This was the best Roma we have seen in a long time. Not because the result was every bit as convincing as the score suggests (3-0), nor because we have found the much publicised, much discussed prima punta that the team has so long been lacking. This was the best Roma because the game was absolutely convincing, from the bottom to the top.
If the match against Genoa was considered as the first serious test for Claudio Ranieri’s mature Roma, then it was passed with flying banners. Three goals and a bound upwards in the rankings, and a third place righteously snatched from Juventus and Napoli (both underperforming on the weekend). It was more than could be expected. There are several reasons why we should say ‘thank you’ to Ranieri, and the foremost among these is the fact that Roma looked impeccable in all departments. The defence appears impenetrable – the best in Serie A at the moment, we dare say. The ease with which they closed up spaces belies the fact that the opponents were Genoa, a team that excels at besieging the flanks and assaulting the box. They were nullified, no less than that. It has been so long since Juan was last seen healthy and continuous that seeing him on the pitch feels like looking at a new addition from the mercato. We have some reservations about Marco Cassetti, and Júlio Sérgio seemed a little less lucid than usual, but overall the performance was magnificent.
The midfield was solid and elastic, especially in the defensive phase. Their degree of contribution seemed less remarkable when it came to aiding the offence, but that was compensated by the fact that Luca Toni was playing like three strikers in one. And so on to the last part of the team, the offence, and we should say that Toni has single-handedly solved every problem that Roma were suffering from before his arrival (and they were considerable). For the first time in five games, it was a striker who scored. Not a defender, nor a defensive midfielder galloping upwards – no, an authentic poacher finally did the poaching. This is a healthy sign which should not be underestimated. Also, the fact that Toni is perfect – not ‘good,’ but perfect – for this team tactically should not cloak the fact that his performance was superb. The man gives new meaning to the expression ‘holding the ball,’ he finished when he was asked to, and he even managed to come back to aid the defence. ‘A’ plus.
After this superbly cogent performance, there is little to be said outside compliments. We shall attempt some insight anyway. Firstly, let us take note of the difference between Ranieri and his predecessor Luciano Spalletti. Spalletti worked by extracting the strength from the individuality, the uniqueness of each player – his talent was that of fielding players in positions where their peculiar talents, be it the stamina of Simone Perrotta, the dynamic technique of Amantino Mancini or the unrepeatable vision of Francesco Totti, combined to form an irresistible football machine. Ranieri does the opposite. His teams work best when the players are most anonymous. Perrotta, Rodrigo Taddei, Matteo Brighi, Cassetti – this weekend’s team was composed of a wealth of players whose only distinctive feature was the will to fight, several of whom could have been interchangeable in terms of positioning. Toni is a more generic player than Totti, which may explain why he worked so well. The football is not as beautiful, but it is Germanic in its efficiency.
It is telling – and, perhaps, a little worrying – that this team seemed to play better in the absence of Daniele De Rossi. The Roman midfielder is simply too talented, too iconoclastic to work in a proletarian band like Ranieri’s. Give him 11 identical players and Ranieri will be content. His teams are homogeneous and flexible, rather than precise and innovative. Of course, this leads to the second question – how will Toni and Totti play together? The team we saw on the weekend was flawless, but leaving Totti on the bench is out of the question (same for De Rossi). Surely the formation will have to change to accommodate both strikers at the same time. How will the new team look? It is a question which Ranieri must answer carefully, but it is not exactly anguishing. If Roma’s problem consists in having too many talented strikers, then they are doing quite well.
There has been a great deal of talk around Milan and their record of eight victories in nine games. But the Rossoneri won against Siena, who is not in the same league as Genoa at all. People have been quick to point out that Inter are in reach of Milan, but not as many have remarked that Milan are in reach of Roma. If both the above statements are true, then the sky is the limit. The next team up are Juventus, who humiliated us at the outset (as did Genoa). This time around, we are facing them as favourites and leaders in the league (here is your personal revenge, Ranieri). A lot of the credit goes to Toni and how he has turned around the tactics of the team – in all the ways we hoped he would, really – which until then were quite sterile. But the rest goes to the Coach. For this, and for all of the above, thank you, Ranieri.
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
The defence does everything, where is the rest? – December 22, 2009
The man to give (us) a shove – December 29, 2009
It’s quiet…too quiet – January 5, 2010
No offence intended – January 8, 2009
All I know is a door into the dark – January 12, 2009
The halfway buoy – January 15, 2009
Standing ovation. Seriously – January 19, 2009