Oh look, Alessio Cerci works. How surprising, is it not? Let us look forward to him seeing some more playing time now that he scored twice, albeit against a relatively modest opponent, and here’s to the wretched plans of selling or loaning him in January to be aborted.
Matches in these early stages of the Europa League are usually quite miserly when it comes to teaching lessons, and this was no exception. The response of the media concentrates on the promise represented by the Roman youth – including the new forward, Filippo Scardina, who scored on his debut – slim chance of him or any of the others having much effect in the near future. The story of Cerci and Stefano Okaka, to mention only the two lads most famous, suggest that Roma is not the right place for a young footballer to develop his skills. It is simply a matter of internal policies. Change is possible, yes, but it is not around the corner.
The real lesson from this game was strategic. It has become apparent to us that Claudio Ranieri has eradicated the 4-4-2 from the left side of his brain and made the 4-2-3-1 a permanent guest. If this is the case, there is no use in invoking the former deployment any longer and we might as well consider what can be done with the new (old?) asset. It is true that, as we expected, the team is going towards tactical stability. What is interesting is that its path has become dual. Two formations have risen to attention and are now struggling for predominance. The first is the 4-3-3 (or 4-3-1-2), with Jérémy Ménez playing as a trequartista behind two strikers and in front of three mediani. The other is the 4-2-3-1, this relic of the Luciano Spalletti era, remodelled to become slightly more cynical.
There is the possibility that these two schemas may learn how to live together, but at the moment they are in conflict, and it seems that Ranieri will eventually choose one of the two. We shall see what he does – for our own part, we have no immediate preference. The 4-3-3 is simpler and therefore more effective, but the 4-2-3-1 allows for the use of wingers, meaning that Cerci and Stefano Guberti would not be wasted. It is also less affected by injury, since it does not depend on Ménez being healthy. It does rely a great deal on David Pizarro though, clarifying why our column resisted the purchase of a new striker and promoted that of a creative midfielder.
Onto more general questions. The match against Sampdoria was infuriating because it required such an effort not to win it and Ranieri succeeded against all odds, but it was not too delicate in terms of the standings. We stated after the match against Inter (has it already been five weeks?) that Roma had seven games before them and fifteen points to gather. After the first four matches, they have already bagged ten. So the sun shines on the capital, despite the recent rains that have hampered this writer in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Considering that the next confrontation pits us against the team in fourth, and that their team is significantly less gifted than ours (other than our dearly familiar ex-right-back, Christian Panucci, who reportedly ‘would rather not play’ against us), we might be able to reach Champions League orbits before the half-season is through. What then? The big three all appear to be undergoing some difficulties, but common sense tells us that they can not all decline at the same time. Realistically, Roma can aim for the third place and aspire for the second. That is reserved for the second half of the season, but it is conditional (let us always remember this) to the team playing under the directives of a real tactical identity, and not stumbling forth one game at a time.
In our last piece of news of the week, the eternal captain has signed his final contract. About time – bureaucracy was taking its toll, but in the words of Beyoncé, we never really had a doubt. Idealism aside, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to stand on his feet all the way to 38. Paolo Maldini did it, but his job was that of kicking rather than being kicked. Francesco Totti’s physique becomes more and more frail by the year, even though his talent remains the same. Also, his original claim that he would cut his salary turned out to be mostly symbolic – he earns less, but he still earns far more than any other player in the team. You have earned yourself a contract worthy of a pharaoh, Francesco, in a team that sometimes cannot even pay for its own bandages. Well done. Now make it worth it.
Roma Club Focus 2009/10
The senate is adjourned – August 25, 2009
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
A win that means more than three points – September 15, 2009
Ranieri chases team spirit – September 18, 2009
Champagne! – September 22, 2009
Children of Chaos – September 25, 2009
Catania is beginning to get on our nerves – September 29, 2009
Ranieri has yet to stabilise i Lupi – October 3, 2009
A solid win at a heavy price? – October 6, 2009
Rumours as IFFHS ranks the Giallorossi as best in Italy – October 9, 2009
The strange attractor of two inherently chaotic teams – October 16, 2009
The sound and the fury – October 20, 2009
The importance of being Francesco – October 23, 2009
A shot in the foot – October 27, 2009
Waiting for Godot (and the rest of our men) – October 30, 2009
Win as a team, die as individuals – November 3, 2009
Into the nest of snakes – November 6, 2009
A promise of spring – November 10, 2009
International week (Italy-Holland, Italy-Sweden)
Purgatory is not enough – November 20, 2009
The first leaves shiver – November 24, 2009
The ghost of a future derby – November 27, 2009
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
Black Wolves rising – December 11, 2009
The Imbecile – December 15, 2009
Pass the Parmesan, please – December 18, 2009