Club Focus – Roma – No offence intended

‘The danger comes less from the opponent itself, whom Roma are more than capable of overpowering, than from a potentially distracted mentality resulting from the flurry of gossip and talking points that have recently come to the fore.’ This was the sentence that closed our last Roma Club Focus, and there you have it. Two goals conceded in three minutes, and two points very much thrown away. That the team should have fallen asleep at the very end is frustrating, but these things are part of football, and in fairness, playing Cagliari away was never going to be an easy task.

It should also be mentioned that most of the team was guiltless, and that the blame for the second goal conceded lies mostly on Marco Cassetti. If our scepticism on this player needed some validation, then this game provided it. When the ball arched over the box towards the defensive right, it should have been Cassetti to close Joaquín Larrivey down before he could tap it in for Daniele Conti. Instead, the right-back was standing alongside Nicolás Burdisso, in the most useless position it is possible to conceive. Cassetti has been getting a lot of credit – and a consistent starter’s shirt – since his goal against Lazio, and we deplored this on several occasions (much like Simone Perrotta specialises in missing sitters, so Cassetti graduates in creating them for the adversaries – hello Diego, Mauro Zárate and Larrivey). Perhaps this game will serve to send him back on the bench, but don’t hold your breath.

It was an atypical game for a number of reasons. We knew an unfavourable result was a possibility, but you cannot really condemn the team after they earned a 2-0 advantage which seemed unbreakable until the very last minutes. At the same time, all the issues which we criticised about Roma and about Claudio Ranieri resurfaced, over and beyond what took place in that final quantum of the match. The 4-2-3-1 still seems an inappropriate choice. The net of communication that it tries to build across midfielders and forwards is still completely puzzling to us. Other sources may have cracked what Ranieri is trying to do, but we have not. None of the forwards really act as forwards except when they are totally isolated (and then what is the point?). Progression on the wings is restricted to the right, through Rodrigo Taddei, but that usually implies that the forwards have come back to assist, and then there is no-one in the box to pick up crosses. We have gone four games now without one of our strikers scoring, and we have tried them all – this very game alternated Vučinić and Júlio Baptista to Jérémy Ménez and Luca Toni, and the performance went unaltered. It is a problem of collective game, not of individual strikers.

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As a result of the current system, Roma have no offensive momentum to speak of. By the end of the first-half, Roma counted six shots, but not a single one was on goal. Cagliari counted four shots, but three of these required the aquiline intervention of Júlio Sérgio to be kept from breaking in. Roma’s only openings had come from corner kicks (which explains why Toni has been recruited, if nothing else), and even then, they earned four against Cagliari’s five. When the second-half kicked off and the Giallorossi took the lead, it was through a penalty kick which was practically a gift – one of the defenders was idiotic enough to kick Vučinić when the latter was in an unthreatening position in the box and immobile. This is how we described Roma’s game after the match against Parma: ”The team doesn’t really ‘offend,’ rather they close all possible spaces and then wait for their adversaries to make a mistake in the defence. Like vultures.” This reading earned us a deal of criticism back then, but we have to stand by it. When Perrotta scored a goal (believe it) in the 66th minute, it was a genuine moment of good football thanks to Taddei’s charming run – but it was also Roma’s first shot on goal. It remained the last.

This specific draw resulted from fate and coincidence, not because the tactics were inadequate. But the fact remains that, to some extent, the tactics are inadequate, and this will show on the long term rather than the short. Playing such a defensive game will be enough to earn us the Champions League, but it will never take us far in that same competition. Insisting on the 4-2-3-1 will earn us results against the weaker opponents but it will stifle the team’s tactical and individual growth on the long run (among other things because it relies on the old guard rather than the younger talent). This is fine for now, but it is self-defeating if we stick with it – and the crisis into which Ranieri led Juventus last year (eventually culminating with the man’s dismissal) is an example of what could happen to us. It also makes for some exceptionally ugly football, but no-one seems to care about that anymore.

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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, 2009

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