Club Focus – Roma – Losers for first place

For the Giallorossi, this season is one that is full of promise. Last season started off badly and culminated in a very close race with Inter for lo Scudetto, leaving fans to wonder what could have been.

This season though, sees Inter without José Mourinho in charge and, as a result, losing some of their aura of invincibility. Added to this, the possible loss of Douglas Maicon to Real Madrid would be a big blow to a team that relied on their right-back at key moments last season. Added to this, Rafa Benítez, the new Coach, is not a man who will strike fear into the hearts of the Nerazzurri’s opponents as his predecessor did. In fact, his last few years in league football with Liverpool have been marred by the inconsistency of his sides, and criticism of his rotation system. Granted, Inter have a much stronger squad for a league season that Liverpool did, but inconsistency has been something with which la Beneamata have also struggled in the last few years.

The main problem for Roma, as outlined in the season preview, is currently at right-back. Marco Motta was a very good young player and his loss will be keenly felt by the team – made worse by his subsequent move to Juventus, which is a painful reminder of the bad old days. Cicinho has made it clear that Rome is not where he wants to be, and Marco Cassetti (save for his derby heroics last season) is a player whose best days vanished with his youth. Added to this, the uncertainty over the Philippe Mexès contract situation must worry fans that the Frenchman may see his future elsewhere – hopfully not in Turin or Milan.

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The club’s desperation to permanently add Nicolás Burdisso is also somewhat confusing seeing as, in Mexès, they have a superior player already at the club. Bringing in the Argentine as a back-up would be a smart move, but if the intention is to start him alongside Juan then it could be an uncertain season at the heart of the defence. Both Mexès and Burdisso have a similar weakness as centre-backs – a tendency to lapse in concentration at inappropriate times. However, Mexès at his best is a far superior player both physically and technically. Therefore, their downside is similar, but with the Frenchman the upside is dramatically higher – if it comes to a choice between the players it should be an easy decision.

One disappointment is that the rumoured transfer of Francois Clerc from Lyon never happened. Although his tendency to get injured is legendary, when his is fit he is a talented and capable right-back and would, at the very least, act as a capable stop-gap at that position. The good news is that, in almost all other positions, the team looks very strong. The attack is fearsome and the Roman faithful should already be excited about seeing Mirko Vučinić, Francesco Totti, Adriano and Jérémy Ménez all contributing. Each player adds something slightly different to the team, and Totti will be resuming his role as the creative heart of the side.

One amusing sub-plot to the season is the battle between Claudio Ranieri and Benítez. Both dubbed ‘losers’ by José Mourinho, Rafa will have to contend with the fact that as soon as his team starts to play well Mourinho will be taking all the credit, and Ranieri will be desperate to win a title to shake off his tag as the man who always finishes second. Both Coaches have not won a league title in a very long time, and a victory would mean a great deal to either.

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