This is what oxygen feels like. We were beginning to forget. When Bologna went up by a goal in the first half, anyone could have sworn that Roma were playing at the bottom of the Atlantic, deprived of air and light, crushed under a thousand tons of pressure. The victory owed something to the referee (Simone Perrotta’s handball), but after Roberto Rosetti’s antics in the match against Milan, it is hard to feel privileged. Bologna deserved more, but Roma did not deserve less.
The team still suffers from a number of problems, the major of which is undoubtedly teamwork. Roma look more like eleven individuals playing for themselves than like a true football phalanx. The individuals in question are undoubtedly very skilled – far more so than those playing for Bologna, at any rate. But the visiting players played for each other. The Giallorossi did not. As a consequence, after a short while of withstanding the Roman assaults on their home, Bologna took the advantage. They exploited a slip-up by David Pizarro (too busy playing for himself), escorted the ball forward, drew a triangle which cut the Roman defence like a butter and which was a monument to altruism, and notched a goal. The final assist was a thing of beauty – midfielder Francesco Valiani found himself free in front of the ‘keeper, yet seeing Marco Di Vaio in a better position, he did not hesitate to give the ball away. Mirko Vučinić and Júlio Baptista, both visibly desperate to earn a goal throughout this match, could learn a thing or two from that.
In truth, a deal of the blame lies on Claudio Ranieri. This is what we had to say about the Roman Coach when he first took office: The positives of bringing in Ranieri lie in his traditionalism. What Roma need is a tactical tabula rasa, a purging from all of Spalletti’s intricate schemes and a new start from simple grounds. Ranieri should manage to provide that simplicity. We do wonder what happened to his tactical traditionalism. If Ranieri were a girl, then he would probably treat clothes the way that he currently treats formations – use one, change one, try one, throw one away. While it has the merit of allowing him to experiment with different players in different roles, we feel that he is taking this a little too far. The 4-2-3-1 was a particularly unfortunate selection for this match. It was the kind of thing which Luciano Spalletti knew how to apply, based on incredibly subtle balances between different footballers and their attributes. Under Ranieri, and lacking players like Francesco Totti, it was simply impossible to execute. Vučinić was utterly isolated up-front, Jérémy Ménez seemed like a fish out of water on the wing, Matteo Brighi and Perrotta could have passed for Chinese table-top decorations and Pizarro only found some use in the second half, when he resigned himself to throwing long balls. Only Stefano Guberti, playing in a more traditional role, seemed somewhat competent and confident.
If Roma already have some problems playing as a team, the choice of a highly complex and sophisticated formation only served to magnify them. For instance – the 4-2-3-1 requires that one of the two wingers play an almost purely offensive game. This task was once taken up by Amantino Mancini. On Sunday, it was assumed by Ménez. But the rudimentary tactical execution of the team as a whole meant that the central midfielders did not cover up for the Frenchman’s insubstantial defensive involvement on the flank, leaving the entirety of that job to rest on the shoulders of Marco Motta. As a consequence, Motta was too uptight to also offer some contributions going forward. In an ideal team, the winger and the full-back both take part in defending and attacking on their flank, aiding and sustaining each other in their respective tasks. In this Roma, the wingman did all the offending and the full-back did all the defending. The only time they crossed gazes was in the changing room.
When Roma drew level, it was by a combination of drive and luck. The goal was enough to bend Bologna, who walked into the second half having expended too much moral energy, and Roma had nothing to do but pick up the pieces. At a certain stage we even witnessed an event for the ages – Perrotta scored a goal! The stadium was so astonished you could hardly hear them cheering. We have no idea what kind of prayers to the Virgin Mary must have been uttered by Perrotta the night before, but for our own part we would like to thank Pizarro’s vision – it was as much as was required. Bologna could not stand up again, and Roma walked away with three points which feel like a blood transfusion. Next in line are Inter at the San Siro – hardly the most affable client. We shall have time to discuss the subtleties on how to face the Nerazzurri battle-ship in the next Roma Club Focus on Friday, but there is one thing that Ranieri already knows. This team must go back to playing as a team. If Roma face Inter the way they faced Bologna, they are going to be defeated, and painfully so. Football is a team sport, fellas. Go get them together.
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
The sound and the fury – October 20, 2009
The importance of being Francesco – October 23, 2009
A shot in the foot – October 27, 2009
Waiting for Godot (and the rest of our men) – October 30, 2009
Win as a team, die as individuals – November 3, 2009