It would be nice if there were an adage to support us every time we make a categorical statement, but sometimes we just have to rely on personal judgment rather than popular wisdom. Here is our adage, coined for the occasion – football is relatively predictable when two strong teams play each other, and impossible to predict when two weak teams meet for a confrontation. The reasoning is elementary – strong teams can be relied upon to follow their patterns and quash the unpredictable play of their adversaries, while weak teams, by virtue of their potential blunders, offer so many variables in terms of the evolution of the game that they contribute to the chaotic element rather than smoothing it out.
So it is not an exaggeration to say that the weekend’s game between Milan and Roma, two teams as distant from discipline and cohesion as Pluto is from Mercury, will be utterly impossible to predict. The variables are simply too numerous. Roma has been successful when playing away against the Rossoneri for the last three years. On one hand, this inspires confidence for the Giallorossi. On the other, it is statistically improbable that the streak should continue, much like tossing a coin and getting heads three times in a row discourages one from expecting the result to repeat itself.
On one hand, Roma have more points in the scoreboards. On the other, Milan is playing at home. On one hand, Roma are the more solid team of the two. They have never lost since Claudio Ranieri took over management, and they chalked up a tally of points that is second only to Inter, if we exclude the first two games with Luciano Spalletti. On the other, Francesco Totti may just miss the game, and we all know how catastrophic the consequences of this may be.
Milan is a team in a state of crisis. It has been recognised long ago, and matters are coming to a head now. There is no doubt that if there is a favourable moment to face Milan, then this is it. Roma are not quite as ill-placed, but they have several instabilities of their own. They have snatched a number of good results, but some of their performances have been embarrassing to say the least. While a certain shape is emerging from chaos to give a face to this team, a true sense of identity is still very distant. We cannot tell how Roma will perform on Sunday. Their midfield seems in better form than that of Milan, but the same cannot be said of the defence, where Philippe Mexès is still a long way from being the dragon of a few years ago. Also, Roma’s right-backs have a tendency to allow for the kind of spaces that Vikings dreamed of when imagining the prairies of the Valhalla, something which Milan’s fast-paced Brazilians are bound to exploit.
Two other factors should also be noted, one in favour of each team. The good news for the Rossoneri is that Roma have shown signs of being in the act of practicing the offside trap, and not very well (for now). Their ineffectiveness in this routine represents the perfect opportunity for Ronaldinho to exercise himself in some of his cutting through-balls to the best effect. On the other side of the pitch, Milan should be weary of Mirko Vučinić. For some reason the Montenegrin becomes a finalising monster when playing against this particular team, as though he were a bull and the red stripes provoked him.
The result of the match cannot be predicted. What we can postulate is that a victory would be a momentous boost in morale for either of the two teams. Ranieri has declared it outright – “the match at the San Siro will tell us who we are and how far we can go.” Strictly speaking, this is not true, as this version of Milan is too weak for the match to assume its full significance. But their name is harder to die than their game, and the gratification of defeating them would still be great. In truth, they need the victory more than we do for a number of reasons, but we shall leave the Milan Club Focus pages to explore this side of the game.
Rumours are aflutter these days with speculation concerning the return of Francesco Totti to the national team. It is a far-fetched scenario, of course. If his presence is in doubt with the Roma shirt now, how can it be projected with that of the Azzurri? Nonetheless, and even as it would be best for most parties involved to keep him in retirement, there would be a certain sense of satisfaction for Giallorossi supporters to see him back. Currently, Daniele De Rossi is the only representative of the Roma team with the Azzurri. It would be nice to see that number doubled by means of someone other than Simone Perrotta (heavens forbid). There are some promising young Romans who may someday fight for a World Cup as well, from Stefano Okaka Chuka and Alessio Cerci to Marco Andreolli and Marco Motta, but their presence remains a hypothesis for 2014 rather than a possibility for 2010.
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