Claudio Ranieri’s team defeated a very good Lecce side on Saturday, but the victory came at a heavy price, as Francesco Totti’s controversial red card means the captain will miss the derby game against Lazio. Roma played adequately but unspectacularly and their troubles are far from over, as Luigi De Canio’s southern minnows exposed the continuing frailties in the Giallorossi team and on another Saturday could have easily snatched a point or more from the game.
For the red and yellow half of Rome, the necessity on Saturday was to win and that objective was achieved. Three more points and the league table looks a lot better than it did seven days ago. However, the manner in which it was accomplished is still a major concern and this is certainly not a season defining moment, in the way we hoped the early season victory against Inter may have been. Defensively, Roma are still unstable and even the most dependable of them all, Juan, had a heart-stopping moment when an awful back-pass to Julio Sergio was intercepted. Only a flexed Nicolas Burdisso on the goal-line saved the Brazilian international from huge embarrassment, with the score poised at 0-0.
We didn’t expect to see Daniele De Rossi in the line-up after recovering from his calf strain, and so we have to assume that Ranieri really did think this was ‘last chance saloon’ and played his best hand to have the greatest possibility of winning this match. The risk paid off, as Capitan Futuro had a very industrious game, clocking up the miles by covering all areas of the pitch. Not the De Rossi we know from previous seasons but then this is not the Roma of previous seasons either. We did expect to see Philippe Mexes in place of Burdisso but just as well the Frenchman had a fever because Burdisso’s opening goal, and the aforementioned goal-line save, was the team’s catalyst for victory.
At Club Focus we are yet to be convinced by Ranieri’s 4-4-2 and nothing we witnessed against I Salentini did anything to force us into reconsidering. The current Ranieri squad does not have the personnel to effectively play the system, and whilst they may have enough muscle to beat the likes of Lecce, it does not offer a season-long solution for a sustained positive run of games. Simone Perrotta again struggled out wide and whilst Vucinic was devastating yet wasteful, he is no left sided midfielder.
We are struggling to see why the ex-Chelsea manager is insisting on such a tactic that does not have a long-term future for this campaign. Maybe a damage limitation exercise is what we are experiencing as 4-4-2 certainly covers the pitch from a defensive standpoint. It offers maximum space coverage when not in possession of the ball and possibly we need to accept that Ranieri is primarily concerned his team does not lose before worrying himself about winning. The old-school Italian in him has certainly not been washed away with the passing of time.
We will look ahead to the derby later in the week but this Wednesday it’s Champions League night and I Lupi have what is, on paper, a playoff to make it through to the next round. The away tie to Basel is decisive and anything but victory would spell disaster for the team and almost certain elimination. The squad has already been picked and the most notable absentee is Matteo Brighi. This means the moment for Fabio Simplicio has arrived and it is expected the Brazilian will start from the first whistle. We do not envisage any other changes from the team that beat Lecce, unless Marco Cassetti who sustained a knock, fails to recover. There are rumours that possibly Juan may be rested for the Sunday derby which would mean Mexes would pair with Burdisso at centre-back but as yet we have no firm indications.
Marco Borriello has claimed that the match against the Swiss is the priority this week. Not only because it precedes the game against Lazio but because elimination from Europe’s premier competition would be a major failure. The money generated is crucial to a club like Roma, but so too is the prestige it brings, which would help attract the right type of investor in this current moment of uncertainty surrounding the financial situation of the club. Putting things mildly, the Giallorossi simply cannot afford to lose in Switzerland.