Claudio Ranieri launched into an unprecedented rant on the eve of the Bologna game, as his pre-match press conference turned into an anger fuelled monologue, criticising journalists but praising his team despite their inauspicious start to the season. A quite unexpected turn of events, as he usually deals with the press in a calm and relaxed fashion.
The Giallorossi coach has always been one of the ‘Mr. Nice Guys’ of football, but the late summer sun had obviously got to the Roman who lambasted those gathered for knowing nothing about the real Ranieri and for using hindsight as a means of substantiating their criticisms of his tactics. In all truthfulness, he made some quite valid comments but the fact remains that his team are in real dire straights and his position as coach is now on unstable ground. However, to circumvent such troubled waters needs calm heads and rational decision-making. Ranieri is going to need all that and more if we are to be discussing this Roma team as ‘his’ team later in the week.
The Francesco Totti issue, briefly discussed in our last Club Focus, was quickly extinguished by both boss and player. There was no need to over glamorise the situation and thankfully for fans of the Giallorossi, the relationship between the tactician and the club captain remains completely professional, as it should be. However, two points from three games is not the return expected from a team that was hoping to loosen Inter’s current Serie A stranglehold. Roma are paying heavily for their injured and missing players, for the time being at least, it really is that simple.
Before Sunday’s Serie A match, the list of unavailable or unfit players read: Paolo Castellini, John Arne Riise, Nicolas Burdisso, Rodrigo Taddei and Mirko Vucinic. Players who played or could play but are still clearly recovering and far from 100% fit include David Pizarro and Adriano. Add to this list the breakdowns of Daniel De Rossi and Marco Cassetti during the weekend match; the squad is literally down to its barest of bones. Important teams should have a depth to cover such eventualities but they cannot possibly perform anywhere near their best without the bulk of the first team being available. For this reason, they failed to beat Cesena when they did everything but score, they failed to beat Bayern Munich after creating the best chances in the first half and surrendered a 2-0 lead to Bologna during the final stages. The play is there but the team is simply running out of steam in moments of the game when they need it the most.
On Wednesday, Serie A is back in action and Roma have another chance to reverse the slide but it will have to be done under the staff restrictions we have just discussed and with a player or two that need re-integration into the first eleven. One such new face might be the Brazilian Cicinho, getting a chance but at left back. He has been out of favour since his loan to Sao Paulo last season, but now Ranieri may need to rely on him to produce a good performance in an alien position in a team he has not played with for months. We need to be realistic in such circumstances; these are challenges that would stretch any club or coach.
Could tactics be a problem? Well, Ranieri has chopped and changed formations but this was considered an asset last season, not a hindrance. It would be wildly inaccurate to question the coach’s tactical ability after the way he turned round the team left by Luciano Spalletti and dared to run Jose Mourinho to the bitter end last term. There are few quality and expert tacticians in circulation, men who have had experiences in multiple countries and have proven track records at the highest sporting levels. He was, in the eyes of some commentators, unfairly dismissed at Stamford Bridge and at Juventus, when possibly on the brink of creating a title challenging team.
Admittedly, the buck as they say stops with the Coach, but he has proven his ability to rebuild an ailing team. Roma would do well to not go down the same route as the aforementioned clubs and keep hold of the ex-Valencia coach for a little while longer.