This season has been a mixed bag for Roma. After narrowly missing out on the Scudetto last season, many were expecting another strong challenge from Claudio Ranieri’s side. Those expectations were quickly dashed, though, after a start to the season that was nothing short of appalling. An opening day draw at home to newly promoted Cesena was followed by a humiliating 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Cagliari as the Giallorossi took just two points from their opening four games.
A late winner from Mirko Vučinić against Inter in week five reminded everyone of Roma’s potential but was immediately followed by a convincing 2-0 defeat against Napoli that left the Giallorossi languishing in 19th at the start of October. The start of the season was speckled with ill-discipline as Roma began to rack up the red and yellow cards. Talk of unrest among the squad was rife and Ranieri’s approach was openly criticised by a number of his own players after the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Ranieri was also coming under scrutiny for his work in the transfer market during the summer. While Marco Borriello was scoring goals and performing well, Ranieri’s other signings, Fábio Simplício and Adriano, had made no impact whatsoever. Another major issue for Ranieri was the form of talismanic striker Francesco Totti. The forward was being overshadowed by the performances of Borriello and Jérémy Menez and there was mounting speculation that he could no longer cut it at the highest level.
Despite the growing sense of disappointment around the club, there were positive moments as well as negative, most notably the brilliant 3-2 home win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League. After finding themselves 2-0 down at half time and with their European future on the line, the side rallied and found three second half goals to claim victory. Another memorable result was the 1-0 away win against Milan in December. Significantly, Francesco Totti did not start either of these games and did not even make it onto the pitch against Milan.
Along with talk regarding Francesco Totti’s dwindling influence at the club, and in the midst of fan protests, rumours began to circulate about various international investors considering making a bid for the club. Foremost of these suitors was Thomas Di Benedetto, an American of Italian descent and a partner in New England Sports Ventures, owners of Boston Red Sox and Liverpool.
While off the field the takeover saga dragged on, an upturn in form on the pitch found Roma in fifth place at the turn of the year, a vast improvement on earlier in the season but still not good enough for the fans. Despite starting 2011 well, a run of six games without a win spelt the end for Claudio Ranieri and he resigned from his post after a humiliating 4-3 reverse at the hands of Genoa.
To replace the outgoing Ranieri, Roma turned to club legend Vincenzo Montella. The Little Aeroplane was promoted from his position as Under 15s Coach and made caretaker for the season in a move that was favoured by many fans. Immediately Montella began making changes, moving to a 4-2-3-1 formation and reinstating Francesco Totti and David Pizarro to the first team. Despite these changes he could not overturn a 3-2 home defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk and crashed out of the Champions League 6-2 on aggregate.
In the league, though, Roma’s form improved greatly, and the club enjoyed a run of five games without defeat until Juventus recorded a 2-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico. However, they once again demonstrated great resilience by bouncing straight back into the hunt for a Champions League place with a Francesco Totti inspired victory over Udinese and narrow victories over Chievo and Bari. It was around this time that Di Benedetto signed an agreement to take control of the club after the end of the season.
Ultimately, though, the Giallorossi would fall short of qualifying for the Champions League but a sixth placed finish secured European football next season in the Europa League. While Vincenzo Montella has performed admirably as caretaker, the likelihood is that he will not remain as Coach into next season as the club look to bring in someone with experience of challenging for silverware regularly in order that they are competitive next season. After the underachievement of this campaign, the fans and players alike will be keen to erase the memory of what has ultimately been a disappointment of a season.
Coach – Vincenzo Montella: The inexperienced Montella has worked wonders since replacing Ranieri in February. He has looked to the big names in the squad and they have delivered, none more so than Francesco Totti who has returned to his best thanks to the confidence instilled in him by Montella. While unlikely to keep the job next season, his time in charge has given his reputation a massive boost.
Player of the season – Francesco Totti: Il Capitano has endured a difficult campaign and was roundly written off by the media early in the season. However, he returned to form and was integral in Roma’s sixth placed finish. His goals have been key, but it is his influence that has really made the difference and he has galvanised his team once again.
Turning Point – Claudio Ranieri’s resignation/Vincenzo Montella’s appointment: With Ranieri out, the club turned to Montella to reignite their challenge for Champions League football. The effect that this had on the whole squad cannot be overestimated. The form demonstrated by Francesco Totti since Ranieri’s departure and the club’s subsequent sixth place finish have justified the board’s decision to appoint Montella.
Average starting XI:
Cassetti – Mexès – N.Burdisso – Riise
Pizarro – De Rossi
Menez – Perrotta – Vučinić