Humbling is not an adequate term to speak of Francesco Totti, the red and yellow phoenix who rises from the ashes after every seasonal death. Perhaps ‘death’ is not an adequate term either – looking at his goal tally and his personal history as an unquestioned element in every team he has played in (red or blue), one wonders when exactly it was that he died. “Let them say that I am finished,” he smiled to the cameras after last Sunday’s match, “it seems to augur well for me.” Call it an understatement – hat-trick, 187 goals in Serie A, and say hello to the new Capocannoniere of the league.
Other than the impetuous return of il Capitano, which inevitably sparked a welter of controversy over his possible return to the national team, the thing that strikes one about this match is the offensive identity of the squad that confronted Bari. One thing that Claudio Ranieri said when taking up the reins of the Roma team is that he is familiar with all formations and willing to exploit their entire spectrum. We did not believe this back then, but he is standing very much true to his word. Who would have thought that such a conservatory Coach would ever go for a trident in which Totti is flanked by Mirko Vučinić and Jérémy Ménez? More importantly, who would ever have expected it to work so well? All three players are a joy to watch, and each for different reasons. None of them are without their issues, granted. But it is comforting to think that Roma, a team that have spent the last four years lamenting their lack of depth on the bench in terms of forwards, now find themselves with too much on their plate. The formidable trio of Totti, Vučinić and Ménez – fielded together precisely as a response to the current abundance of in-form forwards – is also backed by Stefano Okaka and Júlio Baptista. Five players for a department that can run smoothly with two positions. Let us hope the good times last.
Let us also hope the trident is not a chimera. Bari is a better team than many give them credit for, but they are no juggernauts. We mentioned in our last column that fielding a three-man midfield with none of the forwards in possession of proper defensive skills or willingness to sacrifice meant playing with fire. We particularly stressed that Ménez lacks any weight when holding the fortress, and that he should not be fielded alongside the other two strikers. The match last Sunday seems to have proved us wrong, but we are not ready to ditch the original reading quite yet. To begin with, the trident needs to be tested against sturdier opposition – the upcoming matches against Lazio and Sampdoria, for example. Furthermore, the performance was not without its issues. The midfield did a decent job at holding the ball, but they could have done more in support of the defence – either that, or the defence was just on a particularly bad day, because they left some worrying holes throughout. Ranieri stressed at the beginning of the season that there was no point in building a team that could score a wealth of goals if they conceded twice that number. He should take care not to forget his own lesson. If the forwards had been Samuel Eto’o or Amauri, or if Júlio Sérgio had not gifted us with another superlative performance (we have the starter for the rest of the season, surely), then Roma’s net would have been breached more than once.
Marco Andreolli, whom we praised for his performance against Inter, on occasions seemed to have fallen asleep at the time when an adversary was setting off on a run. That, and he scored an own goal. The kid still shows promise, but it would not be bad to have Juan back. Speaking of returns, the reclamation of Daniele De Rossi from the elbow of Patrick Vieira is very pertinent to the questions we discussed above. If a game against Bari is not a valid enough benchmark to start heaping praise upon the Roman offence, then a midfield without De Rossi cannot be completely blamed for its lack of defensive substance. It will be interesting to see how the trident fares against tougher prey, but also when it is supported by our most ferocious gladiator.
It is somewhat of an exciting moment to be a Romanista. We mentioned in last week’s column that Roma should be expected to win fifteen points in seven games. The first three are in the bag, and more are bound to follow. Also, Captain Jack is back – except without the Jack, and with a lot of booty (conquered and promised). Most importantly, after a year and a half of decadence and chaos, the team is growing. It is evolving. This is the first time that we feel such a statement can be made with confidence, but the outlines of a real team are appearing in the horizon. Six more games will act as seeding time. When the second half of the season comes along, it will be time to take revenge for everything that was taken from us in the first.
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