Club Focus – Roma – Why we are competing for the Scudetto

How did I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb? In the same way that I learnt how to start fighting and love the abyss. The reactions to the Roma–Milan game have been telling in many ways. The 0-0, clearly a disappointing result in light of the standings on the tables, was being shrugged away as a good point earned and nothing lost. The rationale behind it seemed to be that Roma was never fighting for the title anyway, and that defending hopes for the second spot was more important than fuelling those for the first.

Most likely, this response can be filed as an act of revisionism. Everybody was aiming for the win, as the packed Stadio Olimpico clearly suggests. When we came short of this objective, we told ourselves that we didn’t want it anyway. Pretty much like the funk playboy who gets shunned by the blonde at the club, then tells himself and his friends, ‘for serious, who cares about that chick.’ It’s forgivable. And you could say it’s part of the psychological game which on the long run proves so attractive to the blondes, albeit not always so successful in the standings. But then the blonde may ask, ‘Are you for real?’ And here’s our answer: Yes.

Yes, Roma are fighting for the Scudetto. It is not an easy target and it’s not even a likely trophy – it may well all blow up in the space of two weeks. But the way things are looking now, yes, we are here, and yes, we are here to stay. If you don’t want to believe we are a threat, then it is time to evolve, because our adversaries already do. Yes, Claudio Ranieri knows that catching up seven points on Inter over ten games (including a direct confrontation at home) is entirely realistic as an objective. In the previous ten, we caught up thirteen points, almost twice that number – and those were the ten toughest days in our own calendario, the days of thunder, when we were still fighting in the Europa League and Inter had a long break until the encounter with Chelsea. Yes, the team agrees with him and is united psychologically in the same aim. They know they can do it. And here’s why.

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Firstly, the schedule. Inter play Palermo, Fiorentina and Juventus. Milan play Napoli, Sampdoria, Palermo, Fiorentina, Genoa, Juventus. We only play Sampdoria. All the other teams are soft as marshmallows, even allowing for the surge of pride that Lazio may show at the derby and the occasional and inevitable black horse. And of course there is Roma–Inter, played on our own grounds. Win that, and the distance is reduced to four points. Win that, and the Scudetto suddenly becomes a very realistic goal. Sure, the gap may have widened by the time we reach that game – but it could just as easily have narrowed, especially given the respective opponents we confront.

Secondly, there is mentality and morale. Roma are playing for nothing but the domestic league. Inter have a grueling Champions League campaign that offers no prospect on the short term other than more games to exhaust them (if they win) and a crippled morale (if they lose). On the subject of cripples, Milan was just sent home crying with a score to remember (7-2 on aggregate, which is not as clamorous but almost as bad as our old 8-3). In theory this could make them hungry for some payback, but in truth they will most likely be demoralised and tired. Their key players no longer have anything to fight for, especially Ronaldinho, who cannot even hope to go to the World Cup (same for Pato, if he ever comes back from injury). Ours have a world to conquer, especially Luca Toni, who is desperate to impress. It is true that Milan, being out of the biggest tournament, have our same advantage on Inter – but it is also true that Milan are a mere three points away from us, not seven, and that is a distance we can easily make good, even on fair grounds.

Thirdly, the actual technical rosters of the team. Not only are our men more motivated, they are also really good and healthy. The funk playboys in Rome insist that the squads of Inter and Milan are just leagues away and that we cannot hope to compete with them. That may be true in the prospect of an entire season, but it doesn’t hold for the short run from here to the summer – and that’s the only thing that counts for the Scudetto. Lest we forget, our bench in the game against Milan was made up of Doni, Philippe Mexès, Marco Motta, Luca Toni, Jérémy Ménez, Matteo Brighi, and Alessio Cerci. In about a week, we will also have Francesco Totti back in that list as well. It has not looked so good in years. For once, our team has depth. Unless a truck crashes into the team bus or David Pizarro goes back down, we will be able to field a squad of awesome quality every week. By contrast, our opponents are struggling with endless suspensions (Inter) or a ripe crop of injuries (Milan, who lost Alessandro Nesta as well as Pato). Not that they are weaker than we are, but they are far from transcendental – especially, as we said, comparing the schedules.

Finally, and as importantly, we are fighting for the title because we must. Sure, third place is much better than we could have hoped at the beginning of the season. But this is not the beginning of the season. This is the 29th giornata and we are seven points short of the top. By now our Champions League qualification is as close to secure as it will ever be, and it is nonsensical to ‘aim for second’ when second improves nothing over third. For all practical purposes, aiming for first and aiming for second is exactly the same thing (except to the satisfaction of the funky playboy). So why not go for first? Is fear of disappointment really that strong? Is there anything that we have to lose? Ranieri feigns indifference, but he knows exactly how close the tip of the mountain is. Our hope is that he will put his heart and soul in it, and not give up hope on our only trophy because it is unlikely we’ll win it – which is exactly the argument of the funky playboys.

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, 2010


All I know is a door into the dark
– January 12, 2010

Week 19


The halfway buoy
– January 15, 2010

Week 20


Standing ovation. Seriously
– January 19, 2010

Week 21


A song of ice and fire
– January 22, 2010


Marching upon the ashes of the fallen
– January 26, 2010

Week 22


The unfortunate tale of Stefano Okaka
– February 2, 2010

Week 23


The De Rossi effect
– February 5, 2010


Sometimes you need a bit of luck
– February 9, 2010

Week 24


Take delight in the desperation of your enemies
– February 12, 2010


With Palermo slain do Roma dare to dream?
– February 16, 2010

Week 25


A Greek tragedy? This should have a happy ending
– February 19, 2010

Week 26


Just five points to the top
– February 24, 2010


Good bye Europe and other musings
– February 24, 2010

Week 27


Late draw closes curtains on nothing
– March 1, 2010

Week 28


Yes we can
– March 5, 2010


Half-full or half-empty?
– March 9, 2010

Week 29


Why we are competing for the Scudetto
– March 12, 2010

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