Club Focus – Roma – The time of Penelope

Roma lost by 3-1 to Juventus, playing at home. It was predicted, so we shall not indulge in lamentations. This is not the season for anger or frustration, for Romanisti. This is the season for mending and patience, the year of a woman’s hands weaving and unweaving a weary tapestry. The team must endure this phase of transition to its end, working with what they have until the time comes for rejuvenation and renovation. For now, the capital must cultivate serenity. As for the others, those who thrive on our misery, let them laugh. Our time will come back, like Ulysses.

The Bianconeri victory was clean and deserved. There have been inevitable remonstrations after Marco Cassetti’s horrific defensive ingenuity which cost Roma the first goal, but this is so much wasted breath. To fantasise that ‘if only’ Cassetti had not flaked then the match could have taken a different direction means failing to put things in perspective. When your defence has so many issues and uncertainties, the probability of a moment’s crash occurring at some stage during the game soar sky-high. Someone, at some point, was bound to commit a slip-up. If not Cassetti, who is usually reliable, then someone else. In the meantime, we are left with a very worrying figure – two league games and six goals conceded so far. This defence needs to be mended, and fast.

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One thing that this match confirmed is that the 4-2-3-1 is outdated. The midfield had several options to bring up the ball, but it could not finalise. It earned many corners, but it did so by means of players who later could not convert them – speedy, technical, small footballers who are great at breaking through but useless in the aerial game. Teams in Serie A have understood that a quick foul or a gifted corner – allowances which could prove suicidal against a team like Inter – are enough to drastically reduce the scoring chances of Roma’s fast-flowing style of football. Yes, Daniele De Rossi’s goal was initiated from a set piece, but came from an extraordinary act of skill, the kind of thing that a team cannot consistently rely on. Besides, other than that goal and the one-on-one encounter with Francesco Totti (miserably failed by the Roman captain), Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had a very tranquil game. Compare this with the number of saves which Roma keeper Júlio Sérgio was forced to make (not to mention the goals he eventually conceded), and one gets a measure of the difference in efficacy between the game of the Bianconeri and that of the Giallorossi.

Outcome aside, the game was rather difficult to read. The now ex-Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti fielded a squad which drew its strength from experience, with Simone Perrotta and Rodrigo Taddei starting over Stefano Guberti and Alessio Cerci. The decision was commendable – you do not face a team like Juventus with freshness, but with guile. When you cannot compete in terms of technique, you turn the stadium into a bear-pit and the match into a (con)test of nerves. This is why we say that the match was hard to read – because the intention was precisely that of throwing mud over the legs of the Bianconeri ballerinas, and generally speaking the intent was achieved. The only questionable decision was the fielding of Cassetti over Marco Motta. We do not say this because of the former’s blunder – it would have taken clairvoyance to expect that – but for the qualities of Motta himself. He is young but certainly not inexperienced, and he ought to have been in better form than Cassetti, so why bench him? That aside, for the best part of the match and thanks to the confidence of Júlio Sérgio, the plan seemed to be working. Juventus were meeting some hard times when fighting within (or for) the box, though part of the reason for this may be that the Old Lady has some problems in finding a true alchemy between its diverse strikers. Time will tell on that. Eventually the quality of their Verdeoro midfield emerged, and Roma, guilty of great gaffes in defence (Cassetti) and offence (Totti) were handed the result they deserved.

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Other thoughts on the match – Totti was the shadow of the player we have come to know, and it is to be hoped his state of form on Sunday was not an augur for the rest of his season. Cerci came on too late, but he showed some very good things. The kid could become an excellent winger. He was unlikely to flourish under Spalletti due to his questionable policy on youth. The new Coach, likely to be Claudio Ranieri, could yet give this youngster the chance he deserves in the first-team.

Anything else on the match would be rhetoric. What could be done was done. Penelope takes another blow to her pride, this one in her own house. Scavengers, invaders and brigands are everywhere, but it is not enough to break her calm. She waits for Ulysses, day after day after day, she waits for a return the faith in which she has never lost, and in the meantime she weaves the veil of her own patience. She keeps weaving. We keep weaving.

Roma Club Focus


The senate is adjourned


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