Club Focus – Roma – The man to give (us) a shove

Our last articles generated a lot of controversy for their ‘bleak’ reading of recent events. No-one likes Cassandra, after all, except when she gets murdered. It might be worth stating that we never predicted catastrophe. Our only claim was that things were not as rosy as the numbers suggested, and most definitely not as radiant as most of the press would paint them. We identified the problem of the team not in the sterility of the attack (no goals by a forward in three Serie A matches now), but in the shape and style that the team was heading towards. It was a long-term discussion, for Roma were showing clear symptoms of catenaccio. This is not a philosophy we commend, and this for the results that catenaccio eventually yields (or fails to yield) more so than for aesthetic matters.

Nonetheless, fans are right in stating that getting the points was the most important thing about the soft calendario stretch we have just undergone, because tactics may really mutate if the mercato window offers something juicy. With no need to waste time, then, let us turn straight to the subject that is on everyone’s lips – Luca Toni. At the time of writing, sources are almost certain that he will be joining the red and yellow army before the next game with Cagliari. What do we make of this?

If Toni comes, he shall come as a loan. This is indicative of how short-term a solution he is intended to be, and his arrival should be interpreted in this light. As a real investment, we would be against it – the man is far too old for his expense. As a patch on the suit, the team needs him as much as he needs this team, and his hunger for playing time is probably enough to make him one of the best options around. The reason why Toni is necessary is not the lack of depth on the bench, though that has been invoked with great frequency when discussing Roma. In reality, the team has more forwards than they need – Francesco Totti and Mirko Vučinić as starters, and Jérémy Ménez, Stefano Okaka and Júlio Baptista on the bench. We stated a few weeks ago that if management were really looking for new players as a way to fill in holes on the bench, then the role to fill up would be that of a creative midfielder, someone to replace (even as a starter) David Pizarro. At the moment, the little Chilean is alone in his role, and when he is down, the entire team becomes arid on the field.

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Toni is necessary to give a jolt to the team’s tactical disposition, hopefully steering them away from the catenaccio path which they so obviously are headed towards at the moment. It is evident that with the world champion on the bench, something will have to change. Totti is untouchable, so he and Toni will probably play together when the latter manages to earn more playing time than Vučinić. This automatically discards the 4-2-3-1, since Toni cannot play on the wings and Totti no longer has the mobility to play as a trequartista – and this is great news, because this formation no longer works, and we have been saying so for a long time. The most likely solution will be the 4-4-2, though that leaves the question of what to do with Vučinić. The Montenegrin is far too good to be left on the bench, but he is wasted on the wing. The same problem poses itself with respect to Ménez. Choosing Toni over either of these two players is a sin against beautiful football, albeit one which may pay its dividends. These players will probably take turns on the pitch, or they may play simultaneously, if Totti falls back to one of his endless injuries. The 4-3-3 is an option as well, but a less realistic one (it requires speedy players, and Totti and Toni are both very slow).

One thing only is certain – Toni is a traditional kind of player, and he will require traditional kind of tactics. If this means that the 4-4-2 will come back, then all for the better. Depending on how the midfielders are used, it could also offer some space to Alessio Cerci and Stefano Guberti. We know that Coach Claudio Ranieri, as a tactician, is a traditionalist (and that may be a euphemism to say that he is not very good). Perhaps this is why he was sinking into catenaccio – he was given a team with very unorthodox forwards, either young and creative or old and unique, and he did not have the wits to make such bizarre players work together at their best. When he tried the trident, it proved spectacular but unbalanced. This is a better option than believing that he wanted to play catenaccio, that he was so cynical. Now he is given a player who goes by the book, one who is extraordinarily simple to use – put him in the box and wait for him to score. The result is unlikely to be sparkling, but we will be more than happy if it is aggressive and displays a true will to offend. Combined with a defence which finally looks solid, it could take us far. Predictions are useless until we see how Ranieri uses his men on the field, but there is some good promise in the air.

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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

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