The change of ownership at Roma sparked a great wave of enthusiasm around the club. Fans hoped this would be the change to take Roma to the top again, a decade after their last Scudetto. A new tactician, a new style: a new Roma. Appointments made on the bench and in the playing ranks signified what the project is about – long-term growth. Owner Thomas Di Benedetto wants to expand the club globally, to make Rome the ‘Caput Mundi’ once more.
41-year-old Luis Enrique has been handed his first senior coaching role. Not everybody will have instant success like Pep Guardiola at Barcelona – just ask Juventus and Ciro Ferrara – and not everybody will have the same level of squad to work with. Despite wholesale changes made, the fans are impatient. However, after the weekend loss to Fiorentina, director Franco Baldini insisted the team is on the right path.
Luis Enrique is still finding his feet in a foreign land, having spent his entire football life in his native Spain. He has tried different tactical systems and started a different XI each week. From a 4-3-3, he has also implemented a 4-3-1-2 formation. It did not start well with the early Europa League exit, but each week the tactician is discovering something about his team and can build accordingly. From their first-up defeat versus Cagliari, to losses against Lazio and Milan, as well as their victory over Atalanta where they played scintillating attacking football, each match unlocks another piece of the Giallorossi puzzle.
Di Benedetto has offered a cash injection for I Lupi, but not to the level Manchester City or Chelsea received. He has looked to exciting future prospects. Bojan Krkic, Jose Angel, Miralem Pjanic and Erik Lamela fit the bill but cannot be expected to master a difficult league like Serie A in six months. Even Simon Kjaer, with his Italian experience, is re-adjusting, but showing his undeniable potential.
In addition to those prospects are the established stars and experienced signings. Francesco Totti can at times prove a headache because of his influence, but he is the inspiration. Enrique places faith on the shoulders of Daniele De Rossi in his new-found role in front of the defence. The nucleus of a championship squad is present, when you consider those mentioned, plus Maarten Stekelenburg and Fernando Gago.
This is only the first step in the Roma project. Yes, there are still issues. Enrique does not need another repeat of the Udine dressing room punch-up, or at least the constant chatter surrounding such an incident. Both he and the players need to find greater consistency, which will come with time. Defensively Roma looks suspect and must strengthen in January, particularly given Juan’s form and Nicolas Burdisso’s season-ending knee injury.
Despite this, the shape of the project has formed. Perhaps an Italian owner would have sacked the Coach by now, but Di Benedetto comes from another environment and has showed the patience required. The fans can look at the changes and see the club is on the right track. This project is going somewhere, they just need to let it develop because Roma can be a force in upcoming seasons. Calcio grandfather and ex-Roma boss Carlo Mazzone summed up on Radio Sportiva: “You have to have patience and not dramatise. Sacking the coach would not help, it would mean starting all over again.”