Club Focus – Roma – Much ado about nothing

That it should have been a bit of a flat week in terms of news around Roma is nothing to concern ourselves about. What seems a little bit worrisome is that this state of calm winds gives signs that it may protract itself for a considerable period of time. Roma is in a situation which is unlikely to be resolved before mid-June at the earliest. If that is the case, then get ready for weeks over weeks of media speculation on the destiny of the Roma team, mostly ending in nothing.

There are a few different threads we may pick up this week. Let us begin with the last game and the quandary of the team that has forgotten how to win. A draw by 2-2 against Cagliari. Disappointing, most people would dub it, and while this is beyond dispute if we reason by the standards of last year’s Roma, there are some glimmers of light if we look at the game in the context of the current situation. For starters, Cagliari is a far better team than any casual onlooker would give them credit for. Their 2-0 thumping of Napoli is no coincidence, and Roma did well to pull themselves up from a two-goal disadvantage which was heading for a repeat of that game. The Cagliari team can boast an excellent Coach and a team full of promising talents – in fact this writer’s personal favourite, 22-year-old defender Davide Astori, was not even on the field last Sunday, something the Giallorossi should be thankful for.

Given the adversary, Roma did well to dominate in terms of possession and game expressed. The return of David Pizarro gave some creativity and experience to the midfield, two qualities which were much needed. Sadly, the ease with which Cagliari broke through the Giallorossi backlines on two occasions (just about the only opportunities they had) erases the good work in the midfield and highlights just how direly Roma need to fix their defence. It does not matter how well-built your towers are, if the foundations are rotten it will all fall to pieces – and the foundations of any football team are represented by their defence. Artur showed no authority at all (in painful contrast with Cagliari keeper Federico Marchetti), Marco Cassetti was responsible for the first goal with his Stan Laurel move or whatever you wish to call that ghastly attempt at dispatching the football, and the rest of the players did little or nothing to aid. In the second half Roma managed to slow down instead of picking up the pace (Luciano Spalletti’s oratorical skills are a wonder of inverted logics) and it was only Cagliari’s own defensive deficiencies – alongside Roma’s lack of sportsmanship when a Rossoblu player went down – which allowed the Capital team to equalise in the space of six minutes.

It goes without saying that a brawl in the fashion of John Wayne was almost kick-started. Daniele Conti and Francesco Totti exchanged gentle words under the eyes of Bruno Conti, father of one and mentor of the other, and on Monday Totti released the statement that ‘all was well’ with the Conti kid. What a load of rubbish. The Roma captain had also forwarded an apology a few weeks ago for the Derby shenanigans right after the tragedy of the earthquake, saying ‘we’ll try not to do it again.’ One long-term promise, that. One might as well be listening to the excuses of a six-year-old. This behaviour is unworthy of a football field and unworthy of a captain. More so than the void of international trophies, what Italy should be worrying about is how ordinary these scenes have become in modern-day Serie A. 20 years ago they were considered so unprofessional that they could have destroyed a player’s reputation. Today they are liquidated with a couple of media remarks.

Leaving aside the depressing-but-only-somewhat-depressing match, Rosella Sensi has recently announced that Coach Spalletti will stay with the team until 2011 and beyond. Of course this is nonsense – all that the statement means is that Spalletti will be given another chance next season, but he is guaranteed to be shown the gate if he bombs that too (in fact the statement may bear even less meaning and be no more than a way of quietening alien interests in the Coach until management have made their decision). Whether this choice is wise or not can not be assessed right now. We stated in our last Club Focus that Roma must keep what is limping and only change what is irreparably broken. The argument could be made that while the 4-2-3-1 is beyond repair, Spalletti himself is not. The man is no fool and he will not repeat this year’s mistakes. While we stand by our claim that a judicious change of Coach would be the best way to reach the fourth place, as long as the ambitions remain no more than Champions League qualification then Spalletti should be able to secure that. What happens after that is an entirely different question. Let Spalletti stay if he must, then – since a general reformation of the team must be postponed for the reasons we explored last week – this means neither manna nor tragedy.

Let us close with a brief update on the rumours around the sale of the club. The Germans are not interested in buying – apparently they were always a joke now. Their place has been taken by two figures, both Roman (thank God) – Francesco Angelini, a giant in the Italian pharmaceutical industry, and Giampaolo Angelucci, who is involved in the health and editorial industries. The similarity in names suggests either a mythological omen or a Donald Duck comic-book – and while we have no intention of making fun of the situation, Angelini himself is doing his best to turn it into a farce. His claim that he wishes to undergo the acquisition of the club – a business worth hundreds of millions of Euros – not for economic reasons but merely ‘because I am a fan of the team’ would keep the straight face off a horse. In fact, the very extensive interview he gave on the subject (before making an offer, before even speaking with the current owners) mystifies his motives more than it clarifies them and gives some credit to Rosella Sensi’s spiteful response – “we are not interested in people who wish to publicise themselves off our backs.” Still, as far as owners go, the man is at least a Roman, which is more than could be said for Soros or Flick. As for Angelucci, he has been more quiet than his competitor. He does own a share of Italpetroli, who happen to be the people Rosella Sensi is indebted with by several hundred million Euros, and this gives him some weight in the negotiations. What these negotiations are, and what the man intends to do, we will find out in the coming few months (in painfully protracted media blabber and press releases). Most likely, though, we can answer that question now – absolutely nothing.

One may wonder why we mention in closure what most of the media has been slapping on the front-pages for a while. The answer is very simple – we do not deal with fluff. When a real offer is made, when the society is sold and a new ownership comes along – in other words, when anything becomes concrete – you will read about it here in greater depth than anywhere else. For now, there is no point in wasting your time or ours with daydreams.

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