Club Focus – Roma – Just five points to the top

Roma shortened the gap with Inter to only five points, and everyone has become suddenly aware that the Scudetto race is not over. Can the Giallorossi win the Italian title? A number of things must be kept in mind. Firstly, the Roman team is at a peak – not for performances, but in terms of fate and fortune. The victory against Fiorentina was more than they deserved, and those against Siena and Catania were rather close, however efficiently they may have been dealt with. Good streaks never last forever – eventually the other shoe will drop, and Roma will lose points where they deserved to earn them. The upcoming games against Napoli and Milan, for example, will represent very harsh tests, and some wayward penalty or red card could realistically upset everything.

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Another very important factor to keep in mind will be the today game between Inter and Chelsea. In order for hope to be kept alive, it is imperative that the Nerazzurri progresses further in the Champions League. If they are thrown out by Carlo Ancelotti’s men, and their mental and physical energies are allowed to refocus on the home competition, then we have reached the end. Even with two men sent off, Inter were clearly the dominant side against Sampdoria – a team that, lest we forget, is contending for the Champions League, not against relegation. With the field drawn level, there is no competition. Even winning everything would not be enough. So whatever their feelings towards their blue and black adversaries, all Romanistas should be crying the same thing this week – Forza Inter.

Onto our own boys, and moving away from the European scene, can our team actually be beaten in the domestic league? The more time passes, the less and less this question feels tongue-in-cheek. Favour by the gods or no, Claudio Ranieri’s recent work has been superlative. The defence needs no commentary – it is the best in Serie A and has been nothing less for a month and a half. The other departments of the team have proved to be remarkably ductile, and the relative ease with which the absence of David Pizarro was compensated for last Sunday is evidence enough. Alessio Cerci and Jérémy Menez are being given space (again, and at last), and they are both growing, proving that they can be helpful when they are given enough responsibility to care about the game. Even Julio Baptista is proving to be useful, especially nowadays, as Francesco Totti, Luca Toni and Stefano Okaka cannot be fielded. There is no doubt that versatility is this team’s greatest strength. A certain degree of mental grit is also there, but this may be overstated – every team look like they possess a winning mentality as long as they are winning. The way the group adapts to different circumstances, and overcomes the inconveniences of injury and ill-fortune, is a much more tangible factor. It is also a sign of real growth from the Luciano Spalletti era, which was defined by spectacle but also by rigidity.

Ranieri stated at the end of the match that the team ‘is doing a super job, but it is too early to say anything. We are still in the curve, then there shall be the final straight run. We have a lot of meat on the fire, but we cannot leave it there or it will burn.’ The statements are quite cryptic, but they are very perceptive once interpreted, and evidence that Ranieri knows what he’s doing. The ‘curve’ discussion, a reference to the Olympic ring for runners which bends and then stretches at the very end, discusses the economy of the league – Roma are at a point in which the most crucial matches are just about to come up. After that, the championship settles down and the final ten matches become much gentler in terms of intensity (in the first leg, it was this soft stretch that allowed Roma to return to the top of the table). That will be the time to pick up points and make a run for the Scudetto, and it will be then, just after the direct confrontation against Inter and in the light of its result, a true assessment of Roma’s objectives can be made. All of our matches now must be seen as a preparation to reach that moment in the right conditions – such conditions, of points and energies, that a league title may still be snatched. It is not an unrealistic objective, but it must be taken step by step.

The second statement made by Ranieri, the vaguely culinary one about ‘meat on the fire,’ refers to the untapped potential of this team. It seems strange to say this at a stage in which Roma has gone months without losing a game in Serie A, but the team is not at its best. Not even close, really, at least not in the offensive phase. We are still waiting to see what Toni and Totti can do when fielded together. Of course the partnership could be formidable, and the two men together also look like the combination of power, technique and finishing, required to trouble a defence like that of Inter. They absolutely must reach that match in a good state of fitness. Almost nothing is that important.

So much depends on the return to form of our two Italian prime punte. The fact that Napoli and Milan must be faced without one of them, perhaps both, is very disheartening. Other than the match against the Nerazzurri themselves, these are the two most important games left to us in the league. Four points are an optimistic but non-negotiable quota to expect from them.

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

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