Club Focus – Roma – Good bye Europe and other musings

When you concede six goals over two games it means you deserve to be shown the exit. It was true enough for Luciano Spalletti after the first two matches of the season, and it’s sufficient punishment for the hopes of Roma under the European spotlight. What a shame – or maybe not.

There are reasons to entertain mixed feelings after the capitulation at the hands (and feet) of the Greeks. It is sad that we are out of the European competition, of course. It is good that we can devote all of our energies to the domestic league, which is far more important, and in some ways more plausible an objective (depending on the result of three games in the league – those against Napoli, Milan and Inter). In fact, it was displeasing to see Claudio Ranieri being forced to field virtually all of his best men against a team that did not deserve such an effort – and regardless of the loss, they did not deserve it – when the very important, massively challenging game against Napoli was only three days away. These men will be tired: Mirko Vucinic, Rodrigo Taddei, John Arne Riise, Marco Cassetti above all others – our engines on the wings. Go fly without them.

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We have a reason to be sad because we lost. We have a reason to be glad because, as we said in our last Club Focus, the times were ripe for a loss, and if a kick in the face was coming, it is much better to get it in the Europa League than in Serie A. If Roma had won this game, we would have called the match against Napoli an almost certain loss. Now, we are not so sure. Technically the team has what it takes to beat the Partenopei, but fatigue will take its toll. The match gives us a miscellany of premonitory signals. On one hand, the Stadio San Paolo is every bit as scorching and unwelcoming to outsiders as the Olimpico. On the other, Napoli is meeting with some real trouble with their offence, which has not scored a goal in 264 minutes (and even then, it came from Christian Maggio, who is not a forward). The offence of the Azzurri is sterile, and for once we are not discussing Marcello Lippi.

It does have to be said that Roma’s offence is every bit as shaky as that of Walter Mazzarri’s team, lacking as it still does Francesco Totti and Luca Toni (and Stefano Okaka, who took three minutes to score his first goal in the Premiership and whose lend seems more lamentable by the day). Worrying is the situation at the back, where Doni will require a great deal of assistance from the defence – or a continuation of the absence within the ranks of the Neapolitan offence – if he is to keep a clean sheet. The same is for the midfield, the edge should be ours, but the central players of the two teams have very different strengths, and the comparison is arduous. Finally, there is no way of knowing whether Roma will walk into the San Paolo demoralized or vindictive after the last match. Mixed signals, as we said. We make no predictions, except for one, and a tentative one at that – it will not end with a draw.

Other considerations: Alessio Cerci is allowed to play only if Marco Cassetti is covering for him at the back. Evidently Ranieri believes that using Marco Motta, at the same time as the young Roman winger, is too unbalanced a combination. He may have a point. Cerci is earning space at the expense of Jérémy Menez, which is unfortunate, but this does not depend on Ranieri’s individual decision as much as his overall style of football. Menez doesn’t fit in, and the reason for this is not his lack of drive, nor a lack of talent, nor a tactical incongruity. It is a simpler case – Ranieri has been trying to give this team an identity. He succeeded, largely, and the identity is what we may call ‘classical.’ It is old-school football, where the physical move comes before the mental plan and imagination is less important than a will to fight. Menez is good, but he is ‘modern’ – not classical. In a team like Milan, he would have been much better and much sooner exploited. This is not to say that we envy Milan (without the favour of vanishing penalties, they would be well below us), but they are an example of a team with an identity which is better suited to exploiting certain players. They would not know how to use Toni, which Ranieri understands how to do, or Matteo Brighi, but they would suck wonders out of someone like Menez. Either the Frenchman changes, or the team does – otherwise he should be sold this summer.

Ranieri’s football is dependable at best, and outmoded at worst. His traditionalism is his strength as much as it is his weakness. It is more than good enough for now, excellent even, as long as our only objective is that of climbing as far up as possible on a single mountain. Next year, if we make it into the Champions League, the chores will be tripartite, multi-tasking in demand and incredibly taxing – as they are in modern football. Then he may not fare that well. However there will be time for such considerations after the qualification has been secured, after the World Cup has been played. For now, the Derby del Sole gives us enough to be worried about.

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, 2010


All I know is a door into the dark
– January 12, 2010

Week 19


The halfway buoy
– January 15, 2010

Week 20


Standing ovation. Seriously
– January 19, 2010

Week 21


A song of ice and fire
– January 22, 2010


Marching upon the ashes of the fallen
– January 26, 2010

Week 22


The unfortunate tale of Stefano Okaka
– February 2, 2010

Week 23


The De Rossi effect
– February 5, 2010


Sometimes you need a bit of luck
– February 9, 2010

Week 24


Take delight in the desperation of your enemies
– February 12, 2010


With Palermo slain do Roma dare to dream?
– February 16, 2010

Week 25


A Greek tragedy? This should have a happy ending
– February 19, 2010

Week 26


Just five points to the top
– February 24, 2010


Good bye Europe and other musings
– February 24, 2010

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