Roma will trust any change of ownership is made smoothly and hope a possible cash injection is made available for potential transfers. Before then, Ranieri’s men need to stop the defensive rot and return from Romania unscathed.