Club Focus – Roma – The halfway buoy

So the first half of the season is gone, and this is the right time to look back and ponder on how it all panned out. Roma is sitting fifth. Napoli and Juventus are right above them, only one point away, while Fiorentina and Palermo are breathing on their necks, a couple of points behind. This writer was actually expecting a fourth place from Claudio Ranieri, but this is close enough. Let’s look at the future.

One of the reasons why Roma are at the margins rather than in the heart of the Champions League zone (other than the delay in getting rid of Luciano Spalletti and bringing in the new man – seriously, they could be right behind Milan if Ranieri had had the whole summer to mould his team), has been the failure to address some of the inadequacies in the team’s expressed game. Ranieri has come a long way from the labyrinthine jungle that he was handed at the outset, but as the problems were undone and the team settled into a stable form, limits began to appear. The vertiginous amelioration of the defence came at the expense of a flaky offensive game, a reactive rather than proactive style of play, and a waste of some important elements of the squad. The arrival of Luca Toni has done much to shift the equilibriums of the team, and hopefully it will be enough to provide the jolt that is required. The tactics need to change, and they will change – they already have. The nature of this change will determine the scope of Roma’s ambitions.

Several serious tests lie in wait in the immediate future. The first half of Roma’s calendar is very challenging, and the upcoming games against Genoa and Juventus should begin sculpting the face of the team’s future. Win them both, and Roma will be sitting fourth, or even third. It would be a stupendous platform to start the rest of the campaign from. Milan are not at inaccessible heights either, especially if we consider that they – like Inter and Fiorentina – have a Champions League to think about. That competition will suck them dry, emotively and physically, much more so than the Europa League could do with the Giallorossi. We mentioned at the beginning of the year how much of an advantage it is not to be partaking in that race as well, and now we will see the true extents of this phenomenon. It will weaken the adversaries at the top, and it will keep the ones below at bay (Palermo is not in the Champions League, but they present much less of a threat than Fiorentina). Barring major crises to the team, then, a place within the first five is guaranteed – and a spot in the first four is very likely. One between Napoli and Juventus is going to yield. Perhaps both, but that would be overly optimistic.

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In truth, we expect that the state of affairs at the home of the Partenopei and the Bianconeri is going to undergo an inversion. People who expect the rise of the Neapolitans and the decline of the Turin side to remain stable factors in the league will be disappointed. Wednesday’s Coppa Italia match between the two sides (3-0 for Juventus) gives us a hint of things to come. Walter Mazzarri, the Coach of the Southern side, has proved in the past a lack of tactical flexibility, and he will lose points when scenarios begin to change (as they inevitably will). Ciro Ferrara is bound to be replaced, and even if he is not, the team will find enough stability to stop shedding points like snowflakes. Not that we say anything new, but nothing is stable in football, not even predictions. We expect one of these two teams to become Roma’s main competitor for the fourth spot – though the group can and should aim higher, seeing the third place as a realistic objective and the second as their latent ambition. Go get them, wolves.

With the end of this half of the season, we close the book on a much longer dark chapter in the history of Roma. The downward spiral which began two summers ago, in the black year of Spalletti, has finally exhausted its consequences. There is nothing left to ‘fix’ – only to build. This second half of the season should, if all goes well, be the time to lay the seeds for the next age, the coming age of Ranieri. We expressed some scepticism about placing the new age in the hands of this man on the basis of his recent games, and we do not apologise for that. But we also know that there is a great deal of space for growth and for the future, and that while there are some problems in terms of the team’s tactical dynamism, there are also great signs of promise, in the young players who have impressed this year and in the upwards impetus that has flourished from the new iron mentality. The next six months will be exciting. The team looks to be one of the most powerful in Serie A for the remainder of the season, and this will be especially true as soon as Francesco Totti returns to the arena.

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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, 2009


All I know is a door into the dark
– January 12, 2009


The halfway buoy
– January 15, 2009

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