Club Focus – Roma – Rock to the top, but at snail-pace

Hey there Delilah, what’s it like in Livorno? Not that great, Claudio, nor has it been for several years now. Whatever cosmological combination has been keeping Roma from beating Livorno for the last three seasons has struck again, sending David Pizarro’s penalty out by a mile and giving it back to Cristiano Lucarelli after half-time (no thanks to Juan’s prominently out-sticking hand – it’s hard to tell whether he was trying to take the spotlight away from Sulley Muntari’s flying-slap show on Friday or from that of Philippe Mexès against Napoli, but it is clear he was not given enough attention as a child). The team that is ‘competing for the Scudetto,’ in our own words, misses on their first golden chance to cut their gap with Inter to four points, while Milan soared up to minus one.

Even so, it is not all bad. The distance between Roma and the top of the mountain remains accessible, and has in fact been reduced by one point. It’s just one step, but it’s one step closer. Milan can fly as high up as they wish to – as long as they stay within the roof of second place, it does not affect our run for the title. When they become first, we can start worrying about them – and that is if they do succeed, which is actually rather improbable. Chievo, at the San Siro, should have been a birthday cake for Milan, but they staggered and stumbled all the way until the last minute and often risked losing it. The same was true of their recent games against Bari and Fiorentina. Milan hardly look healthy at all (David Beckham is out as well, on that note), and they certainly don’t look well equipped to face the challenging schedule ahead of them.

Roma are still in with a shout, even while making progress at a slower rate than we would have hoped. Claudio Ranieri is not very good at playing high-velocity, but that is no surprise. Somewhat more surprising were some of the things we saw in the last match. We have been very supportive of Marco Motta in the past, but on Sunday he had perhaps his worst game in the red and yellow shirt to date. Not for lack of athleticism – he was running up and down the right flank and offering the kind of support that Rodrigo Taddei so direly needs – but because his head seemed to be elsewhere. On both the first two goals, it was his conspicuous body that kept the adversary striker on side, when Juan and Mexès had both stepped forward. He was also unusually porous in the defensive part of the game. In truth, the entire defence was a shambles. Motta played like a narcoleptic, Juan high-fived the ball for whatever reason (perhaps he was trying to slap the full-back next to him, which would have been forgivable if it had awakened him), Mexès almost got into his own pantomime of slaps with Lucarelli towards the end, and Júlio Sérgio was in a poor position for the first goal. This is rather worrying, since our defence was a pillar of granite until a few weeks ago, and now it is showing small cracks.

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The only defender to earn his bread on the day was John Arne Riise, who did his job, though there was something bizarre in his game. Most of the time, he seemed to gallop upwards well beyond Jérémy Ménez, who partnered him on the left. This is awkward, because the Frenchman is not a defensive footballer and he should not be asked to play with Indiana Jones behind him, much less to cover when the latter goes off for adventures into the wild. The left flank was the great protagonist of this game, all buzzing with traffic and tactical arabesques, so it is not that it did not work. It was just strange. Then again, Ménez spent the whole game looking a bit disoriented, struggling to fit into a system which was clearly not built for him. His technical solutions were good, but his comrades did not follow him, and it was never understood what space he had been assigned by Ranieri. A kid like this is obviously wasted under this specific Coach, and while we think he represents tremendous value, his best option is probably to leave the capital come summer.

The rest of the team rolled. Luca Toni was brilliant for as long as his lungs kept him going, which was about 60 minutes, Pizarro is back and the team now looks smoother than a cocktail, Taddei deserves mention if only for that sublime back-heel assist to Simone Perrotta, who in turn deserves mention for having buried a goal rather than endangered a species of bird with his shot, and now the only piece missing from the jigsaw is Francesco Totti. He should be back, along with Mirko Vučinić, for the next match. Then we can continue climbing that infuriating mountain, always remembering one thing – it doesn’t matter if our pace is that of a paralytic turtle, just as long as we keep going up.

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, 2010


All I know is a door into the dark
– January 12, 2010

Week 19


The halfway buoy
– January 15, 2010

Week 20


Standing ovation. Seriously
– January 19, 2010

Week 21


A song of ice and fire
– January 22, 2010


Marching upon the ashes of the fallen
– January 26, 2010

Week 22


The unfortunate tale of Stefano Okaka
– February 2, 2010

Week 23


The De Rossi effect
– February 5, 2010


Sometimes you need a bit of luck
– February 9, 2010

Week 24


Take delight in the desperation of your enemies
– February 12, 2010


With Palermo slain do Roma dare to dream?
– February 16, 2010

Week 25


A Greek tragedy? This should have a happy ending
– February 19, 2010

Week 26


Just five points to the top
– February 24, 2010


Good bye Europe and other musings
– February 24, 2010

Week 27


Late draw closes curtains on nothing
– March 1, 2010

Week 28


Yes we can
– March 5, 2010


Half-full or half-empty?
– March 9, 2010


Why we are competing for the Scudetto
– March 12, 2010

Week 29


Rock to the top, but at snail-pace
– March 16, 2010

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