In our last Club Focus, we suggested that defeat at the Ennio Tardini could have been the game that would end Claudio Ranieri’s involvement with his beloved Roma. They did not lose but instead participated in a lacklustre goalless draw, which in turn extends this soap opera of a season for a further week at least, with the current coach as its main protagonist. The Giallorossi’s performance and approach to the Sunday lunchtime match brought with it only bewilderment and we are no closer to understanding the direction of this team and how it plans to dig itself out of the mess it is currently buried in.
It is generally assumed that a Coach picks a system that best suits the players at his disposal; it is not wise to push a square peg into a round hole, as the saying goes. Yet, the hugely experienced Ranieri is doing exactly that. The formation deployed this weekend was a 4-4-2 with the wide players being Cicinho and Mirko Vucinic. Neither of them is an expert in those positions so once again the team had to play with players in roles that are not where they preferred ones. As last week when Simone Perrotta was used as a left sided midfielder against Basel, against Parma the ‘Tinkerman’ positioned the right back Cicinho at right midfield and Mirko Vucinic in that very same Perrotta role. Potentially Cicinho could play well in midfield (as it turned out, he didn’t) but the Montenegrin is certainly no midfielder. He could, as we have seen in the past, be deployed as a wide left forward, but in a deeper role he just doesn’t have the head or legs to play there effectively. Ranieri may have few options at his disposal but the solutions he selected appear to be the most disjointed. A 4-3-2-1 or even a 4-3-3 would be a better fit for a team with no natural wide side midfield men.
The puzzling decisions did not end there. At half time, Francesco Totti was sacrificed for tactical reasons, and replaced by Brazilian Fabio Simplicio. Totti was not having a particularly good game but then nor was anyone else which made it a little harsh to remove the Captain from the line-up. But, replacing him with Simplicio, who was asked to play just behind Marco Borriello in an adapted 4-4-1-1 setup, did nothing to improve matters nor in any way suggests it could have inspired victory. Simplicio has only a handful of minutes under his belt, is visually ring-rusty and frankly in an unlikely position to have changed the game. And this was borne out by him failing to integrate in Roma’s attacking schemes in any way during the 45 minutes conceded to him. Ranieri’s next ‘inspirational’ substitution was to swap the wasted talent of Vucinic for Julio Baptista, who has looked a shadow of the player he once was during his Valencia playing days. His touch was awful, his passing erratic and he inexplicably wasted i Lupi’s best chance of the whole match. To describe the Brazilian as amateur would be doing a disservice to the thousands of men, women and children who play the Beautiful Game for fun in their local parks.
Despite these puzzling decisions made by the ex-Chelsea tactician, Roma director Daniele Prade has once again confirmed that Ranieri’s job is safe and they are not entertaining the idea of relieving him from his duties. This show of faith is most admirable in the current football climate and we must realise that the problems are as much with the players themselves as with the coach. However, he is ultimately responsible and we wonder how many more points he will be allowed to drop, especially if his decision making is called into question, before the axe finally falls. The Rome derby is only two weeks away and defeat at the hands of Lazio, who are only making matters worse by being clear at the top of the table, would surely make the tacticians position untenable.
With the Lecce game before that, Ranieri will be banking on the recoveries of Simone Perrotta, Daniele De Rossi, Julio Sergio, Rodrigo Taddei and Jeremey Menez to have any hope of salvaging his season. Added to this, should there be fall-out from the Totti and Vucinic substitutions (more on that if necessary in our next Club Focus), matters will only become further complicated for the club from the capital.