Club Focus – Roma – Hoping against hope

Anything can happen in the space of a match, and by extension, anything can happen over three matches. Unfortunately, that says less about the possibility of Inter losing against their last adversaries than it does about Roma doing the same thing. There has been a great deal of talk about what Lazio will do, or try to do, against Inter. Biancocelesti Captain Tommaso Rocchi is tired of the talk, and he declared in a recent interview that ‘we are professionals, and against Inter it’s going to be a real match.’ Romanisti have been debating whether he meant it or not, but most seem to overlook the more important question: are we sure that Roma is going to win against Parma? And, after that, against Cagliari and Chievo?

Parma are among the weakest teams in Serie A. They play with a 4-3-3 that is more dangerous coming forwards than it is at defending, and this may play to Roma’s strengths. Admittedly, the fullbacks from the capital (John Arne Riise and Marco Cassetti) have looked more and more fragile in the past few matches. This means that there is more chance of a goal being conceded, and for this reason it would be good to ensure at least a double lead before anyone relaxes. Sampdoria taught us why.

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Further news from the capital this week is particularly sparse (which is a good thing, given that in the past most of it has been about injuries), so here are a few words on the mercato. For some reason, one year when Roma are playing well and look like they could afford a lot, sources seem to agree that their best players are going to leave. Mirko Vucinic has been targeted by both teams from Manchester, and reporters are sure that he will reach the Premiership over the summer. The offers so far are ludicrous, so the question is not even worth discussing. Philippe Mexes is also a candidate for departure. He is the object of effusions by Juventus, Milan, and, most recently, Arsenal. Again, the offers are far from commensurate to the quality of the player, and even if they were, for what reason would Roma want to deprive themselves of their third central defender? They would have to acquire the services of another defender and given that no team plays with only two centre-backs as though injuries and suspension did not exist, especially not a team that plans to compete in the Champions League. And in that case, who could possibly represent a better option than Mexes? As with Vucinic, the notion seems absurd.

More plausible are the voices around the departures of Doni and Julio Baptista, though the latter would best be kept. A team that plays with the trident, as Roma seems to intend, needs a total of five forwards in the roster, and Baptista is as perfect a fifth striker as Mexes a third centre-back. A year from this day, when Stefano Okaka has matured over his loan, we may reconsider, but not now. Speaking of Roma’s offence, it is not guaranteed that Luca Toni shall remain, and if he does not, then a new striker will be required. A throttle of rumours have begun on who might take his place, from old infatuations like Adriano to excellent options like Sampdoria’s Giampaolo Pazzini and cheap alternatives like Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez. What is the best case scenario? It depends entirely on the price. If Toni can be kept without spending too much, then he is beyond doubt or question. Otherwise, an investment on a younger player may prove illuminated.

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Nothing is being said, as of yet, on the problem of the fullbacks. Both the right and left flank present weaknesses and lack of depth on the bench. Riise is an unimpeachable starter, Cassetti less so. Regardless, both need a young alternative, especially if Marco Motta is sold. The same is true of David Pizarro in the midfield, but here the possibilities become numerous. Some claim that Alberto Aquilani could be snatched back from Liverpool, others speculate on relieving Luca Cigarini from his tribulation at Napoli (though Roma has little to offer as a way of solving his problems, given that he would still spend most of his time on the bench), yet more think of Andrea Poli, who may be traded for Stefano Guberti and a great deal of money, while others turn to options from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, on the subject of the midfield little has been said so far, so until new material becomes available, all of this must remain pure hypothesis.

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